Organic farming is a cultivation method that refers to nature, refusing the use of products obtained through chemical synthesis.
The organic method was necessary because conventional agriculture began to develop a series of products capable of assisting farmers but with heavy repercussions on the environment: herbicides, fertilizers, plant protection products, pesticides and fungicides. Many of these are petroleum-derived compounds and substances thought to kill microorganisms, plants, spores or insects. The consequences of this industrial agriculture are devastating, both in terms of environmental impact and for the effects on human and animal health.
The reckless use of these treatments has proved harmful to both the environment and humans, for this reason more and more growers have decided to embrace a different philosophy by returning to more natural and eco-friendly methods. Growing with an organic method means taking care of the soil and the various natural resources, first of all water and air, avoiding excessive exploitation.
In organic farming only organic products are used, but above all the aim is to recreate a balanced and fertile environment, which through biodiversity and the presence of useful organisms and microorganisms can be ideal for the development of plants.
Those who cultivate the vegetable garden for family consumption have many reasons for choosing an organic cultivation method: first of all, you need to know that the use of harmful substances such as glyphosate falls directly on those who eat the vegetables and especially on those who grow them. If toxic pesticides or herbicides are used in the garden, the person who works there pays for it first, since they spend a lot of time in contact with the treated plants.
Secondly, chemical treatments are often systemic: these are poisons that enter the tissues of the plant, cannot be washed away. If you want to self produce healthy vegetables, you certainly cannot treat them with substances of this kind.
For this reason, those who care about their health and that of their family members cannot help but choose to cultivate the vegetable garden organically.
A few rules for cultivating the vegetable garden organically:
- Use only fertilizers of natural origin: manure and compost, for example, are an excellent organic fertilizer solution.
- Do not use chemical pesticides or fungicides. Adversity can be countered with self-produced vegetable macerates, alternatively when you choose to buy an insecticide you can check on the package that it is allowed in the organic.
- Use certified organic seeds and seedlings. Growers can also decide to preserve their seeds from one year to the next. If you want to buy seeds you can also find certified seeds online (for example here).
The cornerstones of an organic cultivation
The first fundamental point that characterizes organic farming is thepay attention to the fertility of the soil, which must be maintained with adequate processing and fertilization. The principle is to observe what happens in nature, to replicate it in your garden: in the forest the leaves fall and remain on the ground enriching it, in the same way it must be done with composting by the farmer. To avoid killing useful microorganisms present in the soil, it is necessary to try to avoid the overturning of the clods, limiting oneself to a process that breaks and moves.
The soil must not only be rich in nutrients but also well structured and draining: one proper land management it is the best prevention against fungal diseases.
Another cornerstone is the biodiversity: a wealth of different plants and life forms creates a stable ecosystem, in which parasites hardly proliferate. Monoculture, on the other hand, inevitably attracts pathologies and predatory insects of the cultivation carried out.
There choice of varieties to sow must favor those resistant to adversity, it is often useful to rediscover ancient vegetables, which were grown when there were no insecticides and fungicides available. The consociations and the crop rotation are two other important practices to keep the garden fertile and chase away any adversity.
When the environment is healthy, plants rarely get sick, however some problems always happen. For this there are gods treatments of natural origin allowed in organic farming.
The healthiest and most natural products are vegetable macerates that can be self-produced directly by the grower. They are generally less effective than the insecticides on the market but if used promptly they can still safeguard crops. Then there are biological insecticides: for example pyrethrum, neem oil, bacillus thuringiensis, Spinosad. Even against diseases there are fungicide treatments allowed by bio: copper and sulfur are the substances most used for this purpose.
Biological defense also includes other techniques, such as the capture of parasites through food or sexual traps, the use of beneficial insects and microorganisms (spores or entomopathogenic bacteria).
The organic certification
Formally organic farming is regulated by legislation, the basic guidelines are found in the regulations (EC) number 834/2007, number 889/2008 and number 271/2010. These laws establish when it is possible to call oneself "organic farmers" and which criteria must be respected, even the use of the organic logo (the leaf made of stars on a green field) is bound by these rules. To be organic according to the law, a cultivation must be certified by the authorized control bodies.
The issue related to certification concerns professional farms: today the interest in fruit and vegetables grown with natural methods is constantly growing and the organic issue in the food sector has also become a business factor.
Those who cultivate the family garden with organic methods do not have to worry about certifying the land, but if they want to be consistent they must still make sure that every product they use is allowed by the organic method.
One step further than organic
If it is true that organic farming is a guarantee compared to conventional cultivation, there are still some permitted products that have a certain degree of toxicity. Among insecticides, for example, pyrethrum must be used carefully: it can kill bees and other beneficial insects and if it ends up in the water it can cause problems for fish. The copper and sulfur that are used for disease treatments if used in quantity remain in the soil and have phytotoxicity.
There are alternative cultivation methods that have more restrictive practices than the classic organic, for example in biodynamic agriculture we try to totally avoid using poisons.
Without being fundamentalists, it must be borne in mind that the fact that a treatment is allowed in organic farming does not guarantee that it is free from consequences for the environment and health.