Agriculture is the backbone of human society and it is essential for the survival of human beings. It has been around for thousands of years with man making numerous innovations with time. Nowadays, there are two main forms of agriculture that are widely practiced around the world: conventional farming and organic farming. There has been much debate over which is better. Before we rule out which method of farming is better and deliberate over ‘organic farming vs conventional farming’, let us look into both systems to have a better understanding of either system and study the difference between organic farming and conventional farming.
Organic farming is a system of farming that strives to produce nutritious and healthy food, ensure that the soil and environment stay healthy.
Organic farmers use biological fertilizer inputs and management practices such as cover cropping and crop rotation to improve soil quality and build organic soil matter.
By increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil, organic farmers enhance the soil’s ability to absorb water, reducing the impacts of drought and flooding. Improving soil organic matter also helps it to absorb and store carbon and other nutrients need to grow healthy crops, which, in turn, are better able to resist insects and diseases.
What is Organic Farming? What are the Features of Organic Farming?
Some of the essential characteristics of organic farming include:
- Use of biological fertilisers such as manure and compost.
- Implementation of sustainable farming methods such as crop rotation, mixed farming.
- Organic agriculture does not use genetically modified (GM) seed, synthetic pesticides or fertilisers.
However, organic farming is not limited to the above.
The good news is that organic systems that emphasize soil health help farmers and ranchers increase resilience to the impacts of climate change. There is also extensive research demonstrating the potential of organic systems to reduce agriculture’s contribution to climate change (i.e., mitigate climate change).
Organic systems do this by capturing and storing more carbon (CO2) in the soil.
While organic systems require some level of physical disturbance to control weeds, they eliminate synthetic inputs and can significantly reduce tillage. Reduced tillage, crop diversification, cover cropping, organic amendments, and sound nutrient management can enhance carbon sequestration and build climate resiliency in organic agricultural systems.
They also release fewer greenhouse gases.
Organic farmers do not use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, one of the primary contributors of greenhouse gases. Healthy soils help crops obtain nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients from organic soil organic matter. This reduces the need for fertilizers that can threaten water quality and minimizes the release of greenhouse gases from soils.
Conventional farming methods are farming methods that are focused on maximizing the yield of a crop. Conventional farming makes use of fertilizers, pesticides to increase crop yield and crop quality is often neglected.
Conventional farmers use chemicals to fight weeds and pests and also to provide artificial nutrients for crops. Conventional farming methods are not feasible as they take a huge toll on the soil and environment.
The chemicals used in conventional agriculture negatively impact the environment by causing water pollution, soil erosion, increasing the emission of greenhouse gases – all which hamper the quality of human health.
What are the Characteristics of Conventional Farming?
Conventional farming uses powerful chemicals to help manage crop fertility, pests, and diseases. Here are some of the characteristics of conventional farming:
- Use of chemical fertilisers
- Use of chemical pesticides
- Use of chemical weed killers
- Use of genetically modified organisms which can deliver consistent crops
- Production of only one or two crops in the same field per growing season or year
Organic Farming vs Conventional Farming
To illustrate the difference between conventional agriculture and organic farming, let us study the table below:
|Organic Farming||Conventional Farming|
|Impact on the soil:||Soil quality improves due to methods such as crop rotation and natural fertilisers.||Soil quality gets damaged due to artificial chemicals.|
|GMOs:||Organic farming does not make use of genetically modified organisms.||Conventional farmers uses GMOs to increase crop yield.|
|Fertilisers:||Only natural fertilisers such as manure, bone meal, and compost are used.||Artificial chemical fertilisers like urea and sodium nitrate are used.|
|Pesticides:||Natural insect repellents such as clove oil and neem water are used to repel pests.||Harmful chemical pesticides such as DDT and boric acid are used.|
|Farming Method:||Sustainable farming methods such as crop rotation, mixing crops are used which improve soil quality.||No sustainable farming methods are implemented as the focus is on the crop yield and not soil quality.|
|Food Quality:||Food quality is a priority and organic farmers strive to produce nutritious food.||Food quality is not given importance and produce is sometimes not nutritious.|
|Impact on the Environment:||Organic farming has a sustainable impact on the environment.||Conventional farming has a detrimental effect and negatively impacts the environment.|
What’s the Verdict: Is Organic Farming Better than Conventional Farming?
As we can see above, the benefits of organic farming outweigh those of conventional farming by a long shot. Organic farming aims to improve the overall soil quality, produce nutritious crops, and pave the way for a sustainable means of agriculture, keeping the health of the environment and living beings in mind.
Organic farming in India still has a long way to go and farmers need to be educated on the impact and consequences of conventional farming. How can you contribute towards a greener environment and organic farming? You can do so by supporting organic farmers and choosing organic produce over conventional crops.