Transition from Conventional to Organic Farming – Jammu Kashmir Latest News | Tourism | Breaking News J&K – Daily Excelsior

Dr. Ashu Sharma
Conventional agricultural systems have increased per-area yield while reducing labour requirements. Factors responsible for yield increases include use of new plant varieties that use fertilizer more efficiently, cultural practices (i.e increased crop density), higher fertilizer rates, efficacious pesticides and increased mechanization in crop harvesting. Food quality and safety are two vital factors that have attained constant attention in common people. Conventional practices contribute to depletion of non renewable energy resources to produce pesticides, fertilizers and to power mechanized equipments, air, water and health hazards and also the reduction of soil quality. Increased frequency of tillage without addition of organic amendments led to reduced soil organic carbon and increased soil erosion. Growing environmental awareness and several food hazards have substantially decreased the consumer’s trust towards food quality in the last decades. For these reasons, consumers are quested for safer and better foods that are produced by local systems.
Organically grown food and food products are believed to meet these demands. In recent years, organic farming as a cultivation process is gaining increasing popularity. Organically grown foods have become one of the best choices for both consumers and farmers and going to become part of go green lifestyle. Organic farming is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. Organic farming and food processing practices are wide-ranging and necessitate the development of socially, ecologically and economically sustainable food production system. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has suggested the basic four principles of organic farming, i.e. the principle of health, ecology, fairness and care. The main principles and practices of organic food production are to inspire and enhance biological cycles in the farming system, keep and enhance deep-rooted soil fertility, reduce all types of pollution, evade the application of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, conserve genetic diversity in food, consider the vast socio-ecological impact of food production and produce high-quality food in sufficient quantity.
Organic farming is viewed as an environmentally friendly and consumer oriented approach to food production. Some conventional producers perceive a need to change to organic farming for a variety of reasons. Some see organic farming as a profitable system. Others are attracted because they feel it is personally satisfying or an environmentally sound and a healthier alternative to conventional farming. In general, motivations for organic farming typically are either farm related or personal. Farm related motivations include husbandry (e.g., previous problems with conventional production) or financial factors (e.g., higher prices for fresh organic produce). Personal motivations include personal health, availability of foods grown by locally owned, small family farms and religious, philosophical, political and environmental beliefs. Conversion from conventional to organic farming system requires a 3 year transition period before produce may be certified organically. During transition to organic production systems, growers experience a period of suppressed yields, followed by a return to yields near or equal to those achieved with conventional production. This transition effect has been attributed to time required for changes in chemical, physical and biological properties of soil necessary to enhance nutrient cycling, plant growth and development of biological pest control within the system.
Nutritional benefits and health safety
The growing demand for organically farmed fresh products has created an interest in both consumer and producer regarding the nutritional value of organically and conventionally grown foods. Organically grown foods, especially leafy vegetables and tubers, have higher dry matter as compared to conventionally grown foods. Although organic cereals and their products contain lesser protein than conventional cereals, they have higher quality proteins with better amino acid scores. Organic fruits and vegetables contain 27% more vitamin C than conventional fruits and vegetables. These secondary metabolites have substantial regulatory effects at cellular levels and hence found to be protective against certain diseases such as cancers, chronic inflammations and other diseases. Therefore, organic foods ensure better nutritional benefits and health safety.
Environmental impact
Organic farming has a protective role in environmental conservation. It is believed that organic farming is less harmful to the environment as it does not allow synthetic pesticides, most of which are potentially harmful to water, soil, and local terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. In addition, organic farming improves physico-biological properties of soil consisting of more organic matter, biomass, better soil stability, enhanced water percolation, holding capacities, lesser water and wind erosion compared to conventionally farming soil.
Socio-economic impact
Organic cultivation requires a higher level of labour, hence produces more income-generating jobs per farm. An organic product typically costs 10%-40% more than the similar conventionally crops and it depends on multiple factors both in the input and the output arms. Organic farming is now an expanding economic sector as a result of the profit incurred by organic produce and thereby leading to a growing inclination towards organic agriculture by the farmers.
Sustainable development
The concept of sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals-environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. The concept of sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Long-term economic viability can only be possible by organic farming and because of its premium price in the market, organic farming is more profitable.
( The author is Scientist at KVK Kathua, SKUAST Jammu)
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