Biological farming for easier farm management and better quality produce
1. Biological farming is better
There is research to confirm that “organic methods for growing rice, corn and wheat all produced significantly higher yields—and at less the cost—than monoculture farms”.
Dr. Liz Stockdale of Britain’s Institute of Arable Crops Research agrees and points out in the same article above under the heading “Organic Methods More Cost-Effective for Farmers”…
“that even when organic yields are less than conventional ones, organic farmers make up the financial difference by not having to buy costly pesticides and fertilizers…” and “that improved growing techniques and new natural pest controls could eventually level the playing field, giving organic farmers the economic advantage.”
One can reasonably infer from the analysis below that conventional farmers will invariably adopt the biological approach to farming for the sake of reducing reliance on plant feeds and pest and disease management methods that are harmful to the soil, health and environment and for the sake of improving the quality and taste of produce for the benefit of consumers.
2. Comparison with conventional farming
Currently, conventional farming is still the predominant system of farming practised by the majority of commercial or industrial farmers. It is a system of farming which focuses on feeding the plants and was first introduced to meet the widespread shortage of rice, wheat and maize occurring after World War II and since the “Green Revolution” in 1950s and 60s.
Monoculture, aggressive tillage and excessive use of inorganic fertilizers (like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and inorganic pesticides are farming techniques used in conventional farming to support fast growth of plant and produce and to control pathogenic organisms and such techniques could only result in the soil not producing its own nutrients and not having beneficial living organisms in it to build soil health. To supplement for such lack of soil nutrients and living organisms to combat plants diseases and weeds growth, increasing dose and strengths of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have therefore to be used.
Due to difficulties in farm management caused by increasing reliance on pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers (apart from the concern of the impact of conventional farming on nature, health and environment), farmers around the world are looking for alternatives to overcome the difficulties.
3. Characteristics of biological farming
An alternative that has been proposed is to use a “biological approach” to farming
“based on measuring microbial life in the soil and applying microbes, nutrients, compost tea that the soil needs to regain balance… and understanding the Soil Succession Cycle” (see article entitled Biological Farming) and based on the control of pathogens and pests by “use of live predatory insects, entomopathogenic nematodes, or microbial pathogens to suppress populations of different pest insects…and use of microbial antagonist to suppress diseases as well as the use of host specific pathogens to control weed population”(see Biological Control of Plant Pathogens )
The part of the biological approach requiring regain of soil balance as mentioned above involves
- balancing the soil minerals using scientific tests on microbiological activity and chemical analysis;
- applying soil conditioners to build structure, biology and nutrient availability;
- adding humate and liquid humic acid to conventional fertiliser to improve efficiency and root growth;
- applying nutritional and biological seed dressing to optimize germination;
- liquid injection of nutrition and living biology;
- applying foliar nutrition (not just nitrogen) with biology to build yield and quality potential while reducing pest and disease risk;
- applying specific fungi to plant residues to build soil carbon and available nutrients
In other words, the biological approach to farming or biological farming:
- focuses on restoring and improving soil life and structure and balancing the soil minerals through the biological process of living microrganisms in soil colonizing leaves and roots into organic matters and soil animals such as earthworms to help to decompose the colonized organic matters and planting into the soil bacteria and fungi for building soil aggregates and humus in the soil to increase soil life;
- uses compost tea and microbes to “clean” the soil of harmful chemicals and soil friendly fertilizers (such as organic foliar fertilizers) to increase the soil fertility;
- uses mulching (i.e. spreading or laying materials such as grass clippings and compost over the surface of the soil as a covering to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool and make the garden bed look more attractive), green manures (i.e. growing plants with high nitrogen content such as legumes to provide the soil with nitrogen) and composting to control weeds;
- introduces predatory insects or mites or parasitic wasps or nematodes that infect the pest with a fatal bacterial disease (for greenhouses) and pathogenic nematodes (for outdoor application) and uses microbial inoculants to suppress a single or a class of plant diseases;
- uses pastures in rotation and (as mentioned above) legumes in crop rotation.
It is believed that biological farming includes organic farming, biodynamic farming, sustainable agriculture and natural sequence farming and adopts 80% of the farming techniques used in organic farming.
4. What are the techniques used in organic farming?
They include the use of:
- microbial decomposition to provide plant nutrients;
- recycled and composted crop wastes;
- mulching and green manures;
- careful planning and crop choice (e.g. right soil cultivation at the right time) and crop rotation (unlike conventional farming which grows only one crop year after year);
- good animal husbandry and right quantity of animal waste and manure to avoid harmful effects that are caused by artificial fertilizers and excess animal manures);
- beneficial insects and good bugs (parasites) to kill and eat pests;
- resistant crops and good cultivation practice (such as conservation or zero tillage to improve the soil structure and retain the interaction between soil minerals, soil structure and soil biology so as to preserve biological fertility and soil health);
- water resources with care;
- total abstention from the use of chemicals to fertilize soil or control pests.
- strict regulations laid down by the governments – for example in the EU (EEC 2092/91)(EC organic regulation), in the USA the NOP (national organic program) and in Japan the JAS
Farmers who have been farming the conventional method for some years find it extremely difficult to convert to organic farming. This is because conventionally farmed soil lacks biological fertility and health, it being due to artificial fertilizers providing only short term nutrients to plants. Artificial fertilizers do not feed soil life or add organic matter to the soil nor do they help to build a good soil structure or improve the water holding capacity or drainage in the soil. They help plants to grow quickly but only with soft growth thereby resulting in the plants becoming incapable of withstanding drought, pests and diseases.
#sustainable vs conventional