Organic farming is based on the fact that farming is carried out without using synthetic agricultural chemicals; including but not limited to fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or insecticides. Genetically Modified crops are not used either.
Organic farming is a type of farming method constantly being employed for centuries. The demand of organic farming is once again increasing as many people learn health benefits of chemical-free organic food products and the adverse impact those agricultural chemicals may have to humans and animals.
Farmers are also learning the benefits of organic farming and are willing to pay the higher price of producing crops through organic farming. India is the largest producer of organic based products, while Australia has the largest proportion of organically farmed land.
Although organic farming is very beneficial in terms of health and environment; it does have a number of disadvantages we never knew about!
Advantages of Organic Farming
1. No more genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
The biggest advantage of organic farming is that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not grown. This helps to save a lot of costs and also make organic farming efficient. The risk of mutations in crops also decreases as they are not genetically altered.
2. Soil Protection
Organic farming gives added protection to the soil. A healthy soil is very important for good growth of crops.
Higher soil fertility means higher yield! The soils are protected and remain healthy because chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are avoided in the farming process; this protects the soil and its fertility in the long run.
3. Better nutrition
The use of organic farming leads to production of food products that are more nutritional; consisting of higher nutritional content as compared to products produced from conventional methods of farming.
Products such as vegetables and fruits produced through organic farming are very fresh to eat as well! The flavors and taste of the products produced through organic farming is also substantially better and more natural.
3. Healthy working environment around farms
Organic farming creates a non-toxic working environment for people working around the farm. This is because organic farming aims to stop using chemicals which may create health problems among people working on the farm.
The chemical-free farming environment helps prevent farmers living and working around it from health problems such as altered mental status, headaches and other respiratory conditions.
4. Resistance to pests and diseases
The benefit of growing plants in a healthy soil with adequate pH and nutritional status helps strengthen the immune system of the plant. This way, plants produced from organic farming have a higher resistance against pests and various diseases without use of pesticides or genetically modifying them.
Plant resistance in organic farming is created by natural substances such as rhubarb which gives the crop a more thickened cell wall, making it stronger against pests and diseases.
5. Fertilizers are made naturally and on site
Organic farming increase the yield of crops by making fertilizers on site using natural substances which include green manure, cover crops and application of compost.
6. Opportunity to grow variety of crops
Conventional farming is limited only to producing a limited variety of crops. Organic farming has the limitless capacity of producing a diverse variety of crops which can then be sold in the local market for a higher price. This is because now you’re bringing a variety of crops into the local market!
7. Climate friendly
Organic farming is a much more climate-friendly process as it doesn’t require petroleum-based fertilizers and chemicals. The plants produced by organic farming help to store carbon thus reducing the greenhouse effect.
Less fossil fuel is utilized as organic farming requires more work from animals and manual labor. This way the plants also help to support the ecosystem around it and create biodiversity in it.
8. For the future
Organic farming doesn’t damage the soil; neither does it promote the process of desertification. This low input and restorative process helps to preserve the land for future generations. Sustainability is key!
The disadvantages of Organic Farming
1. Lack of subsidies
Farmers practicing organic farming face a lack of subsidies enjoyed by farmers using conventional farming methods. Therefore, they take a huge hit when bad weather conditions damage their crops as they are not compensated accordingly.
This may lead to farmers losing their lands and even their livelihood as they are completely dependent on their lands as a source of income.
Some farmers may even shift back to environmentally-negative conventional farming to save themselves from going under due to lack of incentives.
2. Organic farmers may also use organic pesticides and other organic chemicals
Farmers may get trapped into using naturally-derived chemicals.
Although these naturally-sourced chemicals are much safer than the synthetic chemicals, they do carry a lot of health concerns and may be damaging to the environment as well (jury’s still out on how much).
In some cases, these organic chemicals contain lower concentrations as compared to synthetic ones. This makes the farmer apply these chemicals more frequently to obtain better results. Sometimes, they apply so frequently that it becomes toxic for the crops!
It’s just like the story of ‘chicken that laid the golden egg’.
There is no confirmation about how these organic pesticides, insecticides and fungicides affect the soil and how long they may reside in the soil as they have not been properly tested yet.
3. May not be Truly Organic at times.
Due to large-scale use of synthetic products in farming, organically grown products may be grown on lands which still contain a large amount of synthetic chemicals in the soil.
This defeats the true purpose of organic farming; Produce without Chemical-use!
4. Lack of infrastructure
Most organic farms still operate under the ancient agricultural style but the transportation of the goods is industrialized leading to a High carbon footprint.
However, these issues remain hidden under the banner of organic farming.
5. Higher costs
The soil required for carrying out organic farming is more expensive than the soil used in traditional farming methods. This means that the initial investment required to carry out organic farming is higher.
Even if the initial costs are higher, the soil with time becomes healthier with organic farming and it is more cheap and efficient to keep the soil fertile in the long run.
Moreover when you plan to sell the land, it would actually have a much higher value when you claim that it’s a land free-of-chemicals and fit for organic farming.
6. Knowledge-Intensive farming
Most of the farmers are illiterate or lack the scientific knowledge required to carry out organic farming and thus do not pursue organic farming.
Organic farming requires vast knowledge to carry out organic farming. Farmers need to know chemistry and ecology of their land to carry out effective organic farming.
Farmers need to stay connected with the world to know about innovations and alternative solutions of carrying out effective farming. They need to be constantly updated about various organic farming techniques and approaches in order to produce the best and most efficient organic crops.
7. More work
More physical manpower is required to carry out organic farming. This means more labor needs to be employed in order to control the cultivation of weeds.
This may raise the overall costs of organic farming in the long run. In some developing countries, farmers strive to have more children to have helpers around the farm.
However, with smart farming techniques and methods, the labor required for carrying out organic farming may be reduced over time.
8. More observations required
Organic farming requires more intensive day-to-day monitoring of the crops being grown. This is done even more so during the critical periods of the crops so that they can be well-grown without any pests or weeds spoiling the crops.
Monitoring is very crucial because any mistakes or bad weather conditions may ruin the entire batch, thus making organic farming more labor-demanding and time consuming as compared to other farming approaches.
9. The Certification process
The process of becoming an officially certified organic farm is very complex and filled with paperwork that most farmers are not literate enough to understand and may choose to skip these processes and carrying out farming without them.
Some farmers don’t carry out organic farming just because of this paperwork and continue with conventional farming methods even though they are willing to pursue organic farming.
10. Marketing is required
For any product, marketing and promoting that product to the community is often challenging. While the conventional farmers have their own market for their products, it’s not the same for organic farmers.
There is a very small niche market for people looking for organic food as most people are still not aware of the benefits of organic products and the higher pricing of the organically produced crops also drives away potential customers. This makes it even more difficult for organic farmers to compete in an already-competitive market.