Ecological agriculture

The organic farming, organic or biological is a culture system of holding autonomous based on optimal use of natural resources, without using chemical synthetic, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) nor to fertilizer or to combat pests -not for crops, thus achieving organic food while conserving the fertility of the land and respecting the environment. All this in a sustainable, balanced and maintainable way.

The main objectives of organic agriculture are obtaining food healthy, of higher nutritional quality, without the presence of chemical synthesis substances and obtained through sustainable procedures. This type of agriculture is a global system of production management, which increases and enhances the health of agrosystems, including biological diversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. This is achieved by applying, whenever possible, agronomic, biological and mechanical methods, as opposed to the use of synthetic materials to perform any specific function of the system. This form of production, in addition to contemplating the ecological aspect, includes in its philosophy the improvement of the living conditions of its practitioners, in such a way that its objective is attached to achieving the integral sustainability of the agricultural production system; that is,economically sustainable.

Natural agriculture, indigenous agriculture, family agriculture, peasant agriculture, are types of natural agriculture that seek balance with the ecosystem, are sustainable agricultural systems, which have been maintained over time in different regions of the world seeking to satisfy the demand for natural and nutritious food for people and animals, so that the agroecosystem maintains equilibrium. The biodynamic, and permaculture, share some of its principles and methods, but they are more recent.

Objectives pursued
Sustainable agriculture aims to improve the sustainability of the system, by creating more per capita wealth per unit of production, on a more equitable basis. These principles are based on the recognition that natural resources are finite and must be used wisely to guarantee lasting profitability economic, social well-being and respect for the environment (the three pillars of sustainable development).

Concretely and in the ideal (nothing assuring that an agriculture respecting all these qualities simultaneously is possible):

Sustainable agriculture aims at the optimal use of natural resources: use of goods and services provided by nature, primarily water, as functional inputs; preference for a less energy-intensive local supply. For this, it uses natural and regenerative processes, such as precipitation, nutrient cycles, biological nitrogen fixation, soil replenishment and natural enemies of pests, natural pollination.

It limits the contribution of the sector to the greenhouse effect.
It limits the production of non-reused waste by creating interdependencies with other economic activities, for the purpose of greater overall efficiency, and promotes the use of by-products of agricultural activity or any other activity.
It uses practices that limit soil erosion and degradation, and reduces the use of inputs to protect water resources.
It does not undermine the integrity of people, including limiting the use of natural or synthetic pesticides that can harm the health of farmers and consumers (see Biological Safety).
It protects biodiversity.

Some principles of sustainable agriculture
To be sustainable, agriculture must respect a few principles:

soil conservation;
conservation of water resources: global water resources are overexploited, so that groundwater levels are falling almost everywhere, especially in the major cereal regions of China, the United States and from India;
conservation of genetic resources and biodiversity;
sustainable management of natural pastures;
the fight against desertification.
To these basic principles must be added the need to avoid the dispersive uses of metals in agriculture. The study of the Centrale Alumni Association on the scarcity of metals identifies a number of dispersive uses to avoid.

Organization of Sustainable Agriculture
The main concept is that of an agricultural holding consisting of a set of interacting subsystems, one subsystem generating inputs for the others, the system operating ideally in a closed cycle.

Types of crops
One of the most used crops, because it is very practical, is the use of terraces. This system is basic to biodynamic agriculture, established by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. In this mode, divisions are made in the terrain approximately 1 m wide and the desired length. Since it does not leave more than 1 m wide, it has the advantage that it is possible to work the bench without having to step on it, and thus the cultivated land is not caked. It is therefore convenient to leave a suitable step between the bench and the bench.

They must be based on the adaptation to the environment, their resistance / tolerance to pests and diseases and their economic profitability. To the extent possible, biological diversity must be maintained, alternating or mixing different varieties. Biodiversity is given by the integration of components at different levels: edaphic (earthworms, beneficial bacteria, fungi, rhizobium nodules); wild species (30% of adventitious plants); crop rotation. This biodiversity within the agrarian ecosystem provides stability, resistance and sustainability in the face ofdroughts, pests, etc.

Farmers can use seeds whose origin can be conventional, due to the difficulty to find seeds produced with ecological criteria. The networks of seeds, increasingly extensive, are concerned with recovering local seed varieties, well adapted to the environment and without genetic modifications.

Control of pests and diseases
The ecological cultivation must be based on preventive methods, promoting the good development of the plants and therefore their natural resistance to pests and diseases. Prevention must be maximized by means of appropriate cultivation practices that ensure the proper development of the plants and, therefore, that they are more resistant. The autochthonous species and a suitable fertilizer make the plants more resistant.

By avoiding the cultivation of a single species, by diversifying the species planted, the appearance of pests becomes difficult, using an adequate rotation and association in the fields.

It is advisable to promote the development of the autochthonous auxiliary fauna, through the use of hedges and the release of useful insects (parasites or predators), such as the parasitoids of the aphid, Toxoptera aurantii.

Ultimately different products of natural origin can be used, such as pyrethrins that are obtained from the dried flowers of the chrysanthemum or Bacillus thuringiensis which are aerobic bacteria that produce an insecticidal toxin.

Pheromones, attractants and repellents
The extract of garlic is biodegradable and serves to repel the whitefly, birds and different types of suckers. It is based on a masker of the smell of food, of pheromones (avoids the reproduction of pests) and in birds it baffles them because garlic is irritating to birds. It does not prevent that in periods of great hunger this method may be ineffective for birds, you can use other methods such as ultrasound or gas explosions with motion detectors.

Garlic extract can mask the smell of the pheromone traps of some pests and can make them more ineffective.

The fertilization of the land dedicated to organic farming is one of the pillars of this form of cultivation. It is very practical that the fertilizer is of own production, one of the most used is the production of compost.

The organic matter is the basis of fertilization, but can also be used as fertilizer the green manure which comprises cultivating and burying a plant, so that it decomposes it to compost, especially using legumes, these enrich the soil especially in nitrogen thanks to bacteria that live in their roots and that fix the atmospheric nitrogen, and that the plant when being buried yields to the ground in the form of fertilizer.

The mineral fertilizers that can be used are those coming from natural sources that have been extracted by physical processes.

Soil maintenance

In the soil there is naturally a myriad of living organisms that perform a continuous “tillage”: the roots when exploring in search of water and nutrients; earthworms, insects and rodents, with their galleries; other organisms with their exudations and residues that help to unite the particles of clay and humus.

Nor should we neglect the large amount of organic matter provided by these organisms as well as the conversion of organic matter into assimilable material by plants.

Various experiences have shown that biological work has advantages over mechanics. As they are:

It does not clutter the soil when it passes through the ground, which commonly happens when working the land with machinery and that requires a deeper work every so often.
When cutting the grass and leaving it as mulch several improvements are made, on the one hand the sun does not dry the soil while retaining moisture and on the other hand serves as protection to microorganisms and other organisms.

On the other hand, adventitious plants, or also “weeds”, are not systematically combated. They are attributed the protection of uncultivated soil and organisms like predatory insects that can help fight pests. They can also help improve the structure of the soil, when it returns to it once dried or cut. To prevent the field from being filled with adventitious, crop rotations are made with false plantings and balanced fertilizer programs.

The main condition that an implement must comply with is not to turn the soil in depth so as not to alter the natural order of the soil, working with temper and not abusing them, avoiding in part the undesirable effects of mechanical tillage such as mineralization. of the soil and the compaction of the same by the weight of the machinery.

Considering practical and historical reasons, the reasons for using mechanical tillage are:

To carry out more rapid the works in the field, as much of sowing, harvesting as the treatments.
Eliminate the competition caused by adventitia.
The transport of the productions from the same field to its destination.

Rotation of crops
It consists of alternating plants of different families and with different nutritional needs in a same place during different cycles, avoiding that the soil is exhausted and that the diseases that affect a type of plants are perpetuated over time.

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In this way the fertilizer is better used (by using plants with different nutritional needs and with different root systems), weeds are better controlled and problems with pests and diseases are reduced (since no host is more difficult to survive).

A legume should also be introduced regularly in the rotation and alternate plants that require a large amount of organic matter, and support it partially or even unfermented (potatoes, squash, asparagus, etc.), with others that are less demanding or that require organic matter very decomposed (chard, onion, peas, etc.).

In this practice it is necessary to avoid the occurrence of plants of a different vegetative type but belonging to the same botanical family, for example: spinach and beet = chenopodiaceae, celery and carrot = umbelliferae, potato and tomato = Solanaceae.

Example of crop rotation
The unwanted effect is indicated in literal:

Insects: Tipulidae, Elateridae, Lepidoptera
Diseases: basically fungi
Structure: means structural decomposition
Quality: loss of quality
Late: delay

Others are indicated directly in the box

Plant Pre-cultivation
Potato Beet Poppy Pea Meadow Pasture Caraway Clover
Rape Bean Onion Linen Winter barley Winter rye Winter wheat Oats Summer barley Summer wheat
Potato nematodes
structure diseases qualityinsects
Beet thrips insects insects nematodes thrips thrips thrips
Poppy structure thrips insects insects undergrowth undergrowth thrips thrips thrips
Pea structure quality quality undergrowth thrips thrips thrips
Pasturein rotation late late late late late late late late
Caraway late late late diseases late late
late late late insects insects late late late late late
Rape late latediseases late insects late late late late late late late late
Bean quality quality quality
Onion structure quality quality quality undergrowth undergrowth thrips nematodes nematodes
Linen quality quality
thrips quality quality quality undergrowth nematodes thrips not common thrips thrips
Winter barley late late qualityinsects qualityinsects late late latenematodes diseases tripsdiseases
Winter rye late late qualityinsects qualityinsects late nematodes not common late latenematodes late
Winter wheat late late qualityinsects insects qualityinsects late late thrips late trips
Oats qualityinsects qualityinsects nematodes nematodes
Summer barley qualityinsects quality qualityinsects thrips thrips nematodes thrips
Barley thrips nematodes thrips
Summer wheat qualityinsects qualityinsects thrips thrips thrips thrips

Association of crops
The association of crops consists in cultivating in the same plot several different species, so that a synergy between them is obtained.

This widespread practice in organic farming, can obtain various types of improvements. On the one hand we can put two species that complement each other in its root system (one is deep (the melon) and the other superficial (the lettuce), or one plant defends the other with its aroma (as an example we have the onion between carrots avoids the carrot fly) This type of plant is called an insectary plant that attracts and benefits predatory insects or parasites of insect pests.

Risk prevention
Lists of environmental risk checks – safety, actions to be taken, to be implemented on farms:
Types of risks;
Evaluation of upgrade programs;
Inventories to be completed, procedures to be followed, requirements;
Classification of premises and work sites;
Actions to be done;

On-farm monitoring of phytosanitary products.
Providing farmers with simple barcode reading devices for recording and tracking supplies in the local store (orders, inventory management, inputs / outputs…), with the possibility of:

On-site editing of documents by portable printer;
Transfer of information collected on microcomputer for more elaborate treatment.

Types of action (actors):

Prevention of Industrial Risks, School of Mines;
Training on risk prevention advice (IPGP Jussieu);
Regulatory, normative and legal watch;
Self diagnosis.

Valorisation of biomass
According to the principles of sustainable agriculture, promotion of biomass is not reserved exclusively to supply human. Agricultural products, as well as waste and residues from agricultural activities, may have other uses:

Bioenergy: production of heat and electricity
Biogas (after anaerobic digestion)

Ensuring food safety involves monitoring along the entire production chain, from fork to fork.

Sustainable agriculture relies on evidence and traceability provided by credible certifications, established by independent certifiers.

The implementation of integrated sustainable agriculture chains involves the interoperability of heterogeneous systems, hence the coherence and quality of the data (or even their security), which implies the use of a global normative framework.

Standardization relating to food is constituted by the series of standards ISO 22000 on the safety of food.

Tools for evaluating sustainable agriculture
Many evaluative methods refer to the concept of sustainability indicators at the farm level. However, these methods sometimes only include the environmental dimension, as the social and economic dimensions are not systematically taken into account. Included in this category many agri-environmental indicators methods or other tools developed for assessing the environmental performance of a farm (Zahm, 2011).

Evaluation tools take different forms in their construction and approaches. It’s about:

indicators with more or less formalized degrees of integration into a conceptual framework or lists of integrated indicators in the form of dashboards;
environmental assessment tools, such as the measurement of life cycle analysis;
ecopoint rating systems;
linear programming models;
trade-off models for the selection of alternative productions;
energy approaches based on thermodynamics.

Among these different methods, the IDEA method (agricultural sustainability indicator) is a scientific method based on the work of a scientific committee. It has been mobilized for many years both in agricultural education (technical or higher) for its pedagogical and transparent nature and by many agricultural advisory professionals to support change processes towards ecological transition or responsibility societal business.

Benefits, losses and controversies
Studies until the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century had not yet shown that the consumption of biological products had a greater benefit on health. An important review of scientific studies certified by the Food Standard Agency and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has concluded that there are no significant nutritional differences for health between “bio” foods and classic foods beyond its content in pesticides. 9 However, there are not enough quality studies to be able to conclude the long-term effects on consumer health. 10Other experts, however, have questioned the aforementioned review of studies, as is the case of María Dolores Raigón, professor and researcher at the Higher Technical School of Agronomic Engineering and the Natural Environment of the UP of Valencia. In some articles recently published in different media outlets exposes his arguments against the results thrown by the review of the Food Standard Agency, as for example in this Article by María Dolores Raigón

Environmental benefits are often mentioned due to the lower use of certain chemical products, favoring small local producers (typically main producers of organic agriculture) and avoiding the manipulation of dangerous chemical products by farmers.


Is the natural healthy, safe, beneficial or safe?
Speaking of food advertising, it is often said that ” natural is healthy, safe, beneficial or harmless.” According to some authors, it simply is not true. The adjective “natural” today accompanies, with lightness, too many products for food and cosmetics. The fact is that since a few years ago, Spanish legislation prohibits the use of the term “natural” in advertising; literally does this:

Prohibitions and limitations of advertising with a purported sanitary purpose… Use the term “natural” as a characteristic linked to preventative or therapeutic effects.

In summary, it is justified to distrust any product that uses the word “natural” in its promotion or advertising. The detailed reading of this article 4 of the BOE 1907/1996 gives an idea of how many times the legality is violated in the advertising of products such as food supplements, cosmetics and a myriad of other products designed to “improve” health or at least our self-perception of it.

“Agriculture is never organic”
It is an “amendment to the whole”. According to the author (JM Mulet) the environmental message has permeated public opinion and is being used to sell more, simply. According to him, organic farming is “fashion and posture,” which has always used genetic manipulation and selection in agriculture for centuries, and that the future of humanity will not be possible without transgenic foods.

Source from Wikipedia