Organic farming combines the best of traditional and modern farming methods. It’s building a beautiful bond, a sustainable relationship between humans and the planet. In this equation, maintaining soil health is crucial. Therefore, it calls for the use of natural pesticides and fertilizers to protect and boost the crops.
Why follow the organic path?
In general, organic farms are less prone to pests and diseases. Much like the human body, healthy plants thriving in good soil with balanced nutrition have better immune systems and are able to resist pest/disease attacks better. And much like the human body, it relies on the principle of prevention is better than cure.
8 organic ways to keep the plants healthy
This farming or gardening method allows the laws of nature to take over. Here are some interesting ways it takes advantage of certain principles of nature for disease and pest management.
Central to all organic farming systems, crop rotation is similar to playing a game of hide-and-seek with pests and diseases. Rotating between perennial, annual, winter annual, grass and broadleaf crops provide the dual benefits of confusing pests by disrupting their habitats while retaining soil health. Diverse rotations show great success with flea beetles, cabbage butterfly, wheat midge, stem maggot and wheat stem sawfly. They are also effective in controlling diseases that come from soil and stubble.
2. Biological control
Biological control puts Darwinian’s theory of prey and predator into best use. Organic farming allows the introduction of natural predators of damage-causing insects in order to naturally eliminate the insects’ occurrence. For example, ladybugs, ambush bugs, hoverfly larvae, spiders, birds and frogs naturally prey on aphids, armyworm larvae, sunflower beetles and grasshopper eggs and adults. So the next time you see a ladybird in your garden, let it be! It’s doing you a favor.
3.Natural products for pest control
Neem, cow urine, panchgavya, pongamia, NPV, Trichoderma etc. naturally have pest-repellent qualities. In case of heavy damage to crops, all-round herbal extracts that shoo away all pests are generally used as a last remedy.
A technical term used to refer to the practice of making farm life extremely difficult for pathogens, orchard bio intensification uses techniques like trellising, drip irrigation and mulching. This increases air movement and avoids low-lying areas so that insects aren’t able to survive the harsh conditions in the farm and thrive.
Choosing a time for planting where insects are not a problem is a sneaky way of controlling disease occurrences. It should also be noted that good drainage and moderate fertilization also naturally deter pathogens. Cultural control also involves growing horse gram, greens and soybean between plants to attract natural enemies.
Organic farming advocates a deep and personal relationship between the crops and farmers. Keeping an eye out for eggs on the stem, silver shoots and pupae, and collecting and burning leaves with infestations are a part of the organic process. Collection and destruction of weeds, reducing or removing crop residues and maintenance of field sanitation are also highly recommended to eliminate rat infestation.
Flooding serves the dual purpose of reducing weeds and also removing pathogens like fungal propagules, insects and nematodes. This technique is often used in paddy fields.
A technique that is easy to apply to small gardens as well as large farms, companion planting is about using one plant as the bodyguard for the other. For example, amorphophallus plants are grown between areca nut trees for their anti-fungal properties. Planting mint leaves near spinach deters insects. Alternating between onion rows and carrot rows prevent carrot flies from damaging the crops.
When nature provides us so many tools for survival, which can be conveniently used in farming practices, there’s hardly any reason to fall back on artificial means that harm the planet in the long run. Any farmer or gardener can easily deploy these techniques to just get a tad bit closer to nature and ensure healthier yields.