Organic Crop Production Practices

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Soil Fertility

Crops more easily resist disease, survive drought, and endure insects when grown in good soil. Organic harvest manufacturers build soil quality by adding compost, animal manures, or green manures. As soil organisms divide these inputs, they convert nutrients into forms plants can consume and produce humus that sustains soil quality. Organic manufacturers shouldn’t use sewage sludge or biosolids to soil. Additionally, organic crop producers use cover crops to protect the soil from wind and water erosion. Soil-conserving practices include the utilization of cover crops, mulches, conservation tillage, contour plowing, and strip cropping.

Seeds and Planting Stock

Organic crop manufacturers utilize organic seeds and planting stocks to shield the integrity of their plants. Organic growers can use conventionally developed seeds as soon as an equivalent organic variety is not commercially available, but only if the seeds haven’t been genetically modified or treated with prohibited materials, like fungicides.

Crop Rotation

Organic crop manufacturers practice crop rotation (rotating the plants they grow in a field or planting mattress over time) to interrupt insect life cycles, suppress soil borne plant diseasesand prevent soil erosion, build organic matter, fix nitrogen, and increase farm biodiversity. To effectively reduce insect and disease levels, farmers typically follow a single crop with another in a different crop family, then wait quite a few years prior to replanting the initial harvest. While harvest rotation is also practiced by most conventional farmers, organic manufacturers are required to implement the practice by the USDA organic regulations.

Managing Pests, Weeds, and Diseases

Pest direction on organic farms relies on the ‘PAMS’ plan: prevention, avoidance, monitoring and suppression. Prevention and avoidance are the first line of defense against insects, weeds, and diseases. If insect or weed suppression becomes mandatory, manufacturers often use mechanical and physical practices, like releasing predatory insects to decrease insect populations or laying down a thick layer of mulch to smother weeds. As a final resort, manufacturers may work with their organic certifier to utilize a licensed pesticide, like naturally occurring microorganisms, insecticides obviously derived from crops, or among a few approved synthetic materials.

Maintaining Identity and Integrity of Organic Crops: Organic crop manufacturers are responsible for preventing connection between organic and conventionally-grown plants, as well as contact with prohibited pesticides or fertilizers. Split operations (farms which raise both organic and conventional crops) should make sure organic crops do not contact prohibited materials through accidental sprays of conventional agrochemicals, spray drift, or residues equipment from non-organic fields. Fields from which organic plants have been chosen should have defined boundaries and buffer zones, like hedgerows or plants, separating them in conventional crops and roadways. Prohibited materials can’t be applied to land used for organic cultivation for 36 weeks prior to harvest of organic crops.

From: USDA

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