The key steps in organic farming – The Standard


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Farida Abdikadir in Isiolo tends to her vegetable farm on February 18, 2021. [David Gichuru,Standard]

As more people embrace healthy eating habits, organic farming is also gaining popularity.  Organic farming has been described by farmers as costly, hard, and troublesome and requires more time compared to other methods.
But organic vegetable farming comes with numerous benefits. The most important aspect is that consumers eat foods free of chemicals and this keeps lifestyle diseases at bay.

So what does it take to be an organic farmer? Walk with me.

Soil management
Organic farming relies on compost which is well decomposed as a natural fertiliser. Green manure is also incorporated to help get nitrogen from the atmosphere which increases the soil nutrients besides holding organic matter and nutrients.
This guarantees soil fertility for longer. The goal of soil fertility management is to maintain or improve the condition of the soil and minimise soil erosion.
This is done by using sound crop rotations, green manures and cover crops, plant and animal matter, and fertilisers or soil amendments recommended. Soil testing should be used to determine pH and levels of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Mix the soil thoroughly with the organic fertiliser. It is advisable to plant on raised beds because they allow roots to grow faster.
Select organic seeds or seedlings from reputable sources. You can raise your own seedlings or directly plant the seeds in the garden. Every vegetable has its individual set of instructions; you’ll find necessary sowing guidelines on the seed packs.

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The use of genetically modified organisms is prohibited in certified organic production. Seed, transplants, and other planting stock must be organically produced.
Exceptions can be made when an “equivalent variety” of organic seed or planting stock is not commercially available in an organic form for a particular crop.
Before these options or exceptions apply, you must have evidence that a minimum of three seed or planting stock sources were checked for organic forms.
Fertilising crops organically
Once a crop’s nutrient needs are determined, the next decision to be made is designing an effective fertility programme...what source of nutrients best fits the overall production system.
The nutrient sources most often used in organic production are: green manure and cover crops; manure; compost; and sludge.
However, a sound fertility programme will include green manure and cover crops in combination with one or more of the other sources.
Green manure and cover crops containing a N-fixing legume are the most economical and beneficial means of supplying nutrient.
These crops are usually planted in rotation with economic or cash crops and serve to improve soil tilth and water holding capacity as well as to replenish soil nitrogen and other nutrients.
A green manure crop is so called because it is one, which is planted for the purpose of plowing into the soil while still green and prior to harvest maturity.

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