There can be little argument that organic farming has increased in popularity in recent years. This is largely due to an increasing awareness of environmental and animal welfare issues among the general public.
Organic animal farming is, along with more free range methods of farming, a way of ensuring that animals are kept in a healthy environment. This is beneficial to animals, farmers and consumers. Animals that graze on untreated grassland and on organic food will be healthier and happier. In the case of cows and chickens this can mean both healthier and greater quantities of milk and eggs.
Reduced Pesticides & Chemicals in the Food Chain:
The early appeal of pesticides was that there would be a high yield because of how pests would be killed off. But, many pests and harmful bacteria and fungi have now become resistant to pesticides. It’s become evident over time that not only soil has been damaged by the use of pesticides and chemicals, but that the environment has been damaged by the unnatural loss of many pollinating insects. Birds have also suffered because of the decline in insects which they prey upon.
Drought can be a major issue for crop farmers. As chemical fertilizers are water soluble, whenever a plant takes in water it will be contaminated by the chemicals as well. When a drought occurs there will be no water left to thin out the effect of the chemicals and consequently the plant will effectively poisoned.
The Soil Benefits from Non-Organic Farming
Many pesticides and chemicals have a damaging impact on plants, and insects that are beneficial to the environment such as bees. Organically grown plants are healthier than those grown with the aid of chemicals for a number of reasons. Weeds won’t flourish and organically grown plants will tend to be more disease resistant. Organic farming will sometimes involve employing biological control of insects that harm certain plants. Rather than insects being controlled by pesticides, which will also impact on the plant itself, the insects deemed to be pests will be preyed upon by other insects.
Healthy soil is a vital element in growing crops successfully, and it helps to combat erosion. The natural minerals in soil remain intact whenever a field is utilized in an organic way. This then give plants a good base and enables them to thrive. Too much use of non-organic fertilizers can result in soil becoming harmed to such an extent than it becomes useless for growing crops. Experiments have shown that the number of helpful bacteria in the soil can be markedly reduced by the addition of chemicals into the earth. Worms are the organic farmer’s friend, and, when left to thrive in untreated land, will be very beneficial to their local environment.
The chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides not only damage soil, but they can contaminate ground water and the air also. Organic farming methods help to keep the soil healthy and so ground water and air quality isn’t damaged. Organic farming practices have been proven to improve the soil quality and increase water retention.
A number of organic farming projects have shown evidence that improving soil quality. Increasing soil quality could reduce soil erosion, reducing the need of fertilizers potentially saving farmers millions across the world.
Soil quality is also directly linked to water retention and could really become important in the future as climate begin to change. Here in the UK, increase water retention could reduce the need of irrigation, reduce the risk of flash flooding while protecting arable land from frequently common droughts or periods of lower than average rainfall.
Benefits for Consumers and Farmers
Consumers gain from food that is grown organically because it has greater nutritional value and, as it has no traces of chemicals, tastes better. Though consumers typically have to pay more for organically produced food this is because there is such a high demand, and there’s not enough organic farms to keep pace with that demand.
Organic farming can also be helpful to small farmers who struggle to compete on an equal level with major companies. It’s a cost effective way of farming, because, though there tends to be higher labour costs, there is no expenditure on chemicals to use on the land. Organic farming will be something that is sustainable, while non-organic farming is something that won’t be, because of the increasing damage done to the environment.
Wildlife Affected by Non-Organic Farming
Habitat loss will often be the result of non-organic farming and will have a detrimental effect on wildlife. A non-organic farm will normally be centred on what it sees as maximising its potential of producing a high yield. This can mean cutting down hedgerows to create more space to grow crops. This loss of habitat will result in a reduction in the number of animals and birds in the area. With less smaller animals on non-organic farmland there will be less birds of prey, and less inviting areas for predatory animals such as foxes to roam in.
Linda Moore works at livingwithbirds.com, she is passionate about the environment and particularly the wildlife of the avian variety. Linda often travels around the UK volunteering with the British Trust for Ornithology.