What are the Different Organic Farming Methods?

Deneatra Harmon

Organic farming methods involve using natural resources and nutrients to plant crops instead of chemical pesticides or other inorganic methods. The field of agroecology often includes topics pertaining to this natural farming process. In addition to organic gardening, agroecology students often explore organic farming through other methods including crop rotation, biological pest control, and companion planting.

Fava beans can be used to make organic compost.
Fava beans can be used to make organic compost.

Organic farming methods promote sustainability and biodiversity by avoiding synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Organic farmers instead use natural fertilizers or compost made from animal manure, vegetable scraps, or decayed plant matter. Organic gardening provides one example that offers a smaller-scale method for planting synthetic-free plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

Organic farmers use natural methods to eliminate inchworms and other pests.
Organic farmers use natural methods to eliminate inchworms and other pests.

To develop sustainable organic farming methods, farmers and gardeners turn to the scientific discipline known as agroecology. This agricultural-related field focuses on ways to design and maintain a productive, yet environmentally sound natural farming system. Some of the criteria used in evaluating and applying agroecology methods generally include ecological and economic stability, increased plant or food production, food safety, and resource conservation.

"Certified organic" crops cannot be grown from genetically modified seeds in the U.S.
"Certified organic" crops cannot be grown from genetically modified seeds in the U.S.

Crop rotation is one of the many organic farming methods that keeps the soil fertile, diseases, and insects at bay. Using this technique, farmers and gardeners rotate their plants and crops to different parts of the garden at least every two years to confuse predators. Crop rotation also means moving a specific group of crops with similar growing habits to a spot that belonged to a previous plant family. For example, a farmer may plant a group of greens in one section of the garden, followed by a group of tomatoes and potatoes. During the following year, the farmer replants the tomato and potato family into a new section of the soil, while moving the greens family to the spot where the tomatoes and potatoes once resided.

Organic farmers frequently use manure to fertilize their fields.
Organic farmers frequently use manure to fertilize their fields.

Biological pest control revolves around the use of specific insects to keep other insects from plants. One way to apply biological pest control as an organic farming method is to breed a group of parasites or insects in a laboratory and then release them into the field to protect the plants. Examples of these "natural enemies" include lady beetles, lacewigs, and insect-attacking nematodes.

In organic farming, specific pests may be used to keep harmful insects from crop plants.
In organic farming, specific pests may be used to keep harmful insects from crop plants.

Other organic farming methods include companion planting. This well-known natural farming technique focuses on the idea that plants can benefit from each other when placed in close proximity. Some examples of compatible plants include the following: corn, marigold, and pumpkins; lettuce, radishes, and carrots; and strawberries, spinach, and fava beans. Enhanced soil, higher plant or crop yields, and natural pest control are among the benefits of companion planting.

Organic farms raise livestock without any growth hormones.
Organic farms raise livestock without any growth hormones.
Most farmers' markets offer a range of organically grown vegetables.
Most farmers' markets offer a range of organically grown vegetables.
Garden hobbyists can easily implement organic farming methods to grow healthy food.
Garden hobbyists can easily implement organic farming methods to grow healthy food.

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