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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.