Man still has to learn and learn from Nature. First of all, what she does best. For example, plants themselves create and preserve the soil, and if this land is not mutilated by a plow or poisoned with chemicals, then there are many living organisms that can loosen and fertilize it. In fact, plants can protect themselves, and if their strength is not enough, they will call helpers – spiders, bats, lizards, birds and other wonderful creatures.
Plants strengthen the fertile soil layer, protect it from the wind and the scorching sun, and smooth out the destructive aspirations of the elements. Plants delight us with friendly sprouting in spring and rich harvest in autumn. However, this joy can only be appreciated in harmony with nature. And having “gotten” to her out of spite and in spite of, you can hardly feel it.
We are starting a series of articles on organic farming. Today we will make a brief overview of its principles and methods, consider its distinctive features.
A bit of history
The history of the emergence and development of agriculture has more than eight thousand years. At its very dawn, man still did not know how to extract iron, and all work on the ground was carried out with the help of wooden hoes and spades – the structure and fertility of the soil were not disturbed. With the emergence of large settlements and an increase in the population, field cultivation arises, and people invented the first arable tool – a wooden plow, which was designed to cut furrows, and used oxen or horses as traction force. From the moment man learned to mine and melt iron, a wooden plow was replaced by a metal one..
On the territory of Russia, the massive use of moldboard plowing with a plow began under Peter the Great. And that was the beginning of the end. Massive deforestation and dumping of the land quickly led to soil destructuring in central Russia.
The first harbinger of upcoming environmental disasters caused by large-scale plowing of virgin lands was severe erosion, dehumification and drying of soils in the south of the Russian Empire in the middle of the 19th century. And even then some Russian scientists (V.V.Dokuchaev, I.E. Ovsinsky) began to sound the alarm, saying that moldboard plowing had a detrimental effect on the structure of the soil and on its fertility. Even then, Ovsinsky, instead of a plow, began to use an equestrian plane cutter, while receiving remarkable yields, even in the drought of 1895-1897.
The next ecological catastrophe occurred on the plains of the USA and Canada in the 30s of the 20th century. The plowing of millions of hectares of virgin land on the prairie led to terrible wind erosion, and the dust storms of that time were perceived by local residents as the end of the world..
In the 60s of the twentieth century, the same catastrophe broke out in the USSR, on the lands of Kazakhstan, the Urals and Siberia. In the period from 1954 to 1962, 42 million hectares were plowed here by moldboard plowing. A huge cloud of dust hung over the entire width of the steppe fields. And there are more than a dozen such examples..
The invention of mineral fertilizers played a colossal role in the destruction of fertility and the reduction of the humus layer of the soil. And about the danger of eating vegetables and fruits grown with the help of such dressings, it is no longer necessary to talk.
Albert Howard (1873–1948) is considered the founder of the modern system of organic farming. This English scientist spent most of his life in India, where he developed a system for composting and fertilizing the soil with organic matter. He outlined the basic principles of his method in the book “Commandments of Agriculture”. This work made a great impression at one time and attracted many supporters from all over the world..
The Agricultural Covenant by Albert Howard, 1943.
At the same time, biodynamic agriculture appeared in Germany, the main principle of which was the complete rejection of the use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides. In this case, special biodynamic preparations are used to fertilize the soil and control pests, which we will talk about in the following articles. The founder of biodynamic agriculture is Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). These two directions provided the basis for the development of modern organic farming methods. This system has been successfully used for a long time in many countries. This is especially true, given that the environmental situation in the world causes many serious concerns..
Seeing the world through the eyes of an organic farmer
To become an organic farmer, it is not enough just to abandon the use of pesticides and deep tillage. This scientific approach is based on a deep understanding of the processes occurring in nature. And there is no need to perceive nature as some kind of abstract concept. Nature in organic farming is the soil and the plants we grow on our plots.
Organic farming (also called natural or biological) is fundamentally different from traditional farming. Here, the earth is not dug or plowed, but only loosened with the help of special devices, such as the Fokin flat cutter. Gardeners-organists use only organic fertilizers and special biological products to fertilize the soil and fight pests and plant diseases.
The main goals of natural farming are to increase soil fertility and obtain environmentally friendly products. The methods and techniques used by the adherents of this approach make the work of the gardener easy and enjoyable.
The basis of organic farming is a special attitude to soil. The soil is perceived as a living creature that needs to be protected and taken care of in every possible way about its health. Because if the soil is healthy, then the crops growing on it should not be afraid of anything..
It is this attitude that causes the refusal to deeply cultivate the land, since constant digging kills all living things that create the basis of fertility – humus. Humus is a complex composition of nutritious organic compounds that are formed in the soil as a result of the vital activity of worms, fungi, microbes and other soil living organisms.
To improve the structure of the soil, “advanced” gardeners use the mulching method, which suppresses the growth of weeds and retains a sufficient amount of moisture in the ground. In nature, the ground is always covered with a layer of leaves and grass – the mulching method helps to protect the soil from overheating and erosion.
To increase humus and improve soil structure in biological farming, only organic fertilizers are used, the main of which are compost and green manure. Siderata are green fertilizers, which can be used as various grasses and grain crops (mustard, clover, lupine, rapeseed, rye, oats, and others). Read more about all this in the article “Organic farming: stop destroying the soil by digging and weeding”.
The long-term practice of some modern farmers proves that, observing certain conditions and having enough knowledge and experience, it is possible to grow vegetables and fruits to provide for your family without the use of various fertilizers (even organic). Most agrotechnical techniques will not be required at all – loosening, weeding, watering, mulching, composting, green manure.
The well-known Austrian agrarian-revolutionary Sepp Holzer really proved this. His estate is located at an altitude of 1,100 meters above sea level, and the average annual temperature here is plus 6 degrees. And in these difficult climatic conditions Sepp Holzer manages to successfully grow such heat-loving trees as cherries, apricots, sweet cherries and others. Melons and grapes grow well with the Austrian professor. It should be noted that all this grows here contrary to the canons of traditional agriculture..
Sepp Holzer at his alpine farm
Sepp Holzer and his wife are only involved in planting and harvesting. They do not have agricultural equipment, and only one employee works on their estate (50 hectares). Here they do not loosen, do not huddle, do not water or mulch. Insects and birds are fighting pests on Sepp Holzer’s estate. The Austrian agrarian-revolutionary created a unique ecosystem on his land, where man lives according to the laws of nature in complete harmony with it. This wonder of the world is called today permaculture, which in English means “long-term”, “permanent”. We discussed in more detail the experience of Sepp Holzer and the concept of permaculture in the article “Organic farming: permaculture – life in harmony with nature”.
So, let’s summarize. The ecological situation on the planet requires each person to think and take measures in order to preserve what is left. And using organic farming methods can help us a lot..
The main postulates of natural farming include:
- Did not loosen the soil deeper than five centimeters.
- Always cover the ground with a layer of organic matter.
- Protect and take care of soil animals, which are the main producers of humus.
- Fear the bare ground, do not leave the soil without plants, but sow green manure on the vacant soil.
These ground rules will also be the subject of our next articles. Observe nature, live in harmony with it – and then labor on the earth will bring you not only good harvests, but also bring maximum pleasure and positive emotions..