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Questions and Answers

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...Organic Farming...

  1. What is Organic Farming?
  2. How do I start?
  3. What are green manures?

1. What is Organic Farming? Page Top
Organic farming is more than the prohibition of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. It includes:
• the management of biological and ecological cycles on the farm
• designing the farm system to minimise problems with crops and animals
• a legally defined and regularly policed quality assurance system
Organic farming is aimed at producing high quality food while minimising environmental impact and enhancing animal welfare.
2. How do I start? Page Top
Converting to organic production is a major decision for any farmer or grower, often involving changes to farm structure, management and finance.
Organic production is controlled within the EU by legislation both at community and member state level. Approved production standards have to be met and producers must be registered as organic producers.
If you are considering converting to organic production then taking sound advice is highly recommended.
3. What are green manures? Page Top
Green manures are crops grown specifically for building and maintaining soil fertility and structure, though they may also have other functions.
They are normally incorporated back into the soil, either directly, or after removal and composting.
Green manures are crops grown within a rotation for the purposes of:
• Building soil organic matter and soil structure
• Supplying nitrogen and other nutrients for a following crop
• Preventing leaching of soluble nutrients from the soil
• Providing ground cover to prevent damage to soil structure
• Bringing crop nutrients up from lower soil profiles
• Smothering weeds and preventing weed seedling growth
It is quite common to grow green manures, particularly legumes, during the land conversion period in order to build soil fertility and structure.
Green manures do not necessarily have to be incorporated into the ground on which they were grown. It is feasible to cut a green manure and incorporate it into another field or area.
Green manure crops are an effective tool for controlling weeds.
A well-established over-wintering green manure will smother weed seedlings and some, notably grazing rye, will prevent weed seed germination as they decompose after incorporation into the soil.
After a crop has been removed, bare soil is vulnerable to damage to its surface and structure by rainfall, particularly during the winter. A green manure sown in the autumn will protect the soil surface.
Legumes (clover family) develop on their roots (in association with special bacteria) nodules that have the ability to take nitrogen from the air and convert it (fix) into a form that the plant can use.
Non-legumes do not fix nitrogen, but can provide useful amounts of organic matter and retain nutrients that might otherwise be leached.
In general, all green manures should be incorporated whilst they are still relatively soft and green, and before they have chance to set seed.
After incorporating a green manure, allow two to three weeks before planting the next crop, particularly if it is to be sown directly into the soil.

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