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  Section: Principles of Horticulture » A Glimpse of Horticulture
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Organic growing

A Glimpse of Horticulture
  The nature of horticulture
  The plant
  Outdoor food production
  Vegetable production
  Fruit production
  Service horticulture
  Interior plant care
  Organic growing

Organic, or ecological, growers view their activities as an integrated whole and try to establish a sustainable way forward by conserving nonrenewable resources and eliminating reliance on external inputs. Where their growing depends directly, or indirectly (e.g. the use of straw or farmyard manure), on the use of animals due consideration is given to their welfare and at all times the impact of their activities on the wider environment is given careful consideration.

The soil is managed with as little disturbance as possible to the balance of organisms present. Organic growers maintain soil fertility by the incorporation of animal manures, composted material, green manure or grass–clover leys. The intention is to ensure plants receive a steady, balanced release of nutrients through their roots; 'feed the soil, not the plant'. Besides the release of nutrients by decomposition, the stimulated earthworm activity incorporates organic matter deep down the soil profile, improving soil structure which can eliminate the need for cultivation (see earthworms).

The main cause of species imbalance is considered to be the use of many pesticides and quick-release fertilizers. Control of pests and diseases is primarily achieved by a combination of resistant cultivars and 'safe' pesticides derived from plant extract, by careful rotation of plant species and by the use of naturally occurring predators and parasites. Weeds are controlled by using a range of cultural methods including mechanical and heat-producing weed control equipment. The balanced nutrition of the crop is thought to induce greater resistance to pests and diseases. The European Union Regulations (1991) on the 'organic production of agricultural products' specify the substances that may be used as 'plant-protection products (see Table 16.4), detergents, fertilizers, or soil conditioners' (see Table 21.3).

Those intending to sell produce with an organic label need to comply with the standards originally set by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movement (IFOAM). These standards set out the principles and practices of organic systems that, within the economic constraints and technology of a particular time, promote:
  • the use of management practices which sustain soil health and fertility;
  • the production of high levels of nutritious food;
  • minimal dependence on non-renewable forms of energy and burning of fossil food;
  • the lowest practical levels of environmental pollution;
  • enhancement of the landscape and wild life habitat;
  • high standards of animal welfare and contentment.
Certification is organized nationally with a symbol available to those who meet and continue to meet the requirements. In the UK, the Soil Association is licensed for this purpose.


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