<< Subj: RE: Organic certification and standards
Date: 97-11-10 12:13:20 EST
I would have to disagree that the very basis of organic agriculture is
environmental sustainability. The basis of organic agriculture is the
avoidance of use of sythnesized fertilizers and pesticides. As a CCOF
certified grower in California, noone ever asked me about my energy
consumption, erosion control practices, how often I tilled to control weeds.
eak: Well, your message is very interesting. With implementation of OFPA
things are about to change. The sustainability I speak of is bettering the
soil primarily, therefore its productiveness. Most organic inspectors
retained by certifying agents at the present are lacking in the understanding
and expertise to analysize the really important factors in organic farming.
A given is no synthetic fertilizers and virtually no synthetic pesticides.
Now we have provided the farmer a problem to solve. Fertility and pest
control without synthetics, done in environmentally sound manner.
Noone ever asked how far the chicken manure I used as fertilizer was
shipped, what were my application rates and timing, or how this might impact
water quality. And at that time (I don't know if it has changed), if I got
in a jam I could use sodium nitrate ("Chilean nitrate") because it was
"natural" but could not even consider urea, because it was "artificial".
Never mind the sodium nitrate is much worse for the soil.
eak: Both are questionable--and to me off the board. Unfortunately, in
California the pressure to produce marketable crops over such a long time
frame makes fast growth without legume based rotations a seeming imperative
to vegetable growers. And yet mono-cash-crop is unneccessary with a
diversified farm. Whether it is Danny Duncan or PurPak or Pavich or Dale
Coke, they are determined to get their way in spite of the negative effects.
Beside, if you can put enough organic matter to convert to humus down,
nothing matters--just keep producing. It is only a matter of time before the
price of organic matter becomes commiserate with its true value. However,
it is time to learn to take a little less money and rotate with a diversified
but legume (nitrogen fixing) crop basis.
I have since left organic farming and am now in research in soil fertility.
The growers I work with are not organic, but are working hard on issues of
sustainability. One is a neighbor of an organic farm and often compares
notes and carefully evaluates which practices make more sense
environmentally. This grower has figured out he can make huge reductions in
tillage by spraying out his cover crops with glyphosate (Round-up) and
planting directly into the residue.
eak: What is the farmer raising? I bet my methods will make Round-up very
He saves enormous amounts of fuel and
tractor wear by reducing tillage not only before planting, but throughout
the season because he doesn't bring up fresh weed seeds.
eak: Fresh weed seed that will readily germinate (excluding some specialized,
mostly perennial, grasses and forbs) is only in the top 3/4 to 1 and 1/4 inch
that will germinate en mass. Design your cultivation to not disturb anything
but 3/4 inch and you will see the effect. I reduced cultivation to none and
at the most 1 time by designing pre-emergence weed cultivators and between
row cultivators, both that only go 3/4 inch deep.
He reduces erosion
problems by reducing tillage. He does less damage to soil tilth by reducing
tillage. So he has made conscious choices to find the most environmentally
sustainable solution to the problem, but the solution does not qualify as
organic. The organic folks would do well to examine some practices in a
more objective fashion if farming practices are really going to improve on
eak: Sure is something to learn from everybody farming. But then maybe
California and the west coast is not the real hotbed of agricultural
innovation. Come to the midwest sometime.
Best Regards, Eric Kindberg
Oregon State University
(formerly Dows Prairie Farm, McKinleyville, CA) >>
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