Comparative look at Organic and Conventional Farming
Organic farming has in the recent past gained popularity. Farmers are willing to take up the risks associated with this venture and commit themselves to stringent measures required to attain organic farming certification. Consequently, with the growing interest in this form of organic, there is a rise in criticism of the same measure by those who have kept on opposing organic farming. Conventional farming standards, that are heavily seen to rely on the intensive and extensive use of synthetic chemicals and fossil fuels have the backing of a huge number of corporates across the world.
Since the time of agrarian revolution, in the past, where farming methods started changing and there was an adoption of new technologies and the use of improved fertilizers all resulting in increased yields, the wheel has always been on the run. Technology after technology has continually revolutionized the way farming is done. From the synthesis of chemical products to fight diseases, pesticides, machine developments and fertilizer synthesis have been taking place. Lately, the technology of genetic engineering, resulting in what has been known as Genetically Modified Crops (GMO), is changing the way agriculture is being practiced.
With the ever increasing global population and the increased demand for a stable food supply, any farming technology should be able to provide the adequate food supply while at the same time making a smart approach on the use of the available resources in a sustainable manner. Food supply should not be met at the expense of a sustainable future. Organic farming is and should not be ignorant of useful technologies, science and research that are geared towards environmental conservation and at the same time enhancing global food supply to meet demand. These technologies should result in what we call as sustainable future. However, conventional farming has embraced these technologies with open arms.
With the early agrarian revolution and the Green revolution, farming has been transformed in a tremendous manner. Innovations and increased research activities have defined conventional farming. The adoption of industrial intensive approaches that includes the use of genetically engineered organisms has been practiced. The intensive use of fertilizers, pesticides and other synthetic chemicals characterize conventional farming. Organic farming on the other hand adopts farming practices that seek to reduce exposure of crops and animals to synthetic chemicals.
This objective is driven by the need to provide food that is free from chemical contamination. In it’s endeavor to nourish the soil, compost manure is widely applied to the farming fields.
Pest control is achieved by the use of integrated pest control methods or the traditional methods. To achieve superior crop variety that are adapted to different climate and weather conditions, cross breeding is practiced.
Conventional farming has clearly positioned itself as the choice farming technology in circumstances where high yields in the short term are desired. Numerous studies have portrayed this farming technique way ahead of organic farming in terms of total yields. The continued use of fertilizer has been singled out as the key factor that drives increased crop yields. However, the intensive farming practices undertaken in conventional farming accelerate soil acidification driven by the fertilizers and leaching.
On the other hand, nitrogen based fertilizers have the tendency to affect the PH values of the soil. The issue of over-fertilization is not only seen in the conventional farming system. The compost used in organic farming can also lead to over-fertilization. The problems associated with over-fertilization range from effects on plant growth, environmental pollution more so of the water sources caused by leaching and erosion and it’s also a waste of resources.
Research and development should be encouraged more so in the organic farming production techniques. This research would be vital in establishing best practices that would help boost crop yields and at the same lead to maximization of available resources that includes land, water, and energy among others with the focus being on sustainability. Indeed, research has been going on in some areas. Taking a look at a few of these studies, it’s been shown that the use of traditional or cross breeding system has resulted in varieties of crop better adapted to grow in drought situation and able to thrive in poor soils. The development of such varieties without genetic engineering is so important.
It leads to the preservation of biodiversity. For example, cross bred corn varieties have been shown to surpass yields achieve by other regular corn and GM varieties by over 30%. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has continued to develop tens of corn varieties, able to withstand drought and also able to thrive in limited fertilizer supply. The organization states that, developing such a genetically engineered variety is way out of reach in the near future. This is due to the limits on GM that isolates a single gene and manipulates it to achieve desired results.
Challenges facing organic farming are quite broad. These challenges have forced several farmers out of business and some have resorted back to conventional methods. The challenges include limited labor, lack of properly formulated compost, expensive organic fertilizers, stringent entry requirements, lack of funding, lack of adequate research on the system, competition from conventional farmers in terms of the market and pricing, pest and disease control difficulties, weeding challenges, nitrogen deficiency in the soil among others. These challenges have limited the spread of organic farming and raised uncertainty in the venture, the return on the investment being a huge factor.
The lack of adequate policy and legal framework by national and regional authorities has also not served to promote organic farming. On the other hand, conventional farming has enjoyed the support of leading multinational companies, funding availability, competitive pricing, increased and effective fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides among others. This makes conventional farming a less risky business than the organic farming. Readily available inputs lead to increased yields and better crops. However, the sustainability of these inputs as it relates to the environment and the general well-being of the population still remains a challenge. In this endeavor, for organic farming to prevail, suitable framework of addressing the challenges facing it should be developed. Information sharing, collaboration, regulation, ease of accessing the required inputs at a fair price, policy formulation and research should be enhanced if organic farming has to take roots across the world.