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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Case studies regarding the yield of rice and tea and other good news about Organic Farming:

1. A case study - Philippine is a major rice producing country in Asia. Years of application of Green Revolution technology in rural philippine, which is heavily dependent on chemical inputs, deteriorated the soil by increasing soil pH level, annihilating beneficial microorganisms which produce natural enzymes and antibiotics for disease resistance, decreasing soil aeration, eroding soil, and diminishing organic matter, micro and macro-nutrients, among other harmful effects by rendering the soil resource base imbalanced. Dead soil was rejuvenated by adopting series of methods and procedures, without using a single drop of chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Soil pH is decreasing gradually, water holding capacity has been improved, Cation Exchange Capacity increased along with organic matter, micro and macronutrients (In soil science, cation exchange capacity (CEC) is the capacity of a soil for ion exchange of positively charged ions between the soil and the soil solution. (A positively-charged ion, which has fewer electrons than protons, is known as a cation.) Cation exchange capacity is used as a measure of fertility, nutrient retention capacity, and the capacity to protect groundwater from cation contamination).

A healthy soil base is creating agro-ecosystem health and balance resources in the soil, thus making rice crops more resilient and resistant to drought and requires less water. It has also been reported that, yield of organic rice of the region is more than the hybrid varieties. As compare to 6 to 6.5 tons of hybrid rice now the yield with organic system has become 8 tons per hector.

Organic agriculture should be supported with research and development on methods and technologies, rice seeds adaptability, pest and disease resistance, resilience, and systems yield potential. Don Bosco Foundation for Sustainable Development Inc. (DBFSDI) was associated with this development.

2. An encouraging steps have been reported recently that, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., world's largest retailer, has boosted its purchase of cotton and other agricultural items from farmers who are changing from conventional to organic farming, in order to promote selling of organic products. Wal-Mart has been increasing the number of organic products that it offers in its stores. Because of its larger size, it requires a large and steady supply of these organic goods to stock. An organic farmer need almost more than three years from his commitment of switchover, to get his products certified as organic; which is prerequisite for supply to the stores. In fact, decision of boosting purchase of agricultural based organic products is an encouraging step taken by the world's largest retailer. The certification time should be reduced further as far as possible. This reduction would provide necessary incentive and prices in time to the organic farmers.

3. Another encouraging news is, as per the study program of EU nations, it has been reported that, organically produced food is better than ordinary food. Organic food like fruits, vegetables and milk, contain more nutrients and may contain higher concentrations of cancer fighting and heart beneficial antioxidants. In fact, organically produced food is testier than conventional food items. Also, eating organic food was equivalent to eating an extra portion of fruit and vegetables each day.

4. A case study on organic tea cultivation in India - Demand for organic tea, like other organic foods, has also been growing rapidly. Since 1980, organic tea consumption has grown by leaps and bounds. Organic tea consumption has grown by about 10 percent globally each year since 1980. India, a leading producer of quality tea, too has joined this new green revolution with many farmers already growing organic tea or converting their plantations to do so. In India, the production of organic (or organic in conversion) tea was 150,000 kg in 1990, which has been increased to 2,150,000 kg in 2000. Cultivation started in Darjeeling, place known for its quality tea, during 1986 and gradually spread to the tea areas of Assam (another tea growing area in India) and then to South India. As of 2002, there were 42 tea gardens in the country that had taken up organic tea cultivation in an area of 6000 hectares. The current production level is around 3.5 million kgs and growing further. The main export destinations from India include Australia, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, UK and the USA. In India itself, Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad accounted for the majority of the domestic consumption of organic tea.

Tea qualifies as organic only when environment-friendly techniques are employed in its production. An organic unit should essentially be a self-sustaining one, designing the farm at the time of establishment of new organic tea plantation is crucial for optimum utilization of resources within the plantation itself. The topography of the land and varieties of tea to be planted determine the basic design of the organic farm at the functional level. The estate must also have trees, bunds, cattle shed, compost yard, store house etc to enable it to become a self supporting system within a reasonable time. The resultant slurry could be passed through a simple gas plant, which provides methane gas for use as fuel and organic manure in the form of slurry which is comparatively better in quality and cheaper source of fertilization.

In order to establish organic tea fields, it is necessary to build up inherent nutrient levels and neutralise the chemical residues left in soils from past cultivation. This requires an interim period - called the conversion period. Based on the agro-ecological conditions, this period may vary from 3 to 5 years. If plantation is taken up before conversion period is over, chemical residues may show up in the product.

Leguminous plants, shade trees, and green manure are all sources of nutrients for the growing plants. In addition, nutrients are also supplemented by using well composted cattle manure, poultry manure, biogas slurry and neem cakes. Best results can be obtained by maintaining a 100% moisture level during the initial period. Improvement of soil health through vermiculture is also recommended.

Insect, disease and nematode management in organic farming systems rely on the inherent equilibrium in nature. This includes using natural enemies of pests to keep their numbers in check. These include insect predators, parasites (insects that use other insects to produce their offspring, thereby killing the pest insect in the process), and pathogens (diseases that kill or decrease the growth rate of insect pests). Predatory insects on organic farms include lady beetles, lacewings, and spiders. Parasitic insects include wasps and flies that lay their eggs in/on pest insects, such as larvae or caterpillars.

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