Organic Agriculture - Question 1

The climate and soils in many parts of New Zealand could be considered more suitable for certified organic agricultural production than in some areas of south- western Australia.

(i) Select a specific location in New Zealand and summarise information about the climate and soils of that location. Explain why it would be suitable for organic farming.

Answer- Conservationists and buyers are worried about the potential effects on both human health and the environment of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and regular farm goods' genetic engineering. This concern for the environment and human health has made people extremely tumble towards organically grown farm products as its possible answer and there is a growing demand for organically grown agricultural goods both domestically and worldwide (Mie et al., 2017). There are now 700 certified organic farms in Lincoln, New Zealand today, which is twice that of two years ago (Lincoln University, 2000). Soils of this region is highly productive. Soil for agriculture is a valuable resource and must be carefully handled so they remain successful now and in the future. Organic farmers are located in this area more as it is climatic, soil conditions, and socio-economic are more advantageous. The Lincoln region is irrigation-equipped regions, and have suitable rainfall, moderate temperatures, and low evapotranspiration. The region soil is less drained, with high pH, and a good amount of organic matter and sand which are suitable conditions for organic farming.

(ii) Suggest the potential constraints that would need to be overcome to establish certified organic farming at this location.

The challenges farmers currently facing in the Lincoln region with organic farming are the adjustment time and the transition costs associated with it. The initial is the toughest, because clear guidelines and procedures are in place to achieve the level of organic certification. The limitations are that goods cannot be advertised for commercial purposes as being completely organic. Farmers often have to adjust before they can take advantage of the wholesale or retail suppliers manufacturing and selling organic produce. The organic product market is not regulated by the same regular food regulations as supermarket suppliers, organic production (Lockeretz, 2007). The major problems and constraints for organic farming are the following:

  • Lack of awareness- The most obvious limitation felt in organic agriculture is the failure at the state level in making policymaking to support organic farming. Most peasants in the country only have vague ideas regarding organic agriculture and its benefits against traditional methods of farming.
  • Marketing output problems- It is found that their marketability must be ensured before the start of organic crop cultivation and also at premium prices over conventional farming. The inability to get a premium price will be a setback to achieve the conventional crop productivity levels (Hamzaoui-Essoussi, & Zahaf, 2012).
  • Bio-mass shortage- Farmers are not sure whether organic materials required can be made available in the required quantities. This problem has to overcome, as they think the organic matter available is not enough to meet the need of nutrients by the crop.
  • Lack of infrastructure- State governments have to make policies and reliable methods for the implementation of organic farming. There seem to be currently few accreditation which certifies organic products and are not sufficient (Watness, 2014).
  • High cost of input- the conventional farming products like pesticides and fertilizers are cheaper than the inputs required for the organic farming.
  • Marketing issues about organic inputs- The marketing and distribution network is lacking in the organic product market since retailers are not interested in dealing with such goods, because demand is small. Also, another issue is the inconsistent supplies and poor knowledge of the cultivators.
  • Low income- In several cases, farmers experience yield losses when discarding synthetic inputs while converting their method of farming from conventional to organic (Cernansky, 2018).

(iii) Design at least two specific experiments that could help sustain organic farming at this location (i.e. that could be used to help to overcome local constraints).

The management is required to sustain the organic farming at Lincoln region. The biomass can be increased by rotating the crops in the field. The farmer has to be made aware of the specific nutrient requirements of each of the crop varies. By this the soil parameters can be efficiently increased for a good produce. On the other hand, to decrease the input cost in the farming the organic, Animal-based fertilizers like feather meal, blood meal, and fish meal which are of low cost should be used.

Organic Agriculture - Question 2

Explain what is meant by a life-cycle assessment. Explain how a life-cycle assessment could be used to determine any potential environmental limitations to certified organic milk production.

Answer- Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a tool for integrally evaluating the environmental effect of goods, services, or processes by the use of all life cycle phases. Converting from a traditional milk production method to an organic one could be one way to comply with potential environmental problems and threats (Ilgin et al., 2010). The understanding of environmental, cultural, and social issues gives the agri-food sector the responsibility of achieving sustainable focused path growth for the future. The reason to concentrate on the milk production's environmental effects is that milk is the main product of the dairy industry.

The LCAs appeared appropriate for research comparison of traditional and organic for acquiring information and monitoring significant environmental impact. The factors that need to be studied in LCA for the organic milk production included global warming, abiotic degradation, acidification, the production of photochemical ozone, and eutrophication. In the comparison studies, it was found that the ammonia volatilization caused 78–97 percent of acidification potential of milk production, which is not significantly reduced by the switching from conventional to organic milk production (Boer, 2003). Due to low or no use of fertilizer in organic farming, the eutrophication potential per ton of milk was lower in organic produce than in the conventional type of milk production. the organic milk production got affected due to Global warming as well as it was found to be 48–65 percent due to methane emission. The production of organic milk inevitably increases methane emissions and hence can reduce the potential for global warming only by drastically reducing carbon dioxide emissions and nitrous oxide (Boer, 2003). Organic milk production reduces the use of pesticides whilst increasing land use per ton of milk. Importing feed from conventional dairy farms also contributes to significant phosphorus and nitrogen inputs. These are certain problems with the organic milk production which has to be resolved before making the production of organic milk fill fledged.

The few suggested changes in organic production is the distinction in purchasing of feed limits, and an increase in the farm's self-maintenance ability. In the setting of organic farming, the limit for the use of conventionally produced feed, the life cycles of concentrates feeds and the environmental burden should be considered. One manner would be to use a variety of organic inputs and allow for a higher feed limit with less environmental impact that should be considered. the good examples of organic feeds are rape-seed meal and peas. Increasing the use of concentrated feed in the production of organic milk may also minimize methane emissions as these are related to feed composition and quality (Muller, 2017). Organic milk production in agriculture is a way to reduce the use of pesticides and mineral surplus, but this type of production often requires far more farmland than traditional production. So, there is a need of strategy which can increase the output with minimal cost and less usage of farmland. The different feeding strategies can be used in milk production which can influence the above factors. The wide use of grassland by the animals grazing on them is positively regarded because it makes the soil arable, and such land use promotes biodiversity and aesthetic objectives for doing domestic culture.

Organic dairy farms can be profitable and efficient if they endeavor to achieve a high self-sustainable fodder capability. Feeding fewer heifers is one way to reduce the replacement of the conventional feeds. Another way is to grow crops that can produce substantial amounts of fodder in small areas. Fodder beets are the sort of crop. The measures could help in contributing to low nitrate on the dairy. And the nitrate loss in the milk's life cycle can be reduced as the major feed consists of organic grain and peas (Röös et al., 2018). The organic certification states that the products supplied to the farm cannot use any synthetic materials. So, land use due to organic crop yields tends to increase the occupation of farm production enormously. However, it was found that there was double the amount of feed requirement for conventional farms between organic and conventional dairies compared with organic, yet the impacts demonstrated to identify the process of organic feed as having a greater burden.

It was clear from the life-cycle analysis on organic milk production that agricultural LCA studies are extremely difficult to carry out. Besides, there is minimal data available for agriculture and organic milk production, which limits the quality of the datasets used in the projects. One of the primary focuses of an LCA study is moving toward an environment-friendly approach. The correct method to step forward is therefore to conduct a detailed LCA on organic dairy to identify areas that require improvement, as opposed to a comparative analysis that only relates to the differences between these two methods of farming that are conventional and organic (Thomassen, 2008). Regarding the timeframe used in LCA studies to collect the data, it has been noted that the validity of the data and collect data of this particular study can be time taking. Owing to the urbanisation and globalization, and the increase of speed of R and D, new technologies and production methods are continuously being brought onto the market, which is making the latest technology both relevant and difficult to analyse and to implement in the LCA studies.

Organic Agriculture - Question 4

Explain the options available for supplying phosphorus in certified organic farming systems. Explain constraints to phosphorus supply in organic systems that may be associated with soil characteristics and climate.

Answer- The demand for organically grown products is rising, and most of the farmers are considering the option of organic production. Besides, there is a challenge of maintaining optimum production in organic agriculture, which needs proper management of nutrients. Organic production systems focus on improving organic matter in the soil and biodiversity, which may affect crop cycling of phosphorus and crop uptake of phosphorus (Elmaz,2004). Sources of phosphorus which are approved for certifications, in the organic farming have various properties that affect the management and availability of phosphorus (P).

The potential impact of P cycling may vary between both the systems of organically managed soils and traditionally managed soils but the soil processes affecting P cycling and availability in are no unique and different in both. Organic farming affects a variety of soil characteristics, including organic matters present in the soil, microbes action, composition of soil microbial, water quality, and soil composition, which could potentially affect the availability of P (Cavigelli & Thien, 2003). Organic production methods often comprise more diversified crop rotations, or multiple cropping, which change the cycling of nutrients in the soil. The main mechanism of organic farming practices will influence the availability of P is through modification organic matter of soil, increased availability of P from depletion of the crop residues, and increased colonization of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) due to less solubility applications of P fertilizers (Riffin, Honeycutt, & He, 2003). Management activities common to organic processes affecting the availability of P are briefly analyzed to place them in the context concerned with management of the P sources applied. The most common sources of P which are certified, include phosphate rock, manure, and compost that are all widely used in organic farming.

Phosphate rock (PR)- PR is applied directly to soil as a P fertilizer to fields from more than 100 years. Phosphate rock is a source of P with a slow solubility. Therefore, when assessing the use of PR in crop production, a few fundamental aspects need to be addressed including PR properties, soil types, weather, field crops, and soil management techniques (Bolan & Hedley,1990). Phosphate rocks with high concentrations of soluble P have greater agronomic efficacy. However, when deciding on sources of PR, the P total and the P soluble concentration should be taken into account. PR showed the modest success on pH-high soils like pH-8, provided sufficient irrigation and leaching. The other factors that affect the phosphorus availability are low rainfall, method of application, and the low reactivity of PR source. The soils with a pH higher than pH 5.5 may require a higher concentration of PR, and more duration to solubilize to act before actual cropping. The optimum solubility of PR only reaches after its application after 4 to 8 weeks. There is evidence that some practices can make PR more successful in terms of availability to the crop. The incorporation of green manures will help in increasing the yield of dry matter and P absorption from fertilized soils with PR of both sediments or igneous types (Bah et al., 2006). The process of the decomposition of green manure made the availability of P more, increasing P uptake from 5- 9% without green manure to 19-48% of green manure P uptake. Arbuscular mycorrhiza also increased soil uptake of P which may be particularly applicable in organic managed soils (Jeffries, 2003).

Manure and compost- It is good sources of P with high abundance for the plants. The sources of nutrients in manures and composts are organic-based, despite of this the most P present is inorganic and easily accessible to the crop. The total amount of P present in the manure and compost constitutes 75-90 percent of inorganic P. The P which is water-soluble of a manure compost does not differ from the source of manure. the compost with low water-extractable P is high in P. In comparison to the commercial fertilizers, the availability of P in the manure or compost-based P is higher (Eghball & Power1999).

Other phosphorus sources- Other phosphorus sources can be good sources in organic production is Bone meal. It is one of the early sources of P used in agriculture is bone meal, prepared by grinding raw animal bones (Baker et al.,1989). While bone meal is frequently seen as a source of organically approved P, it has a relative higher cost, supplies are small, and research on its effectiveness is small.

A significant aspect of environmental conservation is careful management of P. Therefore in organic farming plan should be made to limit P losses by properly managing P inputs, cropping systems, and soil resources. There are several management practices for reducing P losses in organic agriculture. Since P is firmly adsorbed into the soil particles, the regulation of erosion is one of the most simple ways of reducing P loss. Some of the best management for erosion control are contour cultivation, terrace farming, reducing the tillage, grassing the waterways, and the cover crops (Faucette, 2004). All of these will also be reducing the risk of P loss in farming. The organic farming systems do not use herbicides, so the farmers should be encouraged to use techniques like tilling, rotation of crops, grassing waterway, and field buffers may be especially suitable for organic farming (Andraski et al., 2003).

References for Organic Agriculture

Andraski, T. W., Bundy, L.G., Kilian, K. C. (2003). Manure history and long-term tillage effects on soil properties and phosphorus losses in runoffJ. Environ. Qual.3517821789

Bah, A. R., Zaharah, A. R., &Hussin A. (2006). Phosphorus uptake from green manures and phosphate fertilizers in an acid tropical soilComm. Soil Sci. Plant Analysis3720772093

Baker, A. M., Trimm, J. R., Sikora, F. J.(1989). Availability of phosphorus in bone meal J. Assn. Offic. Anal. Chem.72867869

Bolan, N.S., & Hedley, M. J. (1990). Dissolution of phosphate rocks in soils. 2. Effect of pH on the dissolution and plant availability of phosphate rock in soil with pH dependent charge Fert. Res.24125134

Cavigelli, M .A. & Thien, S.J. (2003). Phosphorus bioavailability following incorporation of green manure crops. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J.6711861194

Cernansky, R. (2018). We don't have enough organic farms. Why not?. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/future-of-food/organic-farming-crops-consumers/

Eghball, B. & Power, J. F.(1999). Phosphorus and nitrogen-based manure and compost applications:.Corn production and soil phosphorus Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J.63895901

Elise Watness, E. (2014). The Benefits and Challenges of Organic Farming. Retrieved from https://civilianglobal.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/the-benefits-and-challenges-of-organic-farming/.

Elmaz, O., Cerit, H., Ozcelik, M. & Ulas, S. (2004). Impact of organic agriculture on the environmentFresenius Environ. Bul.1310721078

Faucette, L. B., Risse, L. M., Nearing, M. A., Gaskin, J. W., West, L.T. (2004). Runoff, erosion, and nutrient losses from compost and mulch blankets under simulated rainfall. J. Soil Water Conservation59154160

Hamzaoui-Essoussi, L. & Zahaf, M. (2012). Production and Distribution of Organic Foods: Assessing the Added Values. Retrieved from https://www.intechopen.com/books/organic-farming-and-food-production/production-and-distribution-of-organic-foods-assessing-the-added-values

Ilgin, Mehmet Ali; Surendra M. Gupta (2010). "Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing and Product Recovery (ECMPRO): A Review of the State of the Art". Journal of Environmental Management. 91 (3): 563–591. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2009.09.037PMID 19853369

Jeffries, P., Gianninazzi, S., Perotto, S., Turnau, K. & Barea, J. M. (2003). The contribution of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in sustainable maintenance of plant health and soil fertility.Biol. Fertil. Soils37116

Mie, A., Andersen, H.R., Gunnarsson, S. et al. Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review. Environ Health 16, 111 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-017-0315-4

Muller, A., Schader, C., El-Hage Scialabba, N., Brüggemann, J., Isensee, A., Erb, K. H., Smith, P., Klocke, P., Leiber, F., Stolze, M., & Niggli, U. (2017). Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture. Nature communications8(1), 1290. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-01410-w

Riffin, T. S., Honeycutt, C. W. & He, Z. (2003). Changes in soil phosphorus from manure application. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J.67645653

Röös, E., Mie, A., Wivstad, M. et al. Risks and opportunities of increasing yields in organic farming. A review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 38, 14 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-018-0489-3

Thomassen, M.A.,  Calker, K.J. van, & Smits, M. C. J. (2008). Life cycle assessment of conventional and organic milk production in the Netherlands. Agricultural Systems 96(1-3):95-107

William Lockeretz. (2007). Organic Farming: An International History. CABI

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