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How to Be a Successful Organic Farmer? Part 1

Updated on September 1, 2018
Deepa damodaran profile image

Deepa is a freelance researcher and journalist. She writes and makes documentaries and videos.

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Choose the Crop Suited for Your Soil type and Micro-climate

The most amazing thing about our climate and geography is that it actually varies from plot to plot, a small area to another. For example, a fenced and shaded courtyard will have an entirely different micro climate from an open patch of ground with no trees but only grass and shrubs around. To feel the difference, just try standing for a few minutes under a tree and then step out into the sun. You will feel the difference in warmth, quality of air, and quantity of light. There will be almost a five degree difference in temperature between both and that difference matters a lot when it comes to a crop you cultivate. This is how the secrets of nature work and the key to successful farming is to understand the subtle mechanisms involved.

Do some homework about the crops you want to cultivate. What kind of soil they prefer, how much sunlight they need, how much moisture in the soil and what kind of soil. Have you ever tried feeling the soil with your hands? The experience will tell you many valuable things about the nature of the soil. How about the color of the soil? Have you given it a thought? Color is decided by the minerals that are there in the soil and also by how much organic matter the soil contains. If the soil is black, it is either rich in organic matter or it is lava soil. Soil rich in organic matter will support farming in a big way. However do remember the acidity of such soil will be high and you will have to condition it with lime to get good results. Also there is the risk of water logging in such soil. You will have to ensure water drains properly. Lava soil is good for cultivating cotton, wheat and sugarcane. Red soil is rich in iron and aluminium oxides but has little organic matter in it. Whiteness of the soil indicates there is plenty of salt and silicates in it. Then there is sandy soil that is not nutritious at all for most of the plants but is good for growing coconuts and vetiver. In white soil, often the useful minerals are washed out and bleached out. You will have to add extra nutrients to such soil. However you can do successful farming in almost all types of soils by adding the necessary nutrients and organic matter in a natural and step-by-step way. You can see the color and texture of the soil change as you go about doing it.

Micro Climate

You can build a micro climate in your farm gradually and you will start having a sense of control over it eventually. If you have water scarcity, you can start planting trees and plants that survive with minimum water and use whatever shade they give to plant others below them, the heat-vulnerable ones. If you have excess water, try planting crops like oats, wheat, soy beans or barley. Slowly you can grow the desired ecosystem around. Neem, gooseberry, tamarind, ginger, sorghum, micro millets, turmeric; these are a few crops that are drought-tolerant. Plants with small leaves are members of the fag end of evolution as water availability decreased over tim. Nature adapted with plants having leaves with the least surface area- so that there is the least evaporation and loss of water through the surface area of the leaves. Banana and yam for that matter are very primitive and belong to the first rounds of evolution- they have big leaves with large surface area; they are used to having plenty of water available but they need proper drainage too; they are the early plants in evolution. Coming back to micro climate, you can see the climate of your farm is different if there is a mountain, water body or forest nearby. Put the already existent micro climate to best use by selecting appropriate crops and also try to change the micro climate of your farm to suit your cropping needs.

Red Soil

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Look Around and Select

Just have a look around your place, and at the neighboring plots and see what kinds of crops and plants grow healthy and in good produce. Don’t forget to look at the wild plants too because they also can teach you one or two things about what kind of vegetation thrives naturally in the area. For example, if there is lot of wild yam growing around, you can opt for yam cultivation. The local varieties of fruit trees and vegetable plants are the best for cultivation because they would be the best-adapted to the soil, climate and the pests and diseases that are there in the vicinity. They are the great survivors who need the least attention from a farmer in terms of nutrition, pest control and disease control. If there are wild edible greens around make them a member of your crop community. They will give you good food material with the least effort and cost ever.

An Organic Farm with Biodiversity

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Biodiversity and Plants That Do Pest Control

Biodiversity is the key to organic farming. Biodiversity ensures there is a natural balance around and that will allow you to do farming with a minimum level of pest and disease control from outside. Also biodiversity ensures the soil is rich in all kinds of nutrients, made available from the falling leaves and decaying parts of all kinds of plants, shrubs and herbs you have. From that angle, even weeds are a boon. If you can take some time to root out the weeds when they are young and easily uprooted, then use them for making bio-compost and put the compost back into the soil as fertilizer; your crops will get wholesome nutrition. For example, nettles are rich sources of calcium, potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus. The weeds also give good cover to the soil from sun (which is important- I will tell you why in another part of this series), their root system ensure soil drainage, and some of them can absorb excess minerals and salt that is there in the soil.

Plant some Basil, Marigold, Petunias, Lavender, Citronella, Chrysanthemum and herbs like Rosemary around. They are natural pest-repellant plants. Their smell and taste can repel pests like aphids, mites, and insects that feed on the beneficial plants. Most of them have beautiful flowers and will add to the charm of your vegetable or fruit garden. Many of them can bring an income as well.


Marigold for Pest Control

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Know Your Environment

Farming is fun and a very creative activity if you know the minutiae of your natural environment. There are many ways in which you can cultivate green fingers- learn and learn through reading, interact with other farmers and of course do practical farming and keep an observant eye on the mechanisms through which nature works. And be aware that it has a unique mechanism in store for your soil and your micro climate.

© 2018 Deepa

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    • Deepa damodaran profile imageAUTHOR

      Deepa 

      2 years ago from India

      Thank you Larry. As I believe, methods of organic farming has to be plot-specific, micro-climate specific. You will have to find your own methods. The beauty of the matter is that the farmers all over the world themselves are taking the lead to develop a complete organic farming protocol. And the sad thing about it is that we have almost completely lost the knowledge base of organic farming that our pre-chemical era ancestors had. I wish you good luck and joy in your venture. regards, Deepa.

    • Larry Slawson profile image

      Larry Slawson 

      2 years ago from North Carolina

      I have always been interested in organic farming; mostly because I do not like all the chemicals and pesticides that are found in our food supply today. Might be something I undertake in the years ahead. Thank you for sharing!

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