Organic Farming :: Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions in Organic Farming

1. Organic farming

What is organic farming?

Organic farming is a system, which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc) and to the maximum extent feasible relies upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection.

Is there a need to practice the organic farming?

With the increase in population our compulsion would be not only to stabilize agricultural production but also to increase it further in sustainable manner. Excessive use over years of agro-chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers may affect the soil health and lead to declining of crop yields and quality of products. Hence, a natural balance needs to be maintained at all cost for existence of life and property. The obvious choice would be judicious use of agro-chemicals and more and more use of naturally occurring material in farming systems.

What are the benefits of organic farming?

  1. It helps in maintaining environment health by reducing the level of pollution
  2. It reduces human and animal health hazards by reducing the level of residues in the product.
  3. It helps in keeping agricultural production at a higher level and makes it sustainable.
  4. It reduces the cost of agricultural production and also improves the soil health
  5. It ensures optimum utilization of natural resources for short-term benefit and helps in conserving them for future generation.
  6. It not only saves energy for both animal and machine, but also reduces risk of crop failure.
  7. It improves the soil physical properties such as granulation, and good tilth, good aeration, easy root penetration and improves water-holding capacity.
  8. It improves the soil’s chemical properties such as supply and retention of soil nutrients, and promotes favorable chemical reactions.

2. Compost

What is compost?

Compost is well decomposed organic wastes like plant residues, animal dung, and urine earth from cattle sheds, waste fodder etc.

How good compost are prepared?

Compost making is the process of decomposing organic wastes in a pit. Site for compost making is selected should be at a high level and water should not pond during monsoon season. Pit should be of 3’ depth and 6’ to 8’ width. Length may be of any convenient size. The process is as follows:

  • Make slurry of the cattle dung with water.
  • Prepare 6” layer of organic wastes – plant residues, sweepings from the cattle shed, waste fodder, dried plants stalks and leaves etc. and sprinkle water to just moisten it. (Over watering should be avoided).
  • Cover with the layer with urine earth and cattle dung slurry.
  • Add 5 to 10 kg of super phosphate for every 10 tons of organic wastes.
  • Repeat the process of putting such layers till the pit is full.
  • Close the pit with urine earth, waste fodder and then heap the soil till it gets convex shape (about 1 to 1.5’ above the ground) so that the rainwater rolls away.
  • After six months compost is ready to apply to the fields.

The pit can be filled up if sufficient organic wastes are available. Otherwise a temporary partition can be made in the pit with bamboos or stalks and the pit can be filled up over time filling each partitioned area as and when the material is available for composting.

Why super phosphate is added in the compost?

Due to quick heating and drying during the decomposition of organic wastes, nitrogen in the organic wastes will be lost due to volatilization. Addition of super phosphate decreases such nitrogen losses. It will also increase the phosphate content of compost.

What is cow pat pit and how is it prepared?

Cow pat pit is an organic preparation, which is prepared by mixing cow dung, egg shell powder, basalt rock and biodynamic preparations in a desired proportion in brick-lined pits.

Are there any leguminous plants, which could be used as green manures?

Number of crops such as peas, glyricidia and dhaincha can be used for green manuring. These plants have to be ploughed in the field when they are tender and before they start flowering.

Can drip system be used to supply liquid nutrients such as panchagavya as liquid fertilizer?

Yes, a number of farmers have already been using the technique of using organic liquid fertilizers through drip system.

Can we use coconut coir waste instead of cow dung in preparing  vermi compost?

Coconut coir can be separately added but cow dung is necessary for promoting population and also to meet the essential microbial energy requirements of earthworms.

How to manufacture turmeric formulation for spraying on my vegetable plants?

About 1 kg of turmeric tubers is soaked in about 10 litres of cow’s urine overnight. Next day the turmeric tubers are ground and mixed with 30 litres of water and sprayed.

What is fish gunabajalam and how is it manufactured?

Fish gunabajalam is an organic nutrient which is sprayed over the crops to increase the chlorophyll content. It is manufactured by adding about 1 kg of fish waste (rotten fish can also be added) and 1 kg of ghur (Pannai vellam in Tamil) in a plastic drum. It is then allowed to remain for about 25 days, after which it is used as a spray by diluting 100 ml of the solution in 10 litres of water. For details contact Dr. G. Nammalvar, No 17/9, 5th cross, Srinivas nagar, Thiruannaikoil, Tiruchi- 620005, mobile: 9442531699.

Are there any bio friendly methods to cure my curry leaf tree that has crinkled leaves with white patches?

The tree may be sprayed with a combination of neem oil, vermin wash and cow’s urine at weekly intervals especially during summer for effective results.

Is there any method for making organic hormones apart from vermiwash for inducing good crop growth?

Mix about 5ml of coconut milk and buttermilk each in a mud pot and bury the pot under the soil for a period of 10 days for fermentation. After the stipulated time the fermented concoction should be distilled and diluted in water in the ratio of 1:10 and sprayed over the crops.

Is there any place near Chennai where I can undergo training in growing spirulina?

Contact Oferr, Nallayan Research Centre for Sustainable Development, Navallor village, Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu, email:, phone: 044-28193063(office).

Where can I obtain information on effective utilisation of kitchen wastes?

Contact Mr. G. Vasudeo, Secretary, Vivekananda Kendra-National Resources Development Project (VK-NARDEP), Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu 629-702, email:, phone: 04652-246296 for your query.

What is Varahagunabajalam? What is it used for and is there any place from where I can get training in its usage?

Varahagunabajalam is made from the flesh and bones of pigs. About 5kg of pigs flesh and bones, 1 kg of black gram and sesame each are fried in about 2 lts of gingelley oil. About 2 kg of jaggery is added to the mixture and soaked in cow’s urine or water and buried under soil for about 30 days. It helps in better flower formation and fruits. The recommended dosage is 100 ml diluted in 10 litres of water, which can be either sprayed on the leaves or mixed together with irrigated water. For training you can contact Raasi Organic Farms, mobile: 98655-82142, phone: 04565-284937.

How is compost from coconut-pith prepared?

Pithplus is an effective fungal culture which is added to the coirpith to compost it.

Where is spirulina produced in India?

Spirulina is produced by major and minor companies of India including Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

Do leguminous plants help in cultivation of other crops?

Leguminous plants in association with the bacteria in their root nodules, can fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil. The increased nitrogen in the soil will help in the growth of succeeding crops.

When compost is ready?

The compost is ready when the material is moderately loose and crumbly and the colour of the compost is dark brown. It will be black, granular, lightweight and humus-rich. To facilitate separating the worms from the compost, stop watering two to three days before emptying the beds. This will force about 80 per cent of the worms to the bottom of the bed. The rest of the worms can be removed by hand, and are ready to be transferred into the next round of compost making. The vermicompost is then ready for application. The smell is earth-like. Any bad odour is a sign that fermentation has not reached its final goal and that the bacterial processes are still going on.

Are organic yields lower?

Based on 154 growing seasons' worth of data on various crops, organic crops yielded 95% of crops grown under conventional, high-input conditions. Growers who go through the 3-year transition period from conventional to organic management usually experience an initial decrease in yields, until soil microbes are re-established and nutrient cycling is in place, at which point yields return to previous levels.

How do organic farmers fertilize crops and control pests, diseases, and weeds?

Organic farmers build healthy soils by nourishing the living component of the soil, the microbial inhabitants that release, transform, and transfer nutrients. Soil organic matter contributes to good soil structure and water-holding capacity. Organic farmers feed soil biota and build soil structure and water-holding capacity. Organic farmers build soil organic matter with cover crops, compost, and biologically based soil amendments. These produce healthy plants that are better able to resist disease and insect predation. Organic farmers' primary strategy in controlling pests and diseases is prevention through good plant nutrition and management. Organic farmers use cover crops and sophisticated crop rotations to manage the field ecology, effectively disrupting habitat for weeds, insects, and disease organisms.

Weeds are controlled through crop rotation, mechanical tillage, and hand-weeding, as well as through cover crops, mulches, flame weeding, and other management methods. Organic farmers rely on a diverse population of soil organisms, beneficial insects, and birds to keep pests in check. When pest populations get out of balance, growers implement a variety of strategies such as the use of insect predators, mating disruption, traps and barriers. Under the National Organic Program Rule, growers are required to use sanitation and cultural practices first before they can resort to applying a material to control a weed, pest or disease problem. Use of these materials in organic production is regulated, strictly monitored, and documented. As a last resort, certain botanical or other non-synthetic pesticides may be applied.

How are organic livestock and poultry raised?

Organic meat, dairy products, and eggs are produced from animals that are fed organic feed and allowed access to the outdoors. They must be kept in living conditions that accommodate the natural behavior of the animals. Ruminants must have access to pasture. Organic livestock and poultry may not be give antibiotics, hormones, or medications in the absence of illness; however, they may be vaccinated against disease. Parasiticide use is strictly regulated. Livestock diseases and parasites are controlled primarily through preventative measures such as rotational grazing, balanced diet, sanitary housing, and stress reduction.

Is organic food safe?

Yes. Organic food is as safe to consume as any other kind of food. Just as with any kind of produce, consumers should wash before consuming to ensure maximum cleanliness. As cited above, organic produce contains significantly lower levels of pesticide residues than conventional produce. It is a common misconception that organic food could be at greater risk of E. coli contamination because of raw manure application although conventional farmers commonly apply tons of raw manure as well with no regulation whatsoever. Organic standards set strict guidelines on manure use in organic farming: either it must be first composted, or it must be applied at least 90 days before harvest, which allows ample time for microbial breakdown of pathogens.

Is organic food more nutritious than conventional food?

The definitive study has not been done, mainly because of the multitude of variables involved in making a fair comparison between organically grown and conventionally grown food. These include crop variety, time after harvest, post-harvest handling, and even soil type and climate, which can have significant effects on nutritional quality. However, a 2002 report indicates that organic food is far less likely to contain pesticide residues than conventional food (13% of organic produce samples vs. 71% of conventional produce samples contained a pesticide residue, when long-banned persistent pesticides were excluded).

What is composting?

Composting is a natural process, and when carried out under controlled conditions, converts organic material (like food scraps and garden waste) into a product called compost. During composting, various microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, break down organic material.

Why should I compost?

Although organic waste may not seem harmful - it actually represents more than 30% of all the material sent to landfill sites. When organic material is held in a landfill, it produces harmful gases. In addition, as water runs through this decomposing waste, toxic liquid runs out the bottom.

What are the benefits of composting?

Composting can play an important role in solid waste management programs and greatly reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. In addition, composting conserves resources, reduces pollution, reduces landfill and waste disposal costs, and builds healthy soil.

What can and cannot be composted?

What's in - fruits and vegetables, baked goods, rice and other grains, dried corn stalks, pasta, peanut shells, coffee grounds and filters, tea leaves and bags, egg shells, paper towels, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes, dry leaves, dried and untreated grass clippings, weeds, twigs, small branches, sawdust, plants (non-diseased), and grass clippings.

What's out - all meat and fish products, bones, fat and oils, all dairy products, weeds that have gone to seed, diseased plants, dog and cat waste, and plants previously sprayed with non-degradable pesticides.

What are brown and green materials?

Your compost pile requires both carbon and nitrogen to work properly. Brown materials supply carbon and they include things like dry leaves, woodchips, dry grass, and paper products. Green materials provide nitrogen and include things like fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags, and fresh grass clippings.

Where should I put my backyard composter?

The composter should be placed in a partially sunny, well drained, and convenient area.

How do I start composting?

Step 1


Decide on a compost bin and location

Step 2


Build your compost pile. Start by layering brown and green materials. Begin with a layer of browns, then add a layer of greens, finish by covering with a layer of browns ensuring that the materials are fairly evenly balanced by weight, not volume. As you add to the pile throughout the season, continue alternating layers of browns and greens, always finishing with a layer of browns on top

Step 3


Sprinkle with water (if necessary)

Step 4


Add a couple of shovels of soil, and mix everything together

Step 5


As you add new compost material, turn the compost by moving material from the outside to the centre, and from the bottom to the top and vice-versa

How long does the composting process take?

The composting process can take from two months to two years, depending on the type of composter, the ingredients, and the amount of effort you put into turning the pile. Compost is ready to use when it looks dark and crumbly and none of the original ingredients are visible. A simple way to test if compost is finished is to seal a small sample in a plastic bag for 24 to 48 hours. If no strong odours are released when you open the bag, the compost is done.

Can I compost in the winter?

Composting doesn’t have to stop when the weather gets cold, in fact, you can compost successfully all year long.  
Although decomposition will slow down during the winter months – those hard-working microbes are dormant when the internal temperature is less than 10 °C – decomposition will speed up again in the spring.  Even if your compost pile freezes altogether, you can continue adding material throughout the winter that will break down when the temperature rises

What should I do if my compost starts to smell?

If your compost pile emits strong odours, it may not be getting enough air and/or is getting too much water. To fix smelly compost add some brown material, mix in some healthy garden soil, aerate the pile, then top it off with a layer of brown material.

How do I keep pests out of my compost?

To help keep pests out of an open pile, turn food scraps into the pile as you add them, covering them with yard trimmings. Make or buy a bin that is pest resistant: one that has a lid & has air holes small enough to keep out small pests.

Should I put my compost in the sun or shade?

It's best in the shade because the compost is less likely to dry out: dry compost does not decay.

How long does it take to compost?

Depending on how carefully you manage your pile for the correct conditions, composting takes from 1 month to 2 years. A pile turned every week or so and carefully managed for all the right conditions may compost in a month or two. A pile not turned or managed will take about six months to two years to fully compost.

It is not essential to compost quickly. It's really up to you if you want compost for your garden as soon as possible or if you'd rather wait for nature to run its course. Just be sure to compost responsibly and turn your pile if it starts to give off foul odors.

Do I need to shred or grind organic materials to compost them?

Shredding or grinding organic materials helps speed composting by increasing the surface areaof the compostables, making them accessible to decomposers. But shredding is not essential, except when adding woody materials such as sticks that will take years to decompose unless they areshredded.

Should I add inoculants and activators/accelerators?

Inoculants and activators are not recommended. Inoculants are microscopic decomposers, and they are naturally found in the source materials you add to your pile, such as leaves and grass. They are abundant in soil, finished compost, and manures. Just 1 teaspoon of fertile soil with compost regularly added to it has 100 million bacteria and 400-800 feet of fungal threads.

Accelerators are generally a quick fix of nitrogen that won't last long and are a potential source of water pollution as they are easily washed out of your pile into surface and ground water. If you need to add high nitrogen "greens" to your pile, organic sources like grass clippings, manure, foodscraps or even bone meal give a slow release of nitrogen and are better for composting.

Should I add lime to my pile?

1. Do not add lime to a pile because it may cause nitrogen to be released from the pile as ammonia gas. This gas smells bad and leaves your compost with less nitrogen, an important plant nutrient for your garden.
2. You don't need to worry about the pH of a compost pile. pH, being a measurement of alkalinity or acidity, will generally adjust itself and, when compost is mature, the pH is usually around neutral.
3. If you need to adjust the pH of compost, do this after it has completed its composting. First test the pH of your finished compost and adjust it as needed.

Is compost different from soil?

Compost is made up of organic matter, microbes and nutrients that can be used to condition and fertilize flowerbeds and vegetable gardens.
Compost is a valuable soil booster. It has a high organic matter content and helps return to the soil many properties that are lost over time and with use.
Compost contains micronutrients that improve plant growth. It acts as a "slow-release" fertilizer. Compost also improves the water-holding capacity of your soil.  So not only does compost help you conserve water, it helps keep your water bill down during the summer months.

What are the benefits of composting?

The City benefits
You benefit Benefits of using compost
  • encourages Calgarians to recycle their food and yard waste
  • reduces greenhouse gases
  • extends life of our landfills
  • provides another way to reach our 80/20 by 2020 goal.
  • easy and fun way to get the whole family to take part in an environmentally friendly solution
  • cuts your weekly garbage almost in half
  • recycles a valuable natural resource rather than burying it in a landfill
  • produces free compost for your gardens.
  • helps break up heavy clay soils
  • adds essential nutrients to the soil
  • helps soil hold water better
  • discourages weeds
  • helps gardens and lawns become less dependent on chemicals.

What can I compost?

Yard waste such as grass clippings, fallen leaves, weeds before they go to seed, tree fruit and berries and the remains of disease-free garden plants make excellent compost.  You can also compost kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels and trimmings, eggshells, teabags, coffee grounds and filters.  Woody yard waste like branches and brush can be used as well in limited amounts as long as they are cut into smaller pieces.

Do NOT compost meat, bones, grease, fat or fatty foods like cheese, salad dressing or leftover cooking oil, as they may attract pests or contribute to odour problems.

DO NOT Compost
Grass clippings and weeds Meat, bones or fish scraps
Leaves and garden waste Grease, fats and oils
Tree fruit, berries and evergreen needles  Dairy products
Branches, hedge clippings, bark chips, (smaller pieces) Cooked and prepared foods
Dryer/vacuum lint Baked goods, rice or grains
Topsoil and sod Pet manure or animal parts and remains
Fruit and vegetable waste Charcoal or coal ashes
Teabags, coffee grounds, coffee filters and paper towels Clay, gravel or rocks
Eggshells Materials treated with insecticides, herbicides or other chemicals

How do I compost?

Composting requires five basic things

  • Organic material
  • Moisture
  • Air
  • Soil microbes
  • Lime

Organic material is divided in to "Greens" (nitrogen rich) and "Browns" (carbon rich). Green materials are usually moist like your fruit and veggie scraps, fresh grass clippings or fresh fallen leaves. Brown materials are dried like dry brown leaves or dry grass clippings.

Follow these basic steps for more effective composting

Step 1

Choose an area with good drainage and some sun to set up or build your own composter. Depending on your lifestyle and needs, you may choose to use a store-bought or home-made composter. View our Backyard Composter area for information about the different kinds of bins available.  Ideally, your compost area should be at least one metre by one metre by one metre.  You do need a fairly large pile for the composting process to begin.  If your pile is too small, it will not compost properly.

Step 2

When you begin, you may choose to layer some branches or twigs about one foot long or larger on the bottom of your compost pile to allow for air flow and drainage. A thin layer of soil can be added first to provide the soil microbes that will do the work of breaking down your organic material. There is no need to use compost starter, which basically does the same thing by adding soil microbes. 
Then begin to add your materials as you have them. The smaller the pieces you put into your compost heap, the faster they will decompose. You will need to add one-part greens for every part of browns to build a balanced compost heap. It is recommended by some that you layer your greens and browns.  However, as long as the ratio is one-part green materials to one- part brown materials, it is not necessary to layer the material as you will be turning the pile mixing these two types of materials anyhow.
Fine materials such as grass clippings should be added in smaller amounts so that they do not compact. Compaction means that there won't be adequate air supply. You can also try "grasscycling." See our Grasscycling area for more information.

Step 3

Add water.  Effective composting requires moisture. Add water when you first start your compost pile and each time you turn your pile. The compost pile should be as moist as a wrung out sponge to be composting effectively.

Step 4

Turn your pile with a compost aerating tool, pitchfork or shovel every couple of weeks during the growing season to provide an adequate air supply.
If your compost pile has a foul odour, it is likely you need to turn the pile more often to circulate more air, reduce watering or reduce the amount of greens in your pile.
You will know that your compost pile is working when the material starts to heat up. The pile can get so hot at its centre that you couldn't stand to put your hand there.
In the winter, your compost pile may freeze solidly. Just keep adding your green and brown material as usual. In the spring, when it thaws, the pile will pick up the composting process just where it left off the previous winter. Only really large compost piles are insulated enough to continue composting year-round.

Step 5

Your composted material is ready to use when it has an "earthy" smell, is dark in colour, cold and most of the materials are unrecognizable. The composting process can take from two months to two years, depending on the materials used and the effort involved.

What are the signs that I'm not composting properly?

Composting is not difficult but sometimes the process requires a little extra attention. Here are some easy solutions to correct certain situations that might occur.

  • The composting process takes too long – If the pile does not decrease in size or generate heat, composting may need a boost. If the pile is dry, add water and mix thoroughly. If the pile is wet and muddy, spread it in the sun and add dry material. As well, the items in the pile may be too large. Chop them into smaller pieces. Remember to save "old" compost to mix with incoming material.
  • The centre of the compost pile is damp, but the rest dry – The compost pile may be too small. Try to keep your composter as full as possible. Mix new with old, dry with wet, breaking up mats and clumps.
  • The compost pile is damp and sweet smelling but not heating – The pile may need more greens (nitrogen). Add grass clippings, fruit or veggie scraps or a sprinkling of organic fertilizer from the garden centre.
  • The compost pile smells like ammonia – The pile may have too many greens, add more browns (carbon). This will likely happen if you have added too many fresh grass clippings.
  • The compost pile smells like sulphur (rotten eggs) – The pile may be too wet and not be getting enough air. Loosen up the pile, break up clumps, unblock vents and perhaps add some wood chips to help the pile "breathe." Turning the pile always helps aeration.
  • The compost pile is attracting pests – Compost in a container with a cover to prevent animals from getting into the composting materials. A wire mesh around the base can help to prevent pests from digging under the pile. Dig in or cover food waste immediately. If done properly, composting should not attract pests.

Why the production of spirulina, isn’t it too complicated?

Technically, production of spirulina is much easier than production of rice for example. The problem is not really complexity, but rather newness. Depending on the education level, a training between one week to one month is necessary (much shorter than the years of training for classical agricultural techniques).

Are the ingredients easy to find locally?

The culture of spirulina requires a single ingredient which is not a classical agricultural fertilizer: sodium bicarbonate. This product, however, is very common because it is used for animal nutrition and in other areas. In addition, it is possible to replace it by ashes of wood. Regarding to the other ingredients, they are sources of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which are common in agriculture

What about the acceptability of spirulina by the populations, and more specifically by children?

In contrast to the usual apprehension, the experience is that spirulina (at the low doses recommended) is accepted without any problem by those who need it. In fact, the young children like it usually so much that they “devour” all spirulina left around.

Why not burn leaves and other yard wastes?

Burning leaves and other yard wastes pollutes the air and can lead to uncontrolled fires. Leaf smoke can make breathing difficult for people who suffer from asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or allergies. A number of states currently ban leaf burning, and some communities either ban leaf burning or restrict when and where it can take place.

Why not put yard wastes in landfills?

Since these materials are relatively clean and biodegradable, disposal in landfills may be unnecessary and wastes space. In addition, as yard wastes decompose in landfills, they generate methane gas and acidic leachate. Methane is a colorless, explosive greenhouse gas that is released as bacteria decompose organic materials in landfills. If methane is not controlled at a landfill, it can seep underground and into nearby buildings, where it has the potential to explode. Yard wastes also contribute acidity that can make other waste constituents more mobile and therefore more toxic.

How does compost improve the soil?

Compost does several things to benefit the soil that synthetic fertilizers cannot do. First, it adds organic matter, which improves the way water interacts with the soil. In sandy soils, compost acts as a sponge to help retain water in the soil that would otherwise drain down below the reach of plant roots (in this way, it protects plants against drought). In clay soils, compost helps to add porosity (tiny holes and passageways) to the soil, making it drain more quickly so that it doesn't stay waterlogged and doesn't dry out into a bricklike substance. Compost also inoculates the soil with vast numbers of beneficial microbes (bacteria, fungi, etc.) and the habitat that the microbes need to live. These microbes are able to extract nutrients from the mineral part of the soil and eventually pass the nutrients on to plants.

3. Green manuring & Green leaf manuring

The leaves of my papaya trees are getting crinkled and the fruit production has also decreased. Can you suggest any organic remedy for increasing fruit production?

You may apply neem cake and vermicompost once every six months around the roots of the tree and spray Dasagavya solution over the infected parts of the tree. Regular use of Dasagavya will increase fruit production and quality and help control infestations.

What is green manuring?

Green manuring is the practice of growing a short duration, succulent and leafy legume crop and ploughing the plants in the same field before they form seeds.

What is green leaf manuring?

Green leaf manuring refers to adding the loppings from legume plants or trees to a field and then incorporating them into the soil by ploughing.

What green manure crops are beneficial?

Sesbania, Crotalaria, ‘Pillipesara’, Cowpea etc are good for green manuring.

What are the popular green leaf manure crops?

Glyricidia, Pongamia, Leucina are common green leaf manuring plants.


How to manufacture ginger garlic extract?

About 1 gm of ginger and garlic each, 2gm of green chilli and 5 litres of cow’s urine and water are taken. The garlic, ginger and green chilli are ground into a paste and mixed with cow’s urine and water. After 10 days the mixture is filtered and used. The prescribed quantity is about 500 ml of this solution diluted in 10 litres of water which can be sprayed over the plants. The ideal time for spraying this solution is during 6 am to 8.30 am and between 4 pm and 6.30 pm. Depending upon the soil, crop and other climatic factors the concentration can be raised or lowered.

4. Vermicompost

What is Vermicompost?

Vermicompost refers to organic manure produced by earthworms. It is a mixture of worm castings (faecal excretions), organic material including humus, live earthworms, their cocoons and other organisms. Vermicomposting is an appropriate cost effective and efficient recycling technique for the disposal of non-toxic solid and liquid organic wastes.

What is Vermiculture?

Vermiculture can be defined as culture of earthworms. Earthworms are divided into two groups: humus formers and humus feeders. The first group dwell on the surface and feed on nearly 90% organic materials. They are generally darker in colour, and are also called epigeic or detritivorous earthworms. It is these worms that are generally harnessed for vermicomposting. The second group, the humus feeders, are burrowing worms some of which are useful in both compost preparation as well as making the soil porous. Generally the burrowers help in mixing and distributing humus through the soil.

It has been proved that earthworms can degrade organic wastes speedily and efficiently. However, to increase the efficiency of vermicomposting, care should be taken to see that worms thrive well on organic matter, breed faster adapting to moisture and climatic fluctuations. The most beneficial feature of vermicomposting is that it eliminates foul smell of decaying organic wastes, as it is a fully aerobic system. The concept of vermiculture became well known in the 50s of this century when facilities were set up in industrialised countries of Western Europe for the mass breeding of earthworms. Subsequently, USA, England and France conducted several experiments related to vermiculture technology for efficient disposal of organic wastes.

How does Vermiculture work?

Earthworms feed on organic waste, consuming two to five times their body weight. They use a relatively small amount of their intake for their growth and excrete the mucus coated undigested matter as vermicasts. Vermicasts consist of organic matter that has undergone physical and chemical breakdown through the activity of the muscular gizzard that grinds the material. The nutrients present in the vermicasts are readily soluble in water for uptake by plants. Vermicast is a rich source of macro and micronutrients, vitamins, enzymes, antibiotics, growth hormones and microflora.

Can compost be made without earthworms?

Yes! But vermicompost is considered superior to other types of compost because of its quality. Moreover earthworms ingest litter, dung and other organic matter and grind it into fine particles, thereby increasing the surface area and promoting faster decomposition. The material passes through the body of the earthworm to produce vermicast. Soils with vermicasts have roughly 100 times more bacteria than soil without worms. Moreover plant growth promoting substances have been reported to be present in vermicasts.

My vermicompost manufacturing unit is plagued by a number of red ants. Are there any bio-friendly measures to tackle the menace as I do not want to use any chemicals?

You may sprinkle red chilli powder on all the sides of your unit to keep the ants from entering into your unit.

Where can I get information on vermicompost and vermiwash?

You may contact
Professor and Head
Department of Environmental Sciences
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
Coimbatore – 641 003

Where can I obtain earthworms for my vermicompost unit and is there any way I can sell my produce?

You may contact Mr. R. Ranganathan, President, Association or Organic Farmers No16-Vanigar street, Thirupporur, Tamil Nadu-603 110, email:, phone :044-27446369, mobile: 94433-46369 for earthworms and for selling your produce.

The earthworms in my vermicompost unit die frequently. What is the reason for the mortality of the worms?

Excess moisture and lack of proper aeration can cause mortality of the worms. Provide proper drainage holes to drain the excess water. The water thus drained can be used as a vermin wash for plants.

My vermicompost manufacturing unit is attacked by a number of pests. How can I control them?

You may erect a fence around the vermicompost manufacturing unit and sprinkle or spray pest repellent around the base of the unit to prevent the pests from attacking it.

My worms haven't eaten the waste even though I started my worm farm weeks ago. 

When first starting a new worm farm the worms need time to get used to their new surroundings and usually start eating the original bedding material first but then soon move up to the new food source. Add just enough waste first until you can see worms moving around in it, then you can add more from then onwards.

My worms are trying to escape, what am I doing wrong. Worms are very specific about what conditions they live in and if they don't like them they will try to leave enmasse. If this is happening you must go back and check on the things that may be forcing them to want to leave. These include what you are feeding them, is the bedding material too moist, the pH level of the bedding material, etc. These problems are usually fixed quickly and easily and without losing too many worms. 

Whilst I am away on holidays will my worms starve to death? 

No, they should be OK but try and avoid adding any fresh food material and cover the bedding surface with moist newspaper or Hessian (gunny bags) so as to keep the bedding material from drying out. You may also leave mud pots containing water covered with lids, half buried into the pits/tanks. Even if the surrounding material dries up, the earthworms may move and stay beneath these moist pots. If you are planning to go away for an extended time (month or more) you may want to get a friend or neighbour to take over looking after your worms for the time you are away. 

If I cut a worm in half will I have two worms? 

No, so be careful when you are turning your bedding over so as not to cut any worms in half. 

How to collect native earthworms?

Identify worm-inhabited soils marked by visible earthworm castings on the soil surface is. Dissolve about 500gm jaggery (native sugar) and 500gm fresh cattle dung in 20 litres of water. Sprinkle on an area1m x 1m. Cover with straw, leave cattle dung lumps and cover with an old gunny bag. Keep watering for about 20 to 30 days. A combination of epigeic and anecic native worms will aggregate here that could be collected and used.

What environmental conditions do the worms like?

Paradise for a compost worm would be an environment which was pH neutral, 25ºC air temperature, above 70% air humidity, and between 70 & 90% soil moisture. The soil would contain coarse materials to ensure the soil is aerated, as well as fine food particles of pre-composted organic material.

How do worms reproduce?

Composting worms are hermaphrodites, with each mature worm having a full set of both male and female sex organs, reaching sexual maturity after 55 days. After mating, a cocoon develops which may contain as few as three to as many as twenty wormlings, depending on the conditions and food provided to the worms. 

What food do worms eat?

Worms prefer food that is wet, high in nutrients and relatively low in carbon.  Ideal foods may include rotting fruit or vegetables, kitchen waste, some animal manures, garden waste and compost, and corrugated cardboard. Worms do not like onion, garlic, shallots or materials with high ammonia or nitrogen levels, or large quantities of fats and oils. 

How much can a worm eat?

In theory, a worm can eat about its own body weight in food per day, depending on the type and quality of worm food and the conditions in which the worms are living. Worms rely on billions of microorganisms such as bacteria, algae, fungi, and nematodes, to soften and break down organic material before the worm digests both the microorganisms and the organic material. It takes around 90 days for the organic material to be processed by the worms and be ready for harvesting.

What is the importance of vermiculture products?

The products of vermiculture act as environmentally friendly long-term soil conditioners containing nutrients readily available to plants, which greatly improve soil performance and crop yields. Scientific research conducted into the effects of vermicast has found 30-50% increases in nitrogen uptake, 100% increases in potassium and phosphate uptake, increases in root length, root numbers, and shoot length, and 40-60% increases in cucumber and tomato yields. There are also reported increases in flavour and shelf-life, though these findings are not as easily quantified.

5. Biofertilizer

What is biofertilizer?

Biofertilizers are ready to use live formulates of such beneficial microorganisms which on application to seed, root or soil mobilize the availability of nutrients by their biological activity in particular, and help build up the micro-flora and in turn the soil health in general.

What is the method of application of bio fertilizer in Sugarcane?

(A) Types of bio fertilizer for sugarcane .
      Acetobactor , Azotobactor, Azoospirillum & Phosphate Solublizing Bacteria (PSB)
(B) Rate of application : 12-15 kg / ha
(C) Mode of application  :

1. Set Treatment: Suspended & mixed thoroughly 5 kg bio fertilizer for one acre in 100 lit of water .Treat cane sett by dipping in this suspension before planting.

2. Soil Treatment: Suspended 5 kg of bio fertilizer per acre in 10 liters of water & mixed with thoroughly with 80-100 kg of FYM. The mixed bio fertilizer in FYM is sprinkled over cane setts in the rows at the of planting .Immediately rows should be covered.

Why should we use biofertilizers?

With the introduction of green revolution technologies the modern agriculture is getting more and more dependent upon the steady supply of synthetic inputs (mainly fertilizers), which are products of fossil fuel (coal+ petroleum). Adverse effects are being noticed due to the excessive and imbalanced use of these synthetic inputs. This situation has lead to identifying harmless inputs like biofertilizers. Use of such natural products like biofertilizers in crop cultivation will help in safeguarding the soil health and also the quality of crop products.

What are the benefits from using biofertilizers?

  • Increase crop yield by 20-30%.
  • Replace chemical nitrogen and phosphorus by 25%.
  • Stimulate plant growth.
  • Activate the soil biologically.
  • Restore natural soil fertility.
  • Provide protection against drought and some soil borne diseases.

What are the advantages of bio-fertilizers?

  • Cost effective.
  • Suppliment to fertilizers.
  • Eco-friendly (Friendly with nature).
  • Reduces the costs towards fertilizers use, especially regarding nitrogen and phosphorus.

What types of biofertilizers are available?

  • For Nitrogen
    • Rhizobium for legume crops.
    • Azotobacter/Azospirillum for non legume crops.
    • Acetobacter for sugarcane only.
    • Blue –Green Algae (BGA) and Azolla for low land paddy.
  • For Phosphorous
    • Phosphatika for all crops to be applied with Rhizobium, Azotobacter, Azospirillum and Acetobacter
  • For enriched compost
    • Cellulolytic fungal culture
    • Phosphotika and Azotobacter culture

What biofertilizers are recommended for crops?

  • Rhizobium + Phosphotika at 200 gm each per 10 kg of seed as seed treatment are recommended for pulses such as pigeonpea, green gram, black gram, cowpea etc, groundnut and soybean.
  • Azotobacter + Phosphotika at 200 gm each per 10 kg of seed as seed treatment are useful for wheat, sorghum, maize, cotton, mustard etc.
  • For transplanted rice, the recommendation is to dip the roots of seedlings for 8 to 10 hours in a solution of Azospirillum + Phosphotika at 5 kg each per ha.

How biofertilizers are applied to crops?

  • Seed treatment: 200 g of nitrogenous biofertilizer and 200 g of Phosphotika are suspended in 300-400 ml of water and mixed thoroughly. Ten kg seeds are treated with this paste and dried in shade. The treated seeds have to be sown as soon as possible.
  • Seedling root dip: For rice crop, a bed is made in the field and filled with water. Recommended biofertilizers are mixed in this water and the roots of seedlings are dipped for 8-10 hrs.
  • Soil treatment: 4 kg each of the recommended biofertilizers are mixed in 200 kg of compost and kept overnight. This mixture is incorporated in the soil at the time of sowing or planting.

How could one get good response to biofertilizer application?

  • Biofertilizer product must contain good effective strain in appropriate population and should be free from contaminating microorganisms.
  • Select right combination of biofertilizers and use before expiry date.
  • Use suggested method of application and apply at appropriate time as per the information provided on the label.
  • For seed treatment adequate adhesive should be used for better results.
  • For problematic soils use corrective methods like lime or gypsum pelleting of seeds or correction of soil pH by use of lime.
  • Ensure the supply of phosphorus and other nutrients.

What precautions one should take for using biofertilizers?

  • Biofertilizer packets need to be stored in cool and dry place away from direct sunlight and heat.
  • Right combinations of biofertilizers have to be used.
  • As Rhizobium is crop specific, one should use for the specified crop only.
  • Other chemicals should not be mixed with the biofertilizers.
  • While purchasing one should ensure that each packet is provided with necessary information like name of the product, name of the crop for which intended, name and address of the manufacturer, date of manufacture, date of expiry, batch number and instructions for use.
  • The packet has to be used before its expiry, only for the specified crop and by the recommended method of application.
  • Biofertilizers are live product and require care in the storage
  • Both nitrogenous and phosphatic biofertilizers are to be used to get the best results.
  • It is important to use biofertilizers along with chemical fertilizers and organic manures.
  • Biofertilizers are not replacement of fertilizers but can supplement plant nutrient requirements.

Can one mix Psuedomonas and Tricoderma viride with Azozpirillum and Phosphobacteria for applying in paddy fields?

Generally all the beneficial microbial organisms are compatible to each other. They can be applied safely in combination or separately as the situation demands.

Where can I get more information on setting up of biofertilizer manufacturing plant?

You may contact
Professor and Head
Department of Agricultural Microbilogy
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
Coimbatore – 641 003

What is vermiculture and where can I get details of this technology?

Vermiculture is a technology of rearing earthworms to produce high quality vermin compost. For more details on vermiculture you may kindly contact Dr. Sultan Ahmed Ismail, Director, ECOSCIENCE Research Foundation, Baaz Nagar, Palavakkam, Chennai.

Who can use biofertilizers?

Anybody who is involved in farming can use these biofertilizers in crops such as legumes, cash crops, cereal crops, fodder crops, oil seed crops, horticultural crops, vegetables, fruit trees, forest trees, medicinal, herbal and decorative plants.

Why biofertilizers have not caught on if these are so good and something very new?

Inspite of definite merits viz low cost agri-input, high efficiency and less bulk, the biofertilizers by and large could not win confidence of farmers / farming community probable reasons could be the following:

a) Quality of products

Manufacturing and quality control of biofertilizers involves sophisticated technology. Hence qualified and trained manpower is required to be deployed for biofertilizers manufacturing unit.
As biofertilizers carry live cells microorganisms, a great deal of care is required to be taken while handling transportation and storage especially during summer season due to exposure of the bio-products to higher temperatures.

b) Awareness and Education

Most often this is the most single contributing factor for the popularity of bio-fertilizers. Due to lack of adequate awareness and education among the farming community, there are many misconceptions regarding the use, application and types of bio-fertilizers. Very often bio-fertilizers are mistaken for organic manure and other nutrient based products. Hence, it becomes extremely important for the farming community to be educated and aware about these bio-fertilizers.

Can we use biofertilizers with chemical fertilizers?

There is a huge difference in the application amount and the actual availability of chemical fertilizers to the plants. Biofertilizers have been reported to enhance the availability of these inorganic inputs to the plants. Thus Biofertilizers can be used along with chemical fertilizers but the care should be taken to avoid direct contact of chemical based inputs with Biofertilizers which is likely to reduce the microbial population of Biofertilizers.

What are mycorrhizae? 

Mycorrhizae are mutualistic relationships between soil fungus and plant roots. Scientist tells us that the relationship has been around for 400 million years although discovered in 1845 by a scientist in Germany.

Where can the introduction of mycorrhizal fungi with roots have the greatest effect? 

In disturbed soils, the kinds found in landscape projects, restoration, new grove/orchards, and mine reclamation sites.

Are mycorrhizae in the plants that I buy at the nursery?

Probably not. Even if there was a mycorrhizal fungi present in nursery stock the species that would thrive in a nursery setting would probably offer little benefit in a real world landscape, restoration, or forestry planting.

What about field grown plant materials - would they have beneficial mycorrhizal fungi associated with the roots?

Again, practices generally are geared to high production to turn inventories. Under highly managed operations any mycorrhizal fungi present would be poorly adapted to real world conditions found at out planting sites.

Are multi-species mycorrhizal inoculants really necessary?

Multiple species are very important because they increase the odds significantly that one of the selected species will prosper with the roots and multiply quickly.

Since mycorrhizal fungi may be present in the soil anyway why should I inoculate my transplants?

Although mycorrhizal fungi may be present the types (species) may not be the most effective for the plant species that is being planted. The introduction of diverse species at the time of planting greatly enhances the probability of successful colonization of the roots to take advantage of all of the benefits of mycorrhizal roots.

If I am planting like type plants in an established setting. Is the use of a mycorrhizae inoculant still necessary?

Use of an inoculant here is still appropriate as research shows that the species of mycorrhizal fungi most effective with young plants may be different than the species most effective with mature plants of the same plant species.

What plants form specialized roots with mycorrhizal fungi?

over 90% of the world's plant species form mycorrhizae and require the association for maximum performance in non-artificial conditions.

How do mycorrhizal fungi increase nutrient uptake?

These fungi increase the surface absorbing area of roots 10 to 100x thereby greatly improving the ability of the plants to utilize the soil resource. Estimates of amounts of mycorrhizal filaments present in soil associated with plants are astonishing. Several miles of fungal filaments can be present in less than a thimbleful of soil! But mycorrhizal fungi increase nutrient uptake not only by increase the surface absorbing area of roots, they also release powerful chemicals into the soil that dissolve hard to capture nutrients such as phosphorous , iron and other "tightly bound" soil nutrients.

This extraction process is particularly important in plant nutrition and explains why non-mycorrhizal plants require high levels of fertility to maintain their health. Mycorrhizal fungi form an intricate web that captures and assimilates nut

rients, thus conserving the nutrient capital in soils. In non mycorrhizal conditions much of this fertility is wasted or lost from the system.

What other activities do mycorrhizal fungi do?

Mycorrhzial fungi are involved with a wide variety of other activities that benefit plant establishment and growth. The same extensive network of fungal filaments important to nutrient uptake is also important in water uptake and storage. In non-irrigated conditions, mycorrhizal plants are under far less drought stress compared to non-mycorrhizal plants.

Mycorrhizal fungi also improve soil structure. Mycorrhizal filaments produce humic compounds and organic "glues" (extracellular polysaccharides) that bind soils into aggregates and improves soil porosity. Soil porosity and soil structure positively influence the growth of plants by promoting aeration, water movement into soil, root growth, and distribution. In sandy or compacted soils the ability of mycorrhizal fungi to promote soil structure may be more important than the seeking out of nutrients.

Don't soils already contain mycorrhizal fungi?

Undisturbed soils are full of beneficial soil organisms including mycorrhizal fungi. Research indicates, however, many common practices can degrade the mycorrhiza-forming potential of soil. Tillage, fertilization, removal of topsoil, erosion, site preparation, road and home construction, fumigation, invasion of non-native plants, and leaving soils bare are some of the activities that can reduce or eliminate these beneficial soil fungi. Reintroducing mycorrhizal fungi in areas where they have been depleted can dramatically improve plant establishment and growth.
Many routine nursery practices, such as fumigation and dousing with high levels of water and nutrients, produce non-mycorrhizal plants. When high levels of fertilizer and water are provided for non-mycorrhizal plants, they can thrive in this artificial growing media, but they are ill prepared to survive the eventual outplanted condition.

What types of mycorrhizal products are available?

Certain mycorrhizal spores or "seeds" of the fungus have been selected for their growth enhancing abilities. These spores are combined with root biostimulants, humic acids and water absorbent gel to invigorate roots and promote plant survival and growth. When applied, the spores of mycorrhizal fungi spread through soil colonizing plant roots and work to produce vigorous root systems and plant growth. The yield enhancing attributes of mycorrhizal fungi have co-evolved over millennia and has been the focus of 20 years of intensive research. Now, growers, landscapers and homeowners can apply the miraculous relationship of plant and mycorrhizal fungi and improve plant growth the natural way.

How do you apply these mycorrhizal fungi?

Mycorrhizal application is easy and requires no special equipment. The goal is to create physical contact between the mycorrhizal inoculant and the plant root. Mycorrhizal inoculant can be sprinkled onto roots during transplanting, worked into seed beds, blended into potting soil, "watered in" via existing irrigation systems, applied as a root dip gel or probed into the root zone of existing plants. The type of application depends upon the conditions and needs of the applicator.

Is mycorrhizal inoculation expensive?

Mycorrhizal inoculation is inexpensive. Typically for small plants the cost ranges from less than a penny to a few cents per seedling. For larger plants, more inoculum is needed and costs are higher.

What is Azolla? How Azolla can be beneficial to us?

 Azolla is a water fern. It fixes atmospheric nitrogen into the soil with the help of blue green algae by symbiosis process. Its application improves soil health and soil fertility. Azolla suppresses weed growth, reduces loss of applied chemical Nitrogen fertilizer. Azolla biofertilizer technology is simple, economic and ecofriendly. In rice field Azolla grown once before or after planting can produce upto 25 tons of fresh biomass and contribute upto 50 kg N/ha. Azolla grown once during the cropping season can easily supply 20-40 kg N/ha. Azolla can be used as a feed for poultry, duckery, fish and cattle.

For which crop Rhizobium is used?

Rhizobium is used for pulse legum. It fixes 50-100 kg N/hectare with legumes. For different pulse crops specific rhizobium cultures are required.

Why we apply Azospirillum?

Azospirillum is recommended for rice millets, maize, wheat sorghum etc. and it fixes 20-40 kg N/hectare.

How to use Azolla?

Azolla is suitable for flooded condition which fixes upto 40-80 kg N/hectare. When applied in desired quantity.

What is BGA?

It is an algae, fixes 20-30 kg N/hectare. Its application to rice increases yield by 15-20%.

How much Azolla is required for a hectare of land?

Around 10 q of Azolla is required for a hectare of land.

How much BGA is required for a hectare of land and how to apply it?

BGA is applied @ 10-15 kg per hectare of rice after 7 days of transplanting with 2.5 cm of standing water.

What is the cost of BGA packet?

The cost of BGA of 1 kg packet is about Rs.20.00.

6.Organic Certification

Is it possible to certify only part of the farm?

Yes. All certifying bodies operating in Tasmania will support part certification of a farm. However, they would prefer that the part certification lead to a whole of property certification within ten years. A part certification means that a farmer can try organic farming on part of the holding without having to commit the whole farm.

Can I process both organic and conventional foods?

Yes, many processors who have undertaken to have their premises certified organic have continued to produce both conventional and organic lines. Processing organic product imposes some restrictions. Using an abattoir as an example, organic processing can generally only be carried out as the first production run after a thorough clean down. This would generally be in the morning, the Monday after a clean down which usually occurs at the end of the working week on a Friday.

Processors need to ensure that products are segregated to ensure that there is no risk of cross contamination through contact with conventional products. In the cropping/orchard situation, part of a property can be converted. Where livestock are involved it is more difficult because they usually cover the whole farm. Where an enterprise processes both organic and conventional product the facility must be cleaned to organic standards. This often means that lines are stored until enough organic product is available to justify the expense of the clean down. If you are in doubt, talk to your certifying body to clarify the situation.

I have just purchased or hope to purchase a farm. I would like to farm it organically. Can you give me some information on crops that I can grow and what I need to do to be organic?

There are many things that will help you determine which crops can be grown on a farm, such as farm location, climate, and soil types. Your farming experience/knowledge and your time availability will also be factors in determining which crops are most suited to you.

I want to begin farming organically. How will this be different from the more conventional farming practices that I already use?

Organic production of crops is very similar to regular production for planting, harvesting. Varieties are usually the same. Fertility, weeds and other pests need to be managed in a more intensive way. Crop rotation and timing of mechanical cultivation are critical to success. The integration of livestock, to help supply manure/compost nutrients will also be a benefit.

Is organic farming expanding?

In 2005 there were approx. 500 certified organic farms in Ontario with over 90,000 acres of certified land. This is more than double the comparable numbers for 1996. Growth of organic food sales in North America is frequently reported as being consistently around 20% per year for the past 10 years.

What does the process entail?

Once you have undertaken adequate research and decided that you want to proceed with certification, you will need to apply to a certification body, submit an application form and then pay the initial fees. The application form may include a questionnaire requesting information about the farm management history, including previous chemical usage, cultivation practices, fertilisers and pest control inputs. The initial 12 month period is generally referred to as "pre-certification". The next two years are referred to as the "in-conversion" period.

Is organic production economically feasible?

Many factors need to be considered by producers when taking into account the economic feasibility of converting to organic production. Often, within the first few years, yields might be reduced. If your region is not suited to organic production this will also increase financial risks. There may be reduced costs involved in relation to not having to purchase chemicals, however, there may be increases related to the cost of organically certified inputs such as feed, organic fertilisers and segregation.

What pesticides can I use in organic production?

1 .No chemical weedkillers are allowed in organic production.
2. A very small number of basic fungicides are allowed – you need to obtain special permission (derogation) to use them.
3. A very small number of simple insecticides are allowed– you need to obtain special permission (derogation) to use them.

Can I use fertilizers in organic production?

Artificial fertilizers are not allowed in organic production. Soil fertility for growing crops and grass is based on:

  • Planned cropping rotations
  • Clover in grazing and cutting swards or green manures
  • Managed use of manures, composts, and slurries
  • Approved supplementary fertilizing materials
  • Imported organic manures such as organic poultry manure – limited use

Organic means no sprays, no fertilizers, you just let crops grow – right?

Wrong - Organic production requires you to develop an integrated production system including:

  • Planned cropping rotations
  • Clover as a means of getting nitrogen into the soil
  • Managed use of manures, composts, and slurries
  • Carefully selected crop and grass varieties
  • Mechanical weed control techniques

What is organic farming?

Organic farming is a farming system which produces high quality food to an EU approved set of standards.Organic food products leaving a farm or processing plant are certified to these standards as a means of guaranteeing to consumers that the products have been produced according to these organic standards.

What is the Organic Farming Scheme?

The Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) is an Agri-environment package which supports conversion to organic production. OFS agreements run for a period of five years during which you are committed to farming according to organic standards and remaining certified by an organic certification body.

Is there a grant for converting organic buildings?

There is currently no grant scheme for organic buildings.

How long does organic certification take?

Land normally has to go through a minimum of two years before it achieves full organic status (also known as symbol status).
Crops sown or transplanted into fully organic land may be sold as organic.
Livestock to be sold as organic will be available some time after the land has achieved fully organic status. The time period will depend on the type of stock and other factors.

Does my land have to be tested so it can be certified as organic?

Land is not tested for pesticide or other residues unless a problem is suspected, but a recent soil analysis is required for certification.

Who controls organic certification?

EC Council Regulation 2092/91 controls and regulates organic production in the EU. It will be replaced by an updated Regulation 834/2007 on 1 January 2009.
In the UK, Defra publishes the “Compendium of UK Organic Standards” as the UK’s base line for organic certification, on behalf of the four UK rural affairs departments.

Who carries out organic certification?

A number of Defra-approved independent organic certification bodies carry out organic certification on farms and processing units.

Who do I contact for certification?

You contact one of the independent certification bodies directly.

Who should I contact to find out more and get the process of conversion underway?

A recommended option is to contact the CAFRE Organic Team on 028 9442 6765.
You will be put in contact with the appropriate organic development adviser who can assist you with the conversion and certification processes and provide ongoing technical support.
They will also provide information on the Organic Farming Scheme.

When am I able to sell my first organic produce?

During the first year of conversion produce may not be sold as organic – it must be sold onto the non-organic (conventional) market.
If appropriate, produce during the second year of conversion may be sold as “organic – in-conversion” produce, if there is a market for it.
Once land has completed its conversion to full organic status, crops sown or transplanted into fully organic land may be sold as organic.
Livestock to be sold as organic will be available some time after the land has achieved fully organic status. The time period will depend on the type of stock and other factors.

What are organic standards?

Organic standards are the set of “rules” which, as a registered organic producer, you must follow in order to maintain your certificate which will allow you to sell produce as organic.

Can I use veterinary medicines in organic livestock production?

Most veterinary medicines are allowed in organic systems, usually on an individual animal basis.
You need special permission, based on proving a real need, to use them.
If too many medicines are used, there is a risk of animals losing their organic status.

Does straw for bedding have to be organic?

Ideally yes, but it is accepted that there simply is not enough organic straw available, so non-organic straw may be used.

7. Miscellaneous

What is organic agriculture?

Organic food production is based on a system of farming that mimics natural ecosystems that balance pest and beneficial organism populations and maintain and replenish fertility of the soil.  The term ‘organic’ in the United States is applied to the agricultural products produced on farms that adhere to the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) Rule.

How do organic farms manage fertility?

Organic farmers manage crop nutrients through a crop rotation that includes cover crops and the application of plant and animal organic matter, generally in the form of compost. Appropriate tillage and cultivation practices improve soil structure, organic matter content and soil microbial life. Mined minerals, and a few allowed synthetic substances are permitted as supplemental sources of nutrients, provided that soil, crop, and water contamination are avoided.

Do organic farmers take any precautions when they apply manure on organic farms?

Yes. Raw manure and other animal and plant material must be handled in a way that prevents water, soil and crop contamination. In order to be applied without a days-to-harvest restriction, manure must be properly composted. Crops for human consumption that have the edible portion in contact with the soil – including leafy greens – must be harvested at least 120 days after the application of uncomposted manure. Other crops for human consumption must be harvested at least 90 days following the application of raw manure.

How are insect pests managed on organic farms?

Organic farm systems protect crop damage by insect pests primarily through the use of biological and cultural practices such as crop rotation; diversification; habitat management; beneficial organism releases; sanitation; and timing.  Some natural substances, such as botanicals, and a few relatively non-toxic synthetic pesticides such as soap are permitted by the USDA National Organic Program Standards when used in conjunction with the farm plan and used according to the restrictions found on the National List.

How are weeds managed on organic farms?

Weed management on organic farms consists of cultural and mechanical techniques such as the rotation of crops that suppress weeds, mulching, tillage, cultivation, water management, and manual weeding. Weeds often help to conserve soil, improve organic matter, and provide beneficial habitat for natural enemies on organic farms. Plastic mulches are permitted provide they are removed at the end of the season. Insects and diseases can help to keep certain weed populations in check. There are a few natural substances that are also used to manage weeds, but the efficacy of these substances is still subject to question.

How are crop diseases managed on organic farms?

Soil-borne diseases are managed by improving organic matter and biological activity. Cultural, biological, and physical methods such as rotation, sanitation, pruning, and selection of disease resistant varieties are all part of organic disease management. Some natural substances, such as clays, and a few synthetic fungicides such as copper sulfate are permitted by the USDA National Organic Program Standards when used in conjunction with the farm plan and used according to the restrictions found on the National List.

What are the requirements for converting to organic dairy production?

There are two means of converting dairy animals to organic production:
1) Animals from conventional sources must be maintained under organic management for 12 months prior to sale of any products as organic. Replacement animals may be added to the herd after a similar 12-month conversion period.
2) If an entire, distinct herd is converted, a one-time allowance is granted to permit feeding of up to 20% non-organic feed for the first 9 months, followed by 100% organic feed for three months. If this type of conversion is made, all replacement animals must be managed organically from the last third of gestation.

How do organic animals meet their nutritional requirements?

All agricultural products provided in the feed ration must be organic, with a limited amount of supplementation and additives. Ruminant livestock must have a significant portion of their feed needs met by pasture. 

How do producers maintain the health of organic animals?

Livestock health care must be based on preventive practices, such as balanced nutrition from organic feed, stress reduction, and preventative practices. Medications on the National List may be used only when necessary, and may not be administered in the absence of illness. Antibiotics are not permitted and products from animals treated with any prohibited medication must be diverted from organic marketing channels.

What methods are available to manage parasites in organic livestock?

Organic livestock producers rely on cultural practices to minimize parasite infestations. Synthetic parasiticides may be used only if they are on the National List and are prohibited for use in slaughter stock.

What are the living conditions for organic livestock?

All organic animals are required to have access to the outdoors and exercise areas, and must be provided with healthy living conditions. Ruminants are also required to have access to pasture.  

What is the National Organic Program?

The National Organic Program (NOP) consists of the regulations and regulatory agents to establish and protect the standards for agricultural products labeled as ‘organic.’  These standards are known as the National Organic Standards. Congress authorized the USDA to establish the NOP by the Organic Food Production Act of 1990. All organic food label claims made in the United States must now be backed by valid certification according to the NOP Rule.

Who has to be certified?

The USDA regulations require that all producers and handlers that make an organic claim for their products must be certified by a USDA-accredited certification agency. The only exceptions are for small farmers or handlers with less than $5,000 in gross organic sales, handlers that buy and sell without repackaging or changing form, and retailers that do not process food.  Exempt operations must maintain records and follow the exact same production practices as certified farmers in order to label their products as organic.

Who does the certifying?

The USDA accredits state, private and international agencies to certify agricultural products and food as organic under the NOP.

How long does it take to transition land farmed conventionally to organic status?

In order to be eligible for organic certification, land must have had no prohibited materials applied to it for three years immediately preceding harvest.

Must an entire farm be converted, or can a farm make the transition field by field?

A farm can be converted field by field. However, to be certified, a field must have distinct, defined boundaries and buffer zones to protect it from runoff and unintended contamination from adjoining land. The farm also needs to have facilities and record keeping in place to ensure and document that organic and non-organic crops are not commingled.

What are acceptable sources of animals used for organic meat production?

Slaughter animals can come from any breeding stock that has been organically managed from the last third of gestation.

What sources of poultry are acceptable for organic poultry products?

Poultry must be managed organically from the second day of life.

Can animals be converted to organic production at the same time as the land?

Yes. Livestock operations may convert animals with the land on which they are pastured.

What does it mean to be ‘certified organic’?

Certified organic means that the food has been grown and handled according to the National Organic Program Standards and inspected by independent state or private organizations. Periodic unannounced inspections are also conducted. Certification includes annual inspection of all farm fields and facilities, farm activity records, plus periodic testing of soil, water and produce to ensure that growers and processors meet National Organic Standards.

How can I contact an organic certifier?

You may visit the website

How much does certification cost?

Each certification body is required to establish and publish fee schedules that are applied fairly to all applicants. Fees vary considerably from agency to agency, and depend on the size and type of organic operation to be certified. Some state departments of agriculture are offering a significant reimbursement under a federal cost-share program.

Is organic certification automatically recognized in other states?

All U.S. states and USDA-accredited certifiers accept certifications issued by USDA accredited or recognized certification programs. Foreign governments and international certification bodies have similar organic standards but may insist on additional certification to confirm operators who export organic products meet their standards. Some U.S. certifiers offer this additional service.

How does a farm get certified?

The operator obtains and reads the National Organic Standards, and conducts a self-assessment to see if the operation meets these requirements in terms of land history, production practices, materials used and recordkeeping procedures. In many cases, some practices and systems need to be modified to comply. Once an operation complies, the operator then selects an accredited certifier, submits an application, gets inspected, meets any conditions identified by the certifier, and obtains a certificate.

What are the penalties for misuse of the term “organic?”

Any operation that knowingly sells or labels an agricultural product as “organic,” not in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act and the National Organic Standards may be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 per violation and criminal sanctions based on violation of Federal laws governing fraud and false statements.

Must organic farmers use organic seeds?

The NOP Rule requires that organically produced and handled seeds be planted when such seed is commercially available for the variety. Annual transplants must always be organically grown unless the Secretary of Agriculture in response to a natural disaster or other major interruption issues a temporary variance. All seed used in organic production must be untreated, or treated only with substances (such as microbial products) that are on the National List. Farmers are required to use certified organic seed when it is commercially available. Commercial availability is based on ability to obtain the seed in an appropriate form, quality, or quantity, as reviewed by the certification agent. 

What is an Organic Systems Management Plan?

Organic certification requires an Organic Systems Management Plan, also known as an Organic Farm Plan or Organic Handling Plan. These documents identify who is responsible for the organic operation and describe the management and recordkeeping practices to monitor implementation of that plan. The plan serves as a contract between the operator and the certifier. Most certifiers assist operators in developing their plan by providing forms and guidance documents. Organic Systems Management Plans must be updated at least annually in order to maintain certified organic status.

How does an Organic Systems Management Plan relate to soil management?

Farmers are required to demonstrate that they use appropriate tillage and cultivation practices without negative impacts on soil structure, and manage crop nutrients and fertility using crop rotations, cover corps, and application of organic materials. There is also a requirement that soil organic matter be maintained or improved in a manner that does not contaminate crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or prohibited materials. The farmer must have a system for monitoring all practices and procedures, as well as records for all farm inputs, harvest products, and storage facilities. 

What farm inputs are allowed and what materials are prohibited in organic production?

In general, the NOP allows natural (non-synthetic) substances and prohibits synthetic substances, unless they appear on the National List.

What is the National List?

The National List contains the allowed synthetic and prohibited natural (non-synthetic) substances that are exceptions to the general rule for organic production. It is not a comprehensive list of all approved materials, rather it can be described as an “open” list since it contains only 1) synthetic materials allowed for use in crop and livestock production and 2) nonsynthetic (natural) materials prohibited for use in crop and livestock production.

Who determines if a specific product is acceptable for use on an organic farm?

In most cases, the certification agencies determine whether or not the use of a given input on an farm complies with organic standards.

Should an organic farmer plan on what inputs to use in the coming year?

Organic farmers should anticipate production needs and determine the practices and inputs needed to achieve that production. All fertilizers and pesticides that a farmer intends to use over a season must be included in the farm plan. In all cases, a certified farmer should have any products used on the farm are approved by his/her certification agent before the input is used.

Are there any further restrictions on the use of fertilizers and pesticides in organic farming?

Farmers need to be aware of the limitations of the National List when it applies to farm inputs. Producers may only use substances listed for crop use on crops. For example, phosphoric acid is permitted in livestock sanitation, but not as a fertilizer. A material listed for a specific use is restricted to that use, i.e. soap is listed for insect control but not disease control. Some materials have specific restrictions, for instance - copper must be used in a manner that minimizes accumulation in the soil.

What are the recordkeeping requirements when a farmer uses a material?

Farmers are required to document all products applied to crop and soil. One must know all of the ingredients in order to determine whether or not an input complies. Certifiers will review products themselves or rely on an outside service.

If a fertilizer is labeled ‘organic,’ will a farmer be able to use it on certified organic land?

Fertilizer labeling is regulated by state laws, most of which define organic in a way that is not compatible with organic standards. Caution is needed in evaluating fertilizer labeled as organic, as it might include prohibited synthetics such as urea or sewage sludge.

Can pesticides be used on an organic farm?

Most pesticides are prohibited for use in organic production, but a number are allowed with restrictions. In crop production, pesticides must have active ingredients that are either non-synthetic or on the National List, and all inert ingredients must be non-synthetic or classified as List 4 –(inerts of minimal concern) by the EPA.

What feed additives and supplements are permitted?

Natural (nonsynthetic) feed additives and supplements are permitted, as are synthetic substances that are on the National List. These include synthetic vitamins and minerals, which are limited to the amount necessary for adequate nutrition. Slaughter by-products are prohibited for feeding to mammals and poultry, and urea and manure re-feeding is prohibited for all livestock. Synthetic amino acids are not included on the National List, with the exception of a temporary allowance granted for methionine for use in poultry until October 2005.

What are we supposed to do when we need to treat a sick animal?

Animals that are sick must be treated. A producer who withholds treatment from a sick animal to maintain its organic status can be decertified. If a synthetic animal drug used to treat an animal does not appear on the National List, then the animal must be diverted to conventional channels.

Are any parasiticides allowed?

Only one parasicitide, Ivermectin is on the National List. It is restricted for use in dairy and breeding stock only. Parasiticides are categorically prohibited on slaughter stock.

Will it be possible to tell if a product meets organic standards just by reading the label?

The EPA has implemented a new voluntary labeling program to help identify products that meet NOP requirements. Approved registered pesticide in this voluntary program can include the phrase “for organic production” on their labels. Not all products that are compliant with organic rules will be so identified.

What does "Certified Organic" mean?

"Certified Organic" means the item has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations. Certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting the standards which have been set.

Can any type of agricultural product become certified organic?

Yes, any agricultural product that meets third-party or state certification requirements may be considered organic. Organic foods are becoming available in an impressive variety, including pasta, prepared sauces, frozen juices, frozen meals, milk, ice cream and frozen novelties, cereals, meat, poultry, breads, soups, chocolate, cookies, beer, wine, vodka and more. These foods, in order to be certified organic, have all been grown and processed according to organic standards and must maintain a high level of quality. Organic fiber products, too, have moved beyond T-shirts, and include bed and bath linens, tablecloths, napkins, cosmetic puffs, feminine hygiene products, and men’s, women’s and children’s clothing in a wide variety of styles.

Are all organic products completely free of pesticide residues?

Certified organic products have been grown and handled according to strict standards without toxic and persistent chemical inputs. However, organic crops are inadvertently exposed to agricultural chemicals that are now pervasive in rain and ground water due to their overuse during the past fifty years in North America, and due to drift via wind and rain.

Do organic farmers ever use pesticides?

Prevention is the organic farmer’s primary strategy for disease, weed, and insect control. By building healthy soils, organic farmers find that healthy plants are better able to resist disease and insects. Organic producers often select species that are well adapted for the climate and therefore resist disease and pests. When pest populations get out of balance, growers will try various options like insect predators, mating disruption, traps, and barriers. If these fail, permission may be granted by the certifier to apply botanical or other nonpersistent pest controls under restricted conditions. Botanicals are derived from plants and are broken down quickly by oxygen and sunlight.

Why does organic food sometimes cost more?

Prices for organic foods reflect many of the same costs as conventional items in terms of growing, harvesting, transportation and storage. Organically produced foods must meet stricter regulations governing all of these steps, so the process is often more labor- and management-intensive, and farming tends to be on a smaller scale. There is also mounting evidence that if all the indirect costs of conventional food production—cleanup of polluted water, replacement of eroded soils, costs of health care for farmers and their workers—were factored into the price of food, organic foods would cost the same or, more likely, be cheaper.

Is imported organic food produced to the same standards as that from the UK/EU?

Yes. All organic food must come from growers, processors or importers who are registered and subject to regular inspection. Importers must prove:

  • That the products they wish to import have been produced to rules equivalent to those laid down in Articles 6 and 7 of Council Regulation (EEC) 2092/91 (as amended); and were subject to inspection measures equivalent to those laid down in Articles 8 and 9 of Council Regulation (EEC) 2092/91 (as amended) and that such inspection measures will be permanently and effectively applied.

I have an urgent import, can I get my authorisation quickly?

We process applications strictly in the order in which they are received. There are no exceptions made to this.
If your application is fully completed and we are satisfied with the information provided, you should get your authorisation within 10 working days, however, we cannot guarantee that this will be the case.

Who completes the certificate?

The Certificate will be completed by the certification body that certifies the exporter of the goods in the third country or by their properly appointed representative. This body will endorse the certificate at box 15.

Who keeps the Certificate and for how long?

The importer is required to retain the certificate for inspection for at least two years.

What happens if the Certificate is incorrectly completed or not present at the port of entry?

Failure to provide a correctly completed Certificate will result in the consignment being refused Customs Clearance.
You will be given several options:
Store the consignment under customs control until the certificate arrives or a correct certificate is received.
Remove all references to organic production from the labelling, packaging and accompanying documents and market the goods as conventional.
Re-export the consignment.
Destroy the goods.

Is organic food more expensive?

The packaged, labelled variety is obviously so. In the developed world this is almost universal because natural fertilizers and labour costs are high. But in India there are still plenty of places where you can get cheap organic food and cheap food that uses no pesticides. In many, many places food is organic by default because the farmer is growing an indigenous variety of crop that requires no chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

Is there a difference between "natural" and "organic" foods?

Yes. The term "natural" is very broad, and can include organic foods, but not all natural foods are organic. Natural foods are generally minimally processed and free of artificial ingredients, but not necessarily organically grown.

Do organically grown vegetables and fruits need to be washed?

It is a good idea to wash all fruits and vegetables before eating to help ensure food safety.

But how can we farm without chemicals?

You can take advantage of what nature offers and improve it without creating damage. Recycling of organic wastes like straw and grass and animal excreta makes great fertilizer. Growing the crops that are native to the region usually ensures that the plants already have high resistance to the local pests. Pests are reduced through multiple-cropping and using bio-pesticides. Building up populations of beneficial insects (insects who feed on bad bugs) is a tried-and-true method of pest control. Prevention is the organic farmer’s primary strategy.

What is wrong with normal farming?

Normal chemical farming has much that is wrong with it. In any case until about five or six decades ago organic farming was normal farming. Until the Green revolution, that is. Modern chemical dependent farming has huge ecological costs, is bad for the health of the farmer and his/her family and affects the health of the people who eat the food. And most importantly the stuff does not work! Every year the pests grow resistant to the pesticides and the soil fertility falls.

What are bio-pesticides?

Bio-pesticides are pesticides derived from natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria, and minerals. In India, a range of neem products such as the extracts of neem kernel, the seed and leaf have created a great deal of interest for being cheap and effective.

What do I get from organic farming?

First off food is nutritional and safe. Research shows that organic products have more minerals, less water and less artificial chemicals. So the taste is generally more natural. Organic vegetables usually contain higher level of Vitamin C, protein and other minerals.

Are there organic farmers in India?

There are a thousand odd registered farmers in India but there are many more who are organic by default or ideology.

Is all organic produce "pesticide-free?"

Organic crops can sometimes be exposed to the traces of agricultural chemicals that are now detected in nearly all rain and ground water in India, due to their overuse during the past 50 years. Pesticide residues are rarely detected on organic produce, and are certainly well below levels on conventionally produced food.

It is not the cost which is important but the education of consumers backed by will to do so, about the hazardous effects of chemicals?

There is sometimes apprehension among farmers that when they switch from inorganic farming to organic farming, thy may get lower yields. This transition can be successfully tackled by first switching to sustainable type of Agriculture i.e. including bio inputs along with inorganic inputs and subsequently reducing the inorganic inputs and switching to complete organics without any loss in yields, rather improvement in yields, quality and taste of the produce.

Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) used in the production of organic food?

"The Soil Association believes that genetically modified organisms have no place in organic food or farming and they are therefore prohibited under the Standards for Organic Food and Farming" - Soil Association policy statement on genetically modified organisms.
The Soil Association prohibits the use of GMOs in organic food production and in animal feed.

How are organic manures beneficial in the cultivation of crops?

Organic manures increase the organic matter in the soil. Organic matter in turn releases the plant food in available from for the use of crops. However, organic manures should not be seen only as carriers of plant food. These manures also enable a soil to hold more water and also help to improve the drainage in clay soils. They provide organic acids that help to dissolve soil nutrients and make them available for the plants.

How are organic manures differing from fertilizers?

Organic manures have low nutrient content and therefore need to be applied in larger quantities. For example, to get 25 kg of NPK, one will need 600 to 2000 kg of organic manure where as the same amount of NPK can be given by 50 kg of an NPK complex fertilizer. The nutrient content of organic manures is highly variable from place to place, lot to lot, and method of preparation. The composition of fertilizers is almost constant. For example, urea contain 46% N regardless of which factory makes it any where in the world.

How much of plant nutrients are provided by organic manures?

Just as different fertilizers contain different amounts of plant nutrients, organic manures are also not alike.
Average quality of farmyard manure provides 12 kg nutrients per ton and compost provides 40 kg per ton.
Most of the legume green manures provide 20 kg of nitrogen per ton.
Each ton of sorghum/rice/maize straw can be expected to add 26 kg of nutrients.



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