Note that each module in the Qualification -Advanced Diploma In Horticulture (Crops) is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.
What about Organics?
Organic crop production is one of several production methods that will be considered throughout this course.
Other options may include traditional farming (not limited to organic guidelines) and hydroponic farming.
Most commercial crops tend to be grown as monocultures, which offers ease of management because all crop plants are the same in an area, and the way they are treated will be uniform. As such everything from soil preparatioin to mechanised planting and harvesting is possible.
Growing a polyculture, with two or more different crop plants growing together, is far more difficult to manage, however the polyculture does have advantages for the environment and soil quality, long term.
Worldwide there is an increasing demand for food grown without chemicals. While chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides have brought many benefits to both farmers and consumers – large quantities of inexpensive, high quality, blemish-free produce for many months of the year – many people now realise the problems associated with chemical farming.
The organics movement is rapidly increasing as consumers look for healthier, safer alternatives. Organic certification schemes have been set up to ensure ‘organic produce’ is really organic, and that it complies with national and international standards.
Organic certification schemes operate in a number of countries.
You need to know and understand schemes for not only countries where you grow, but also where you hope to sell organic produce.
The organic produce market is particularly significant in some countries (e.g. the U.K.).
Examples -The arrangements for certification may change from time to time, and need to be checked if and when you seek it; however, the broad principles remain relatively constant.
The following examples refer to the situation in the UK and Australia at one point in time.
Certification in the UK
There have been eleven certification bodies accredited with the United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS). The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA UK) publishes this certification document. The certification bodies include:
- the Organic Farmers and Growers Ltd
- the Soil Association
- Scottish Organic Producers Association
- Bio-Dynamic Agricultural Association
Certification in Australia
There have been seven established organic certification groups in Australia that provide a system for certifying organic produce. These groups include:
- NASAA – the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia
- BFA – the Biological Farmers of Australia
- OGA – the Organic Growers of Australia
- BDRI – The Biodynamic Research Institute, certifying products as biodynamic under the Demeter® label.
All of these groups are bound by the same regulatory body – the Organic Industry Export Consultative Committee, or OIECC, which is a part of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. This body produces the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce, a document with which all organic certification bodies must comply.
It is in the growers’ interests to obtain certification. Within Australia, all major outlets such as supermarkets and all organic wholesalers around the country will deal only in certified produce. While it is not illegal to sell produce domestically as "organic," if it is not certified, it is illegal to sell it as "certified organic".
For most organic producers, organics isn’t just farming without chemicals. It means promoting the existing biological cycles, from micro-organisms in the soil to the plants and animals on the soil. It entails careful and efficient use of local resources, minimising pollution, and maintaining genetic diversity.
The techniques used in organic farming include the following:
- Crop rotation – rotating crops to rest the soil, to prevent the build-up of pests and diseases, and to improve soil quality
- Intercropping – growing one or more temporary crops such as vegetables or herbs between rows of permanent crops such as fruit trees to improve diversity
- Manurial systems – growing legumes and green manures to improve soil fertility; adding composted animal manures to improve soil structure
- Composting and mulching – adding decomposed organic matter (compost) to the soil; covering the soil surface with organic matter; using sheet composting for larger areas
- Cultural control of pests/diseases/weeds – using resistant, hardy varieties; mulching; increasing the farm’s diversity; practising farm sanitation; rotating crops
- Physical control of pests/diseases/weeds – mowing, grazing, cultivating, burning; using traps and barriers.
- Biological control of pests/diseases/weeds – using companion plants; introducing predatory insects or fungi.