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What are the environmental benefits of organic agriculture?

Sustainability: There are many changes which occur in the environment slowly over time. Organic agriculture aims to produce food while establishing an ecological balance to prevent soil fertility or pest problems. It takes a proactive approach as opposed to treating problems after they emerge.

Soil: Soil building practices such as crop rotations, inter-cropping, symbiotic associations, cover crops, organic fertilisers and minimum tillage are central to organic practices.

These encourage soil fauna and flora, improving soil formation and creating more stable systems. So, in return the nutrient and energy cycling are increased and the retentive abilities of the soil for nutrients and water are enhanced which helps in soil erosion control. The length of time that the soil is exposed to erosive forces is decreased, soil biodiversity is increased, and nutrient losses are reduced, helping to maintain and enhance soil productivity.

Air and climate change: Organic agriculture reduces non-renewable energy use by decreasing agrochemical needs. It contributes to mitigating the greenhouse effect and global warming through its ability to set apart the carbon in the soil. There are agriculture practices like minimum tillage, returning crop residues to the soil, the use of cover crops and rotations to increase the return of carbon to the soil, raising productivity and favouring carbon storage. 

Biodiversity: Organic farmers are both custodians and users of biodiversity at all levels.

  • At the gene level, traditional and adapted seeds and breeds are preferred for their greater resistance to diseases and their resilience to climatic stress.
  • At the species level, diverse combinations of plants and animals optimise nutrient and energy cycling for agricultural production.
  • At the ecosystem level, the maintenance of natural areas within and around organic fields and absence of chemical inputs create suitable habitats for wildlife.
  • The frequent use of under-utilised species often as rotation crops to build soil fertility reduces erosion of agro-biodiversity. The provision of structures providing food and shelter, and the lack of pesticide use, attract new or re-colonizing species to the organic, the number of studies on organic farming and biodiversity increased significantly within the last years.

Ecological services: The impact of organic farming on natural resources favours interactions within the agro-ecosystem that are vital for both agricultural production and nature conservation. The services include soil forming and conditioning, soil stabilisation, waste recycling, nutrients cycling. By opting for organic products, the consumer through his/her purchasing power promotes a less polluting agricultural system. The hidden costs of agriculture to the environment in terms of natural resource degradation are reduced.

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