Organic vs. Conventional Farming

Farmers are increasingly switching to organic farming, particularly in our area, thus chemical substances are rarely used. However, on the other hand, they must ensure that their enterprises remain financially solvent, so they often collaborate with larger corporations, reducing their impact on environmental conservation. As a result, farmers are now under greater pressure to grow a lot in order to stay profitable, making the transition to chemical fertilizers more cost-effective. This will significantly increase the yield.

Further, inadequate or inappropriate policies, such as pricing, subsidy, and tax policies, have facilitated the unnecessary, and often uneconomic, use of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides, as well as land overexploitation. As a result, the harm to the soil and natural habitats is so severe that farming becomes reliant on artificial inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides rather than the property.

This system is not built to last, because it squanders and degrades the resources that it depends on.


What is Sustainable Agriculture?

In agriculture, sustainability is a multifaceted concept with many aspects, including economic (a sustainable farm should be a profitable business that contributes to a strong economy), social (it should treat its employees equally and have a mutually beneficial relationship with the local community), and environmental (a sustainable farm should be a profitable business that contributes to a strong economy).

Environmental sustainability in agriculture means good stewardship of the natural systems and resources that farms rely on. Among other things, this involves:

  • Building and maintaining healthy soil
  • Managing water wisely
  • Minimizing air, water, and climate pollution
  • Promoting biodiversity

Planting cover crops, integrating livestock and crops, and adopting agroforestry practices are only a few of the core sustainable farming practices that have evolved over decades of research and practice.

Diversification is a common thread that runs across all of these methods. In certain cases, “keep it simple,” but in agriculture, the most sustainable and profitable processes are more diverse and complex—much like nature itself.


What can we do?

Supporting sustainable agriculture can be done in a variety of ways. We’ve compiled a handy checklist to assist you:

  • Purchase food directly from the source, such as a local farmer, or, if that isn’t possible in your region, go to a farmer’s market! You will be able to buy not only organic, sustainable food, but also seasonal food, and you will not be supporting imports from other countries.
  • Reduce your personal climate pollution and caring for animals by eating less meat and more vegetables. Furthermore, it is also healthier!
  • Invest in healthy food; it is costly, but isn’t it worth it to spend a few extra bucks on high-quality, organic food? If you don’t have the financial means to fully overhaul your grocery list, consider substituting a few items at a time.

Below you can get some first impressions of the monthly farmer’s market in Berchtesgaden:


Intensive vs. Organic Agriculture in the Alps in Slovenia

We are Ažbe, Nina, Nastja and Hana. In this research paper, we explored the differences between intensive and organic farming or why is organic farming desirable/necessary in the Alpine world?

Why is organic farming desirable/necessary in the Alpine world?

The Alpine world is going to be heavily affected by climate change in the future. Intensive agriculture makes a strong contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and thus contributes to the greenhouse effect. In the fight against climate change in agriculture, we need to pay attention to sustainable soil management, fertilization, the use of PPPs, and the amount of carbon in the soil. The common strategy is organic farming.

  • The Alps can not compete with flat areas in terms of production intensity, so they focus on the quality of the products, which has an immense impact on sustainable tourism
  • Organic farming helps maintain species diversity and protects the soil from erosion
  • Climate change will affect water availability.

Agriculture will thus need to be adjusted to the drinking water needs and the quantity of water that water bodies (lakes, rivers) need in different seasons. Alternative solutions are going to be the construction of water reservoirs, the use of drip irrigation, the increase of organic matter in the soil, and the use of drought-resistant plants.

  • Plants should be grown for human- and not for animal consumption (so we should also eat less meat). This would also reduce emissions of methane, one of the greenhouse gases. We could switch to extensive livestock farming, which could be based on local fodder production without additional feed and synthetic mineral fertilizers.
Benefits of organically grown Food
  • quality food with high nutritional value, high content of minerals (micronutrients – Mg, K, Na, Fe, Mn, Cu), vitamins (B1, C), and secondary metabolites (polyphenols – antioxidants). It also contains lower content of additives, which increases the duration, increases the attractiveness, or intensifies the taste of the product and pesticide residues,
  • the products grow slowly without excessive concentration of nitrogen and therefore contain fewer nitrates and nitrites,
  • better taste because the crops have more time to develop and ripen.
Fertilizers used in Intensive and Organic Farming

We are Meta and Laura, students of vocational high school. This school year, we researched the difference between fertilizers used in intensive and organic farming. We are interested in this topic as one of us lives on a farm. The fertilizer provides nutrients for the growth and development of the plant. The nutrients that a plant needs are divided into macronutrients and micronutrients. Plants need macronutrients in larger quantities – N, P and K, and micronutrients in smaller quantities (µg)- Fe, Zn, Cu, Co, Mn … Growth, and development of the plant are limited if there is not enough nutrient in the soil (Liebig’s law of minimum). Fertilizers can be mineral (natural and synthetic origin) or organic (solid manure, slurry, liquid manure, compost). Organic fertilizers also include green manuring, meaning that remains of
plants growing in the field are buried and in this way, part of the soil’s nutrients are restored – legumes, cereal straw, potato cumin…

Our Experiment

In our research, we tried to find differences in lettuce growth – the development of the root system (weight and density), the amount of crop, as well as its color and potential disadvantages. We grew lettuce on both conventional (Profi Humko ZEOHUM) and organic substrate (Humko Premium). We used 4 different fertilizers in our experiment:

  • Plantella VITA – a multivitamin fertilizer that creates ideal conditions for root growth
    and is made from algae
  • Plantella Calcium – prevents and cures physiological diseases caused by lack of nutrients
  • Protifert LMW – biostimulant, made from natural, organic ingredients, used to regulate and improve plant nutrition, works as stress protector when it comes to too high or too low temperatures or when there is excess or lack of water.
  • Protifert Calcium – a special foliar fertilizer with calcium and amino acids.
Planting

First we planted lettuce – on an organic and conventional substrate. We planted 15 lettuce heads on each side. On the organic substrate, we fertilized the plants with Plantella VITA and Plantella Calcium, and on a conventional substrate with Protifert LMV and Protifert Calcium. We had a control group on both sides. We watered and fertilized the plants twice a week.

Growing

Lettuce heads grown on conventional substrate
turned out to be mostly heavier than the ones on
an organic substrate. Organic samples were too
small to sell. Lettuce heads also differed in color –
the organic pattern was light green and the
conventional one was dark green.

Results of the Experiment

The quality of lettuce heads differed from one to another. Organic samples had a larger and more branched root system, which would probably be an advantage in dry (stressful) conditions.

The experiment was designed in too small a sample to be considered credible. But it does strike up a conversation on:

  • More lettuce was produced on a conventional substrate
  • Stronger roots would provide an advantage in stressful conditions in the future (climate change).