How Do Organic Farming Practices Relate to Soil Health?

bokeh photography of person carrying soil

Buying organic is more than a health trend, it’s a way of life. People know that when they buy organic foods, they are getting products that are higher in nutrients and are not processed with chemicals and preservatives.

Farmers that grow organic are focusing on renewable resources that conserve soil and water. In addition to producing cleaner food, these practices have been known to make soil healthier. This article will review how organic farmers are improving the health of the soil they are using to grow their products.

Use Compost Instead of Synthetic Fertilizer

Organic farmers use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers which have been known to be harmful to soil. Fertilizers cause nitrogen leaching, soil degradation and soil compaction. It reduces organic matter in soil and soil carbon.

Compost, on the other hand, is made of all natural ingredients that help soil retain water and nutrients. It loosens up soil particles allowing for an increased flow of water and air so the elements can spread throughout the soil and drain easily. It also makes soil less likely to erode and it prevents it from splattering on plants, which can cause diseases to spread.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is the practice of planting different crops in a specific pattern on the same plot of land. It improves soil health by optimizing the nutrients in the soil while combating weeds and pests.

For example, a farmer who uses crop rotation methods may plant a field of beans after harvesting a corn crop. This is because corn leeches soil of nitrogen while beans return nitrogen to the soil creating a healthy balance.

Crop rotation also reduces the need for herbicides and pesticides, which contain chemicals that are harmful to soil, and the foods grown in the soil. It interrupts disease cycles and promotes biodiversity in the farm.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Countless studies have shown the benefits organic farming has on soil. One study looked at apple and peach orchards grown using organic and conventional farming practices. The organic crops produced higher concentrations of plant and soil nutrients making for healthier food and less harm to the soil and the atmosphere.

Other studies revealed that the longer land is farmed organically, the healthier it will be. The organic compost creates more topsoil protecting the layers beneath it while yielding an increased nutrient content.

A study conducted at the University of Nebraska found that organic farming produces higher levels of carbon as compared to conventional farming.

Researchers analyzed soil data from crop rotation experiments that had been conducted for over 20 years. The findings showed that organic plots contained higher levels of organic carbon as opposed to conventional plots with the most success coming from a plot fertilized with cow manure, which had a 19% higher carbon concentration than conventional plots.  

Organic farming is beneficial on so many levels. It makes for healthier food, healthier soil and a cleaner environment overall. It’s no wonder why it’s the way of the future when it comes to improved eating and growing habits around the world.