Organic agriculture (OA) refers to the agricultural practices that rely on ecosystem management rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. OA sustains the health of soils, ecosystem and people. It prohibits synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and growth hormones. The principal methods of organic farming include crop rotation, green manure and compost, mechanical cultivation and biological pest control. It is based on four principles; principle of ecology, care, health and fairness. It protects the environment, minimize soil degradation and erosion, decrease pollution, optimize biological productivity and promote a sound state of health. It maintains biological diversity within the system and relies on renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems.
Since OA prohibits synthetic chemicals for the pest control, farmers are faced with production challenges due to pests which include insects, diseases and weeds. OA integrates cultural, biological, mechanical practices for the pest management.
Its primary objective is the prevention of pest damage and not the destruction of an existing and damaging pest population.
- Good soil preparation leads to healthy plants which are relatively more resistant to pests.
- Use of indigenous varieties which are hardier and relatively more resistant to pests.
- Removal of diseased plants or plant parts prevents the spread of microorganisms to uninfected areas.
- Intercropping with several aromatic herbs such as onion, garlic, mint, sacred basil, Tagetus repel the insects from the crops.
- Multiple cropping provides genetic diversity to minimize pest increase.
- Adjusting time of sowing and planting to allow young plants to establish to a tolerant stage before an attack occurs and to reduce the susceptible period of attack.
- Water management and use of well decomposed compost.
- Various pheromone traps (hemilure, spodolure) can also be used, commonly used in cucurbits.
Naturally, the insect predators control the pests and keep the population of harmful insects in control. Biological practices involve encouraging the predators by creating them suitable habitat. Flowering shrubs and trees throughout the garden attracts the beneficial insects. Plants belonging to Umbelliferae family (cumin, coriander, celery, parsnip etc.) are particularly effective in attracting natural enemies of pests.
Farmers also try bio control agents like Trichoderma spp (against fungus), Beuveria (against insect), Metarhizium anisopliae (against insect: borers, root grubs, leaf hoppers, cutworms, termites, palm weevils, spittlebugs, grubs, beetles; root weevils, flies, gnats and thrips).
- Handpicking insects and hand-pulling weeds are the simplest way and applicable where pests are visible and easily accessible.
- It also includes mowing, hoeing, soil solarization, tilling or cultivation, washing and different traps and covers that reduces pest incidence.
The natural pesticides are effective to get rid the crops from harmful pests and safe enough to keep from poisoning health.
- Oil spray insecticide:
One cup of vegetable oil + one tablespoon of soap + one liter of water. Shake thoroughly and spray. The oil coats the bodies of the insects, effectively suffocating them, as it blocks the pores through which they breathe.
- Neem oil insecticide:
Mix two teaspoons neem oil + one teaspoon of liquid soap with one liter of water and shake thoroughly and spray on plants. It keeps the bugs away from your plants.
- Onion and garlic spray:
Paste of one bulb of garlic + one small onion + some amt. of water + let it stay for a while + one teaspoon of pepper powder + one tablespoon of liquid soap and mix well. Use it on your plants to ensure that no bug infests your produce.
Acorus and Neem are used to control grain weevils, dry wood ash is used in the early morning against aphids and cow urine is used to control most of the insects.
“With wrong farming methods, we turn fertile land into desert. Unless we go back to organic farming and save the soil, there is no future.”
— Jaggi Vasudev.