Organic farming takes a basic understanding that a productive soil system needs to be chemically and biologically balanced to maximize production potential. Feeding the soil a balanced menu of nutrients stimulates biological diversity which increases the ability for that given soil to defend itself against a number of different stresses. Increasing soil tilth, providing a home for earthworms, stress suppression and building yield are all areas of organic farming that deserve special attention.
Balancing minerals in your soil are the first issue to address when farming organic. Getting the correct base saturation will result in a Ph that is desirable to grow high yielding crops in and also provides the ideal soil structure for easy root penetration and nutrient cycling to occur. Feed the soil, and let the soil feed the plant; this is a statement we encourage organic farmers to live by. Feeding the soil results in healthy crops that can ward off pests and diseases.
Implementing methods that promote the development of earthworm habitats are critical for organic farmers. These soil living organisms improve soil structure, increase nutrient cycling and boost water-holding capacity. These three benefits that earthworms provide are often yield limiting factors that can be addressed at no cost to the farmer. Low earthworm populations are a sign for poor soil health. Increasing populations result in higher organic matter levels and more plant available nitrogen to increase crop yield.
Reduced tillage practices are an important topic when trying to manage earthworm populations. Using diverse cover crop mixes with these tillage practices provides earthworms with a full menu of nutrients that they can begin to cycle throughout the soil profile. They create channels that roots can follow to gain access to nutrients in minimal stress environments. The increase in biological activity makes for a more efficient and reliable input program.
Organic farmers have to take advantage of the Nitrogen supply they have hanging above their fields. Managing the nitrogen fixing bacteria in soil is how organic farmers are able to produce high yielding crops. Phosphorus plays a critical role in the nitrogen fixing process. It’s important because its a key nutrient in the enzyme nitrogenase formation which allows atmospheric nitrogen to be converted to a plant available form. Available phosphorus sources for organic use are rock phosphate or manure applications.