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Organic Crop Production

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Organic Crop Production

  • A holistic production management system aimed to promote and enhance the health of soils, ecosystems and people.
  • It gives emphasis to the utilization of locally adapted management practices and farm inputs.

Aims of Organic Crop Production

  • Enhancing biological diversity
  • Increasing soil biological activity
  • Maintaining long-term fertility
  • Management of pests
  • Recycling of plant wastes
  • Minimizing all forms of pollution from agricultural practices

Strategies for Crop Production

  • Organic Soil Management. Soil management shall encourage nutrient cycling while mitigating soil and nutrient losses. The fertility and biological activity of the soil should be maintained or increased through the following:

o   Cultivation of legumes or green manures in appropriate crop rotation program

o   Recycling of nutrients through composting

o   Incorporation of organic materials

o   Protection of soil from erosion

  • Promotion of genetic diversity and ensuring that the seeds used are not contaminated.

How Do We Choose the Crops to Plant?

  • For a beginner, it’s good to start with vegetables that you like to eat and at the same time are easy to grow.
  • Nothing is more rewarding than eating the production of your own sweat.
  • And more specifically so, having the peace of mind that you and your family are eating safe food.

Families of Vegetables

  • Leafy Vegetables. These are crops mainly used for their leaves whether eaten raw or cooked. It is usually grown for salad and it requires full sunlight. It can also be grown in container/pots and it has shallow roots. It has minimal pests and no need for trellis. It is ideal for backyard gardening. Here are some examples of leafy vegetables:

o   Lettuce

o   Kale

o   Mustard

o   Spinach

o   Arugula

o   Pechay

  • Cucurbits. The cucumber and squash family belongs to this family. They are vine crops and it requires trellis. It grows from 30 to 90 days and has it has deep roots. It requires full sunlight and can be grown in bigger containers. Here are some examples of cucurbits:

o   Cucumbers

o   Squash

o   Watermelon

o   Melons

o   Gourds

  • Solanaceous. It includes many common garden vegetables although the part of the plant usually eaten is the fruit (the potato is an exception – here the underground tuber is eaten.) It is better grown in summer or hotter regions. It has deep roots but can be grown in bigger pots. It requires trellis. Here are some example of solanaceous:

o   Tomato

o   Pepper

o   Eggplant

o   Potato

  • Root Crops. These are crops that produce edible and enlarge roots or stem. It has deep roots and requires sandy-loam soil. Minimum of 12 inch-deep plots but can be grown in bigger pots. Full sunlight is required and it is direct seeding. Here are some example of root crops:

o   Carrot

o   Radish

o   Turnip

o   Beet

o   Sweet Potato

  • Legumes. These are the bean and pea family. These crops require trellis and very minimal organic input is required. It can be intercropped with other smaller plants. It is green manure.
  • Crucifers. These are vegetables belonging to the brassica family such as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli.
  • Herbs. These are plants with savory or aromatic properties that are used for flavoring food, in medicine, or as fragrances. It can be planted in pots and can tolerate partly shaded areas. Here are some of the herbs:

o   Parsley

o   Basil

o   Rosemary

o   Mint

o   Thyme

o   Tarragon

o   Chives

Crop Production Processes

Seedling

Characteristics of a good seedling medium

  • Porous enough to provide good air circulation and root development
  • Rich in plant nutrients
  • Pathogen-free
  • Has good water holding capacity
  • Have a lot of microbial activity to keep plants healthy, robust and higher resistance from pests and diseases.

Seedling medium

  • Composed of vermicast/vermicompost and carbonized rice hull mix thoroughly.
  • Ratio is 1:1

Seed Sowing

  • Sowing seeds in seedling trays or seedling cups is recommended to protect seeds from predators like ants or birds.
  • Seedlings in trays and cups are also protected from stress during transplanting.

Seed Sowing Procedures

  • Fill the tray with seedling medium
  • Punch holes using an empty tray
  • Sow seeds, one per hole
  • Cover the holes by leveling the medium
  • Water the seeds with diluted EMAS
  • Apply markings

Land Preparation

A set of procedures done to make the soil conducive for planting.

  • Weeding and debris clearing
  • Cultivating
  • Pulverizing
  • Plot forming
  • Organic matter application
  • Mulching

Plot Dimension

  • Width: 1 meter
  • Length: 10 meters
  • Distance between plots: 30 cm

Organic Matter Application

Surface Application. Apply organic matter at a rate of 100 grams per square meter.

Beneath the soil application. Make a canal at the middle of the plot and fill with organic matter. Make sure organic matter are scattered evenly. Sprinkle EMAS and cover with soil.

Mulching. The process of covering the topsoil with plant material such as leaves, grass, twigs, crop residues or straw. Mulching helps create a soil structure with plenty of smaller and larger pores through which rainwater can easily infiltrate into the soil, thus reducing surface runoff. As the mulch material decomposes, it increases the content of organic matter in the soil. Soil organic matter helps create a good soil with stable crumb structure.

Application of mulch.

  • If the layer of mulch is not too thick, seeds or seedlings can be directly sown or planted in between the mulching material.
  • On vegetable plots, it is best to apply mulch only after the young plants have become somewhat hardier, as they may be harmed by the products of decomposition from fresh mulch material.
  • If mulch is applied prior to sowing or planting, the mulch layer should not be too thick in order to allow seedlings to penetrate it and wait for two (2) weeks before transplanting.
  • Mulch can also be applied in established crops, best directly after digging the soil. It can be applied between the rows, directly around single plants or evenly spread on the field.
  • The process of planting the seedlings from the nursery to the field.
  • Rule of Thumb: Seedlings should have 2-3 true leaves before transplanting
  • Drench with EMAS after transplanting watering only the root system.

Maintenance

  • Spray a cocktail of concoctions twice a week
  • Side dress bokashi once every two weeks after transplanting at a rate of 100 grams per square meter.
  • Maintain safe distance of 5-6 inches between bokashi and the stem of plants.

Pest Management

Organic pest management involves the adaptation of scientifically based and ecologically sound strategies that follow the standards set for organic agriculture.

Build Soil Health

  • Good plant nutrition is the key to prevention of plant diseases
  • Improving soil health enables plants to grow well and develop tolerance or resistance to pests and pathogens.

Agro biodiversity

  • Crop Rotation. This involves planting different crop type in sequence on the same piece of land. The system breaks the life cycle of pests.
  • Mixed Cropping. This involves planting several different crop types in one unit area. The idea is one crop can help other crop repel their own pests.
  • Trap cropping. Takes advantage of the fact that certain plants are more preferred by other pests over another.

Sanitation

  • Refers to removal of breeding sites, food sources and alternate host plants where pests can thrive.
  • Remove damaged fruits, shoots and leaves immediately and make sure not to throw damaged plant parts within the farm so as not to infect other plants.
  • It also includes handpicking the insect pests, larva and egg mass usually found in the underside of the leaves.

Physical Barriers

  • Net bagging
  • Net tunnel

Other Methods

  • Yellow sticky traps
  • Mulching

From: ATIng Gulayan Seminar, Agricultural Training Institute, Philippines

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