System of crop cultivation that uses biological methods of fertilization and pest control as substitutes for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which are regarded by supporters of organic methods as harmful to health and the environment and unnecessary for successful cultivation. It was initiated as a conscious rejection of modern agri-chemical techniques in the 1930s by the British agronomist Sir Albert Howard. Miscellaneous organic materials, including animal manure, compost, grass turf, straw, and other crop residues, are applied to fields to improve both soil structure and moisture-holding capacity and to nourish soil life, which in turn nourishes plants. (Chemical fertilizers, by contrast, feed plants directly.) Biological pest control is achieved through preventive methods, including diversified farming, crop rotation, the planting of pest-deterrent species, and the use of integrated pest management techniques. Bioengineered strains are avoided. Since organic farming is time-consuming, organically grown produce tends to be expensive. Organic produce formerly accounted for a minuscule portion of total American farm output, but it has seen a huge proportional increase in sales in recent years.
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