These are but some of the issues faced by growers that, for many, make organic practices just too darned difficult to stick with for many.
I’d love to agree with you BUT… responded a reader to last week’s article “Going organic makes for sustainable farming

He lives in a rural area and sees cabbage growers spraying their cropping area with pre-emergent weed sprays and then not ever having to do any weeding. That’s something organic growers cannot easily achieve.

He watches the broccoli crop next door respond to NPK fertiliser applications with growth rates three times that of his organically grown broccoli planted at the same time.

Organic growers do have organic NPK fertilisers available but for many, the cost is hard to justify when we have the basic ingredients on hand. So instead of using chemical fertilisers, we gather manure and make compost which is applied to the land manually. It takes us hours and hours instead of minutes.

And then there is the issue of weed control in non-crop growing areas. Who has the time to use even a speed hoe when glyphosate is so convenient and inexpensive?

These are but some of the issues faced by growers that, for many, make organic practices just too darned difficult to stick with for many.

no-buts-in-organicsBut the article last week was about sustainability over the four aspects of productivity, social acceptance, environmental stewardship and economic viability.

Industrial, chemical-based methods just will not work forever in any of these aspects.

It is only a matter of time before glyphosate, a product already shown to be a probable human carcinogen and a known destroyer of soil, is banned from import or manufacture in New Zealand.

This is what happened with that old-time favourite insecticide carbaryl.  It’s only five years since carbaryl was acknowledged as dangerous to human health.  Who else knows that from the end of February, carbaryl can no longer be imported to or made in this country?

The bulk application of NPK has several unsustainable aspects including the leaching to water ways of the nitrogen component not taken up by plants, and the threat that ‘peak’ phosphorous poses.

An alternative to industrial growing methods we have to find.

Whether we call it organics, permaculture, agroecological, natural farming or any yet-to-be-named approach, they are all founded on natural methods. These approaches were developed because more and more, people were dissatisfied with the quality of commercially grown food crops. Science is now confirming the basis for that dissatisfaction.

The solution is not yet clear but will involve two changes. One is the use of biological agents for pest and disease control. Second is a different economic and social paradigm that puts people and the integrity of our food supply, ahead of corporate profits.

Whatever solution develops, the BUT must be taken out of the organics debate.