Organic farm landscape design



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Organic farm landscape design and construction

Landscaping of organic farms involves understanding and utilizing the entire system, not just the end result of planting and irrigation. Grass farming, wildlife management, topsoil and nutrient retention are some of the considerations in designing an organic farm.

A holistic approach can create the most effective design. Organic design considerations include land use planning, drainage, soil and water quality, protection of wetlands, and habitat for beneficial wildlife. Good soil conditions can help the bottom line of an organic farm. In addition, organic farming techniques are practiced to preserve soil and prevent erosion, replenish and maintain topsoil, and enhance water quality.

Design guidelines

Design guidelines are ways to improve the efficiency and profitability of organic farming.

Nutrient management and recycling in organic farming is more efficient than in conventional systems. Also, water use in a confined area is more efficient with less pollutant runoff in conventional production. The use of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides in organic farming allows for less use of synthetic fertilizers, which is effective in the water treatment process. A good example is inorganic fertilizer use where phosphorous is removed from the water during the tillage and fertilizer application process.

Nutrient cycling

The use of plant residues, animal manures, recycled manures, and slurry in organic farming allows for fertilizer and nutrient recycling. This gives a greater return on the crop in an organic farming system. Plant residues are used in direct seeded crops in the form of cover crops and green manures.The whole plant and byproducts of the crop are returned to the soil, with nutrient value.

Plant residues in green manures will release their nitrogen to the soil which is lost to the atmosphere when the crop is harvested. However, green manures will absorb nutrients from the soil as well as from other crops that were grown in the same field. Soil quality and total nitrogen levels increase as the plant residues return to the soil. The release of nutrients in these forms causes the soil to become more vulnerable to wind and water erosion, which can be controlled by implementing appropriate conservation measures. A good example of crop residues being used as a green manure is in wheat production, where a crop residue of wheat straw, known as "haylage" or "fodder can be used on another crop field as a green manure.

The direct application of crop residues in the form of a green manure has gained popularity among organic farmers. A cover crop is a crop that is sown or planted on fallow land, or land that has not been grown for several years. Its objective is to replenish nutrients in the soil, suppress weeds, and control pests, and promote the growth of legumes, beneficial insects, and birds. Cover crops also help to control erosion and provide topsoil conservation benefits.

Direct use of animal manures such as manure and urine from a barn can be applied to the land at the time of seeding. The nutrients that are lost to the atmosphere during fertilizer use are stored in the topsoil and are returned to the soil when the manure is used. Using slurry from a composting operation or recycling manures and slurries for use on crops helps conserve water, while providing more nutrients and a richer soil. Slurry and manures can be recycled back to their sources in the form of compost. This practice requires only a one-time application, and the fertilizer level is replenished every year.

The use of chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides in conventional farming is more economical than organic farming, due to the economies of scale. Farmers can mix, transport, store, apply, and harvest a single chemical in conventional farms, while organic farmers cannot. The fertilizer requirements for conventional farming can be accomplished with a single application, the fertilizer mix required to accomplish this in an organic system can require at least a two- to four-fold greater number of applications to complete the fertilizer needs of the crop. This represents greater costs to the farmer, and is unsustainable in the long term.

Another limitation to organic farming is that the farmer is not allowed to use synthetic fertilizers that contain either phosphorous or nitrogen.

Drainage

There are several practices that help control drainage in an organic system.

Improving the infiltration rate of rainfall into the ground can help reduce the frequency of runoff, and flood events that would otherwise occur in a conventional system. Drainage practices include making sure that the soil on the farm is kept porous with vegetation, and using the proper drainage materials. During heavy rainfall, a gully system is utilized to collect excess run-off, and allow it to drain. Farmers can also use trenches or runoff ponds in their fields to channel the water off the field, while allowing soil moisture to infiltrate the ground.

Nutrient losses

Nitrogen losses and other nutrient losses must be controlled in order to minimize soil degradation, and promote overall nutrient cycling.

Some of these methods are:

Minimizing the use of pesticides. Pesticides can be toxic to the environment, and can leach into the ground. Pesticides are also harmful to the health of the farmer, and the people who work in the farm, if the farmer is using them at high levels. In addition, an increase in application costs associated with using pesticides.

Using pest-repellent seed

Sowing crops out-of-season, such as planting brassicas in fall to control ground beetles, slugs, and grubs

Routing livestock out of plantings or fields

Use of crop rotation and intercropping in order to promote


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