Crop nutrition

organic farmingTo produce a healthy crop an organic farmer needs to manage the soil well.

This involves considering soil life, soil nutrients and soil structure.


Artificial fertilisers provide only short term nutrient supply to crops. They

encourage plants to grow quickly but with soft growth which is less able to

withstand drought, pests and disease. Artificial fertilisers do not feed soil life

and do not add organic matter to the soil. This means that they do not help to

build good soil structure, improve the soils water holding capacity or drainage.


The soil is a living system. As well as the particles that make up the soil, it

contains millions of different creatures. These creatures are very important for

recycling nutrients.


Feeding the soil with manure or compost feeds the whole variety of life in the

soil which then turns this material into food for plant growth. This also adds

nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Green manures also provide nutrients

and organic matter. These are plants with high nitrogen content that are sown

as part of a rotation and are dug into the soil when young.


It is important to remember, however, that using too much animal manure or

nutrient rich organic matter, or using it at the wrong time, could be as harmful

as using man-made, artificial fertilisers.


The organic farmer must cultivate the soil at the right time and in the right ways

to provide the best living conditions for the soil life and plant roots.


Choice of crops

Each crop and crop variety has its own specific needs. In some places it will

grow well and others it will not. Crops are affected by;

  • soil type
  • rainfall
  • altitude
  • temperature
  • the type and amount of nutrients required
  • the amount of water needed


These factors affect how a crop grows and yields. If a crop is grown in a

climate to which it is not suited, it is likely to produce low yields and be more

susceptible to pest and diseases. This then creates the need to use agrochemicals

to fertilise the crop and control pest and diseases.


The successful organic farmer learns to grow the crops and varieties which are

suited to the local conditions. He should grow crops which are suited to his

geography and climate. He should choose varieties which are suited to the local

conditions such as local varieties.