Why we have to change to Natural Organic farming
1. New series on changing from conventional to natural organic
To understand the motivation for change, one has to begin at the beginning.
Soil that is overworked with no or very low humus contents and which is close to be unproductive will have these warning signs:
· Soil that only produce with high input cost and which need chemicals, both fertilisers and pesticides to produce.
· Soil with poor water retention due to poor absorption rate or soil which get waterlogged.
· Fields or parts of fields where crops get more prone to stress
· All type of fungal and insect infestation.
· Soil getting difficult to work due to poor soil structure.
· Weeds that become more difficult to control
· Food crops with low nutritional value
If one experience some or most of these conditions on the farm then one should change before you are forced to change. If one starts timely one can convert slowly without having to go to extreme measures to restore the soil.
Most soils in South Africa are shallow. I know there are places where the “soils” are deep, but this is not the norm. Deep soils are sometimes worse as in wet years they get waterlogged due to a clay substrata. Soil with a non-clay sub strata stay healthy longer.
The “living” layer of soil can be 5 to 15 cm deep and is the top layer near the surface. Most of the grain producing areas in South Africa is 5 cm and some places even less. People may differ and reason that they plough 30 to 40 cm deep and it is all the same texture. Yes that is correct but does it contain “life”. The only test for the depth of the living soil is to dig a profile hole in virgin veldt that has never been ploughed. At grass root level a layer of darker soil near the surface and that contain life.
Trails have proved that if veldt like this is ploughed once and left fallow afterwards, it would take up to 25 years to restore it. After 30 to 50 years of ploughing, it is dead.
With continuous ploughing and loosening of the soil, the humus, which is poor even in virgin soil, is depleted. As the humus disappear the water retention and absorption capacity disappear. The soil then turn rock hard and has to be broken up by ripping. This operation adds to costs and do not lessen the problem. Add all the chemicals and herbicides to it and we are where we are.
The new trend is no-till or minimum till which help and is the right way to go but here we run into next problem. One has to use glyphosate (Round-Up) for weed control together with GM seed and then we have the next problem.