Disease Management in Organic Farming – 3 Powerful Solutions

Disease management in organic farming

If we closely look at the history of organic farming, one thing is clear: Its influence.

Organic farming has a greater power to reduce carbon footprint through its various best practices that are not only environment friendly but safe for humans and animals too.

But no matter what type of farming you do, it is nearly impossible to prevent the predominant ailments that damages (and sometimes) destroys the crops as well.

Organic farming is no exception.

A few of the most common diseases in organic farming are:

  • Bacteria.
  • Fungi.
  • Viruses.
  • Nematodes.

In today’s guide, you will exactly learn how to protect your farm from these pests and diseases the right way.

But before that, let’s quickly look at how your crops are infected.


How are crops infected?

Each of the diseases causes different types of spoilage either to the specific plant, the leaf of the plant, the roots of the crop, or every crop of the same species present in the farm.

But what’s more important is – solving this concern through an easy yet effective process of disease management in organic farming.

Allow me to share the three finest methods that you will ever need to chase away deadly pests and diseases from your farm.

Let’s begin.

A word of caution: Don’t scratch your head when I use OF instead of organic farming. You may often see OF being called organic farming in this article.

3 Methods for Pest and Disease Management in Organic Farming

1. Avoidance Techniques

This is the most commonly used technique when it comes to avoiding diseases that infect plants at the first chance.

Here, the main objective is to use methods such as crop rotation, weed management, and many more to minimize or completely eradicate the impact of disease from spreading.

Here are six useful avoidance techniques and their uses:

Crop rotation

Crop rotation in organic farming

Crop Rotation is a systematic process of growing and raising various crops in the same land keeping in mind the growing sequence of the season suitable for the crop.

The main benefit of crop rotation is that it reduces the dependence on one crop to gain nutrients, builds resistance against the disease, and spreads the nutrients of each crop on different parts of the land, where required.

As more crops are grown in the same area, each of them contributes to soil health and builds a great natural shield to fight against pests and disease.

Note: However, you might want to plan much before implementing crop rotation on your land.

Why?

Studies show that if done incorrectly. Crop Rotation can result in more harm than good (Source).

The best thing is to call an agriculturist expert to examine your land and guide you accordingly.

Back to the point, crop rotation will improve the soil fertility and assist in increasing the soil nutrients which will, in turn, benefit them from pathogens.

Crop rotation is also given the credit to remove the unwanted weeds in larger quantities.

It is considered the most effective way for integrated disease management in organic agriculture without sacrificing soil fertility.

Crop residue management

Before understanding crop residue management, you need to know what crop residue really is.

So, when a ripe crop is harvested, there remains some crop leftover which is usually burnt out through fire or given as food to the cattle. Those leftover crops are called usually referred to as crop residues.

There are cases where the fire leads to fire on other nearby farms, which is fatal.

Even worse, fire leads to the sheer degradation of soil quality by destroying the good bacteria and let the bad bacteria dominating the land.

It also decreases the number of important gases such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur in the soil.

To avoid all these negatives, we have crop residue management to the rescue.

In simple terms, crop residue management means using at least 60% of the land for planting or growing crops.

And by doing that, one can reduce the salinity of land as growing crops will lead to an increase in good gases in the soil.

Crop residue management helps control diseases in organic farming by making the soil more fertile and less prone to heavy winds.

Seed quality

Seed quality

Many diseases are seed-borne.

Therefore, the type of seeds to choose to use on your land matters a lot.

The basic prerequisite to avoiding diseases is to use high-quality seeds that are free form diseases such as:

  • Smut
  • Ergot bodies
  • And other fungi.

Therefore, buying seeds from a trusted buyer and examining the quality properly before making a purchase helps.

Choosing suitable seeds will reduce the disease infection to almost 50% straightaway.

Note: This is the beauty of organic farming. If we talk about organic vs conventional farming, the former thrives in terms of seed quality. There is perhaps a sense of guarantee attached to it.

Weed management

Just like human begins, not all weeds are unsolicited or corrupt.

Some are useful.

In fact, some weeds provide food and shelter to beneficial insects and prevent predators from finding a crop (Source).

The total field doesn’t need to be weed-free. Sometimes, it’s just a boon for your farm.

However, you should know which weeds are helpful and which one are the root cause of damage.

Remove the unwanted.

Forecasting

Forecasting is also a great and inexpensive way of insect, pest, and disease management in organic farming.

Forecasting is not sophisticated at all.

All you need to do is to follow the pattern of the disease and its impact on a certain plan as per the season change.

It is similar to record-keeping which I will discuss next but the only difference lies in the data storage.

In forecasting, you try to learn about the infestations while in record-keeping, you do the exact opposite thing.

Record keeping

Record keeping is an avoidance technique in which you can keep a complete history of any disease and how it reaches your crops from its origin.

It is a profound way to keep track of the health of your plant and if you are record-keeping, you will certainly be the first person to know – when the disease outbreaks – so you can prevent it as soon as possible.

No matter what type of business you do, record keeping will help you find out the plateaus as well as the upcoming opportunities.

It helps keep track of your progress, eliminate Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and keep up the motivation (Source).

While applying record-keeping to your organic farm, you should all the good and the bad stuff that happened in the past.

It can include:

  • The easily controllable diseases.
  • The management methods that worked/didn’t work.
  • Best practices that led to this success.
  • Etc.

It’s all about taking the right decisions at the right time and then repeating what has worked for you.

With this, you have learned the avoidance technique to reduce or completely chop off the disease in your field.

Let’s move on to the next metric that I think is very critical in determining your OF success.

2. Managing Growth Environment

In this method, the whole focus is shifted from the pests to what you can primarily control and improve: THE SOIL.

Here, efficient steps can be taken to improve and enhance your soil quality so that it will automatically prevent pathogens and other diseases to take control.

Healthy soil

Healthy organic soil

Healthy soil is the basic criterion to qualify for the harvesting of healthy crops.

Soil health matters as it is the only source that determines whether the crops you grow will be healthy (in terms of quality) and profitable to sell or not (Source).

Adding compost, vermicomposting, green manures, etc to the organic farm increase the resistance capacity of the soil.

Active soil also includes gases that result in improving the soil strength.

Maintaining favorable soil conditions will repeatedly allow good bacteria to stay and bad ones to get eliminated.

Note: It is easy to maintain healthy soil for a long period in organic farming as it fuels the soil only with organic pesticides. Check out the ultimate guide to the environmental benefits of organic farming.  

Crop and variety selection

Just like seed quality, it is necessary to select a suitable crop variety for maximum output.

The time of seeding or the season has more influence in preventing diseases.

You should be aware of all the diseases present on your farm and choose the crop variety thereafter.

Seeding depth should also be appropriate and as per the fertility and capacity of the soil.

Intercropping

Intercropping

Don’t confuse intercropping with crop rotation.

While it may look like crop rotation in some aspects, both are very different and at great length.

Crop rotation focuses on growing different crops in the same field one after the other (time differs).

Intercropping means growing one or more crops in the same field at the same time. Intercropping makes it difficult for the pests to find the weak crops and attack them.

Besides all this, it provides a habitat for constructive organisms.

If you are still facing issues differentiating crop rotation with intercropping, this article by Agro Crops will be very useful.

Roguing

Roguing is a simple method of removing plants or seeding of low-grade quality with hand-picking.

It involves manual laborers and a little bit of guidance to avoid plucking the wrong plants.

In Roguing, the infested plants are removed from the crop at the early stage of pest and disease occurrence.

This is a great way to stop the reproduction of those diseases and thereby, reducing the risk of spreading the diseases among other vigorous crops.

This concludes our second method of pests management.

3. Direct Treatment

When nothing else works, direct treating is the ultimate solution.

Direct treatment is the most time-consuming and yet the most successful method in removing every disease from its roots.

Direct treatment can be expensive but it should be your last option if none of the above tactics works.

It is further categorized into three methods:

Monitoring

Farm monitoring

Insect monitoring traps are very useful in uncovering their location.

Afterward, you can expose their damaging levels and directly eliminate that specific crops.

While monitoring, you can also use Pheromones to attract those diseases into a trap and change their behaviors.

According to Medicalnewstoday, it is believed that a pheromone has the ability to change the behavior of insects of the same species.

Biological control

In a healthy land full of fertile soil, biological control by natural predators is a natural way to get rid of unwanted pests and diseases.

It can include anything from parasitoids to pathogens to some forms of fungi.

Natural predators are essential to keep the field in order and decorum.

Some predators directly destroy the pests by intaking them as the source of nutrients or reducing their ability to reproduce.

Natural predators are one of the main reasons behind sustaining a lively farming ecosystem.

Sometimes, there are places in the fields where these natural predators do not occur.

In this case, they can easily be imported.

Natural insecticides

Organic pesticides

Last but not least, naturally prepared pesticides do a great job in defeating pests and diseases present in an organic farm.

As you may know that organic farming does not allow the use of any synthetic pesticides, organic farmers, therefore, have to rely on preparing their own eco-friendly pesticides.

There are various types of natural pesticides and each has different ingredients and way of making.

However, some of the most common and permitted elements in each of them are:

  • Copper
  • Lime Sulphur
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon
  • Cow Dung
  • Etc.

Along with this, countless plants are used in preparing herbal pesticides.

Here are some of them:

  • Adathoda Vasica (Malabar Nut)
  • Andrographis Paniculata (Creat)
  • Artemesia Vulgaris (Mugwort)
  • Azadirachta Indica (Neem)
  • Crysanthemum Cinerrifolia (Pyrethrum)
  • And many more.

While preparing any herbal pesticide, the best practice is to follow the steps given in any article or a YouTube video.

You made it to the end. Great work.

These were some of the best methods and techniques for pests and disease management in organic farming.

Hopefully, you learned something new from this article.

If yes, then my mission in guiding you is accomplished.

Organic farming is a broad topic and all the methods that I mentioned in the article are not an end.

There is much more to it.

Soil solarisation, for example, is also one of the techniques in controlling pests.

Similarly, there may be many others. However, the topics that are included in this article tend to be the most effective for solving the problem.

And you do not need to learn and implement each method. Stick to the one that works for your farm.

As simple as that.

Now, I would like to turn the tables towards you.

Which method out of 3 are you currently implementing or will implement on your farm?

Is it the avoidance technique?

Is it managing a growth environment?

Or is it the direct treatment?

Either way. Let me know by leaving your thoughts in the comments below right now.

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