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Throughout this manual we have discussed how organic farmers strive to build healthy soil in order to create the best possible environment for plant growth. A healthy soil is primarily defined by its fertility, which in turn depends largely on the interactions of its physical, chemical, and biological properties.
Cover crops are pivotal parts of every organic farmer’s management scheme. They are crucial to the main goals of building soil health and preventing soil erosion. Cover crops are also important tools for increasing fertility and controlling weeds, pathogens, and insects in organic crops. In this publication, we will discuss planting, growing, and incorporating cover crops as amendments into the soil.
Organic farmers cite weed management as their number one research priority. This publication in the Organic Production publication series describes weed control strategies for organic farms based on weed characteristics and an integrated cropping system approach. A special section on cultivation practices that limit emerged and future weeds is based on research by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.
This publication describes the composting process, how to make compost that meets National Organic Program standards, and how to apply and utilize compost.
In our drive to meet the food and fiber needs of ever-increasing populations, we are taxing the resilience of the planet’s natural resources. This fevered quest to pursue ever-increasing crop yields has had devastating impacts: widespread soil erosion, atmospheric pollution, over- grazed forage areas, over-cultivated fields, salinated water supplies, cleared land that is unsuitable for crops, and desertification —the loss of agricultural land to desert. The serious degradation of our soil resources has motivated some researchers and farmers to investigate management systems that are less input-intensive and generally more sustainable.
This online publication describes how cover crops affect the soil, how to establish cover crops, and how to manage their residue. It includes a review of the winter and summer cover crops recommended for North Carolina. The authors also discuss the economics of planting cover crops and some concerns to consider when planting cover crops.
Insect management presents a challenge to organic farmers. Insects are highly mobile and well adapted to farm production systems and pest control tactics. On organic farms, where the focus is on managing insects rather than eliminating them, success depends on learning about three kinds of information: Biological, Ecological and Behavioral information.