Is organic farming the answer to climate change?

Organic farming, as an adaptation strategy to climate change is a concrete and sustainable option and has additional potential as a mitigation strategy. The careful management of nutrients and carbon sequestration in soils are significant contributors in adaptation and mitigation to climate change.

Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions. This is accomplished by using, where possible, cultural, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials. An organic production system is designed to a) enhance biological diversity within the whole system; b) increase soil biological activity; c) maintain long-term soil fertility; d) recycle wastes of plant and animal origin in order to return nutrients to the land, thus minimizing the use of nonrenewable resources; e) rely on renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems; f) promote the healthy use of soil, water, and air, as well as minimize all forms of pollution thereto that may result from agricultural practices;

Organic farming increases resilience to respond to the risk of climate variability. Where a region relies predominantly on rain fed agriculture, organic farming can respond well to droughts. In India, 60% of agriculture depends on rains. They are prone to drought.Climate change may make drought conditions even more common in the future thereby increasing food insecurity and migration rates.

From field trials conducted in arid, semi-arid, sub-humid and humid regions of India, it was found that organic farming techniques can improve soil carbon levels by five per cent to 25 per cent and increase the water holding capacity of soils between two per cent to 17 per cent. Organic agriculture provides environmental benefits through the sequestration of atmospheric carbon in soil organic matter.

Soils with higher concentration of carbon content are better able to absorb and retain water because the organic matter acts like `sponge` absorbing excess water and retaining it in the soil. More moisture in the soil is particularly valuable for farmers in drought prone, dry regions.

Organic farming systems also increase biodiversity by cultivating different genetically diverse crop varieties.

Together with using adaptation strategies such as water efficient irrigation techniques and drought tolerant seed varieties, organic farming can help farmers cope with the impacts of the changing climate.

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