Friday, January 25, 2008
organic vs non organic
When I started out on this venture, my aim was only to produce organic food. As time went by I learnt a few lessons and I am still learning and trying to improve my agricultural methods to maximise income whilst at the same time providing food that is as safe as is practical and by using the minimum amount of harmful chemical pesticides and weedicides as possible under the given circumstances for each crop. I am in the process of growing a multitude of crops and for one without the benefits of greenhouses, I am trying to do the impossible, and running into all manner of crop loss and low yield.
I note some of my experiences
a) my cost of production of organic foods, exceed the revenue I can currently generate. I have to improve on some of my techniques to reduce the levels of pests and control weeds and test organic means of controlling plant diseases.
b) the surest route to growing vegetables organically is under green house conditions, as you can control the pests, control the growing environment and therefore the susceptibility to diseases, control water and maximise yields.
c) it is much easier to grow organic spices, due to the nature of the plant and areas where it is grown. This also holds true for some fruit, like mango,orange, lime, wood apple, belli, banana, but for papaya and pineapple it is very difficult.
d) the environment in which it is grown is important, as the use of pesticides near you will attract the pests to you, if yours is organic. The massive destruction caused by birds, monkeys, elephants, mice, and sometimes elephants, applies to all growth outside of green houses.
e) Organic coconuts, will affect the yield significantly, and nutrients of fertilizers in plantation crops are a vital source of increasing yields, which is not possible with organic fertilizer. There are a few niche businesses that sell organic coconut milk and virgin coconut oil which can command a significant premium in price, but this is not possible for coconuts that are already expensive.
f) as the labor effort to grow is the same, using chemical fertilizers can increase yields substantially, more than twice as much, and this difference is not compensated at the moment by much higher prices of organic produce.
g) the significant increase in price of chemical fertilizers and pesticides will result in a reduction in their use and alternative methods adopted. This is good and environmentally beneficial, but not simply by going totally organic, more like use what is essential wisely and when necessary.
h) I am trying therefore to be product specific as far as organic is concerned, and try to grow leaves, like gotukola organically for people to make kola kanda devoid of any chemical additives, be it fertilizer or pesticides.
i) rice varieties have been developed to increase yield and feed the population. If one is to grow organic one has to grow some of the hard to find ancient and traditional varieties, which have a very special market at an extremely high price, as yields are substantially below those of new strains developed by the various countries to ensure self sufficiency in food.
j) in my experience, because I don't grow under greenhouse conditions, my vegetables are invariably attacked by all kinds of pests, and organic means of combating them are not effective and customers do not like vegetables that have obvious signs of pest attack, which I constantly have to remind customers means they are not sprayed! This means that many vegetables are not marketable, and therefore wastage is very high.
k) I believe people should attempt to grow some vegetables in their kitchen gardens in order to appreciate some of the realities of not having pesticides, then a greater appreciation, and hence higher price can be obtained with the visible marks left by numerous pest attacks.