Under the organic system, the focus is on maintaining and improving the overall health of the individual farm's soil-microbe-plant-animal system (a holistic approach), which affects present and future yields. The emphasis in organic agriculture is on using inputs (including knowledge) in a way which encourages the biological processes of available nutrients and defence against pests, i.e., the resource "nature" is manipulated to encourage processes which help to raise and maintain farm productivity. The soil is a central part of that system.
Organic agriculture is best known as a method of agriculture where no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are used.
The significance of the methods promoted by organic farming enthusiasts is in how agriculture needs to consider long-range effects of farming rather than immediate returns for a healthy, sustaining economy.
At Auroville, near Pondicherri, India, land restoration work (such as bunding, hedge plantations and water development) preceded agricultural use. Leguminous hedges were cultivated in and around agricultural lands as wind-breaks and soil builders, and for use in making compost. The agricultural practices and experiments in agriculture in Auroville are regarded as a synthesis of many different natural methods such as "French-intensive", with raised beds and dense spacing to eliminate weeds and conserve water, biodynamic, permaculture [etc]. Land use patterns to to be intensive and polycultural, incorporating windbreaks and hedges, fruit trees and annual or seasonal crops. Intercropping of leguminous and other plants (such as grains) and fodder trees is also practised. Fruitgrowing often tends towards a fusion of agriculture and forestry. Orchard plantations of mango, jackfruit and cashew are common as are a large variety of other tropical fruit trees such as guava, chikoo and coconut.
Rwandan farmers, faced with a perpetual land shortage, have evolved certain intensive systems of organic agriculture. These systems, particularly the homestead (compound) farming, involve the combination of food, fodder and tree crops. To a certain extent these systems can satisfy the multiple needs of the subsistence farmers living under several risks and constraints. However, they cannot cope with the expanding food demand of the rapidly increasing population. Some multipurpose, low-input technologies and agroforestry approaches have been designed to improve the productivity of these traditional systems; these include inter/mixed cropping systems and rotations, alley cropping with leguminous trees and shrubs, use of planted 'fallow,' planting tree legumes on anti-erosive lines, mixed farming, community forestry and woodlots, and tree planting on farm field boundaries.
Farming practices in California are changing. In 1984, only 4,000 acres were entirely organic, with no pesticides at all. That number was up to 70,000 by 1990, and many more are under integrated pest management.
In 1998 the amount of organically farmed land in the United Kingdom increased five-fold. The UK government's 1999 36m pounds coversion scheme to help farmers convert to organic methods ran out after four months. The Soil Association, which represents organic growers and food processors, said it would be a pity to lose out to imports when so much could be grown in the UK.
1. For many small farmers, natural farming is more practical. It gives the farmer greater autonomy and control. Organic farming allows small farmers to operate on a low budget, usually without external financing, and low energy input. Integrative use of trees and animals without use of fertilisers and pesticides helps replenish the soil and in raise healthier crops and animals. Components include: 'natural methods of crop rotation', inter-cropping, and manuring. For some poor soils, addition of supplementary trace elements can boost the potential of organic methods.