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Organic Federation of Australia. Organic Agriculture What is it and How is it Practiced?. Andre Leu IFOAM, Vice President Organic Federation of Australia, Chairman. IFOAM is the international umbrella organization of organic agriculture movements worldwide. Mission

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organic agriculture what is it and how is it practiced

Organic Federation

of Australia

Organic AgricultureWhat is it and How is it Practiced?

Andre Leu

IFOAM, Vice President

Organic Federation of Australia, Chairman

ifoam is the international umbrella organization of organic agriculture movements worldwide
IFOAM is the international umbrella organization of organic agriculture movements worldwide


IFOAM's mission is leading, uniting and assisting the organic movement in its full diversity.

VisionOur goal is the worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems that are based on the principles of Organic Agriculture.

International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements

ofa mandate
OFA Mandate
  • The Organic Federation of Australia (OFA) was established in 1998 as the peak body for the organic sector in Australia.
  • Its role is to develop the Australian organic sector into a major component of Australian agriculture, delivering benefits to consumers, producers and the Australian community.
organisation structure
Organisation Structure

Organic Federation of Australia Limited

State Bodies

Board of Directors


Membership Councils

Group A


Group B

Traders & Intermediaries

Group C


Group D

Certification Organisations

Group E


organic industry overview
Organic Industry Overview

organic: means the application of practices that emphasize the:

  • use of renewable resources; and
  • conservation of energy, soil and water; and
  • recognition of livestock welfare needs; and
  • environmental maintenance and enhancement, while producing optimum quantities of produce without the use of artificial fertiliser or synthetic chemicals
organic industry overview1
Organic Industry Overview

Organic systems improve soil fertility by using

  • Composts
  • Natural mineral fertilisers
  • Cover crops
  • Organic materials
organic industry overview2
Organic Industry Overview

Cultural and ecological management systems are used as the primary controls of:

  • Pests
  • Weeds
  • Diseases
  • Limited use of biocides of mineral, plant and biological origin as the tools of last resort.
organic industry overview3
Organic Industry Overview

Best Practice Organic Agriculture has Numerous Benefits

  • High Yields
  • Premium Prices
  • Rapidly Growing Industry
  • Low Input Costs
  • Resilient to Climate Extremes
  • Environmentally, Economically and Socially Sustainable
high yields
High Yields

United Nations Study – Organic Agriculture Increased Yields

  • Report by UNCTAD and UNEP –average increase in crop yield
  • 116 per cent increase for all African projects
  • 128 per cent increase for the projects in East Africa.’
high yields1
High Yields

United Nations Study – Organic Agriculture Increased Yields

‘The evidence presented in this study supports the argument that organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and that it is more likely to be sustainable in the long term.’

Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary general of UNCTAD and Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP

high yields2
High Yields

“Push – Pull” for Stemborer and Striga Control


The System’s Approach: Eco-intensification

Using natural systems to regulate pest outbreaks

(example of push-pull greater farm productivity vs higher yields 2 to 10X)

high yields3
High Yields

Scientific Review by Cornell University into the System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

  • Organic SRI yields greater than the traditional crops
  • Organic SRI had significantly lower input costs (fertiliser, pesticide, weeding etc) than the conventional crops
  • “...the technology generates the estimated average output gains of more than 84%.”

Source: Barrett C et al (2004), Better technology, better plots, or better farmers? Identifying changes in productivity and risk among Malagasy rice farmers , Am.J.Agric.Econ., 2004, 86, 4, 869-888

high yields4
High Yields

System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

In Madagascar, SRI has increased yields from the usual 2-3 tons per hectare to yields of 6,8 or 10 tons per hectare.

Source: Nicolas Parrott, Cardiff University, 'The Real Green Revolution‘

high yields5
High Yields

Recent Scientific Field Trials in the USA

US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Pecan Trial

  • The ARS organically managed pecans out-yielded the conventionally managed, chemically fertilized Gebert orchard in each of the past five years. Yields on ARS' organic test site surpassed the Gebert commercial orchard by 18 pounds of pecan nuts per tree in 2005 and by 12 pounds per tree in 2007. (Bradford J.M .2008)

The Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trials

  • found that organic yields were higher in drought years and the same as conventional in normal weather years. (Posner et al. 2008)
high yields6
High Yields

Recent Scientific Field Trials in the USA

  • IOWA State University Trials
  • The results from the Long Term Agroecological Research (LTAR), a 12 year collaborative effort between producers and researchers.
  • organic corn harvests averaged 130 bushels per acre while conventional corn yield was 112 bushels per acre.
  • organic soybean yield was 45 bu/ac compared to the conventional yield of 40 bu/ac in the fourth year.
  • Cost-wise, on average, the organic crops' revenue was twice that of conventional crops due to the savings from non-utilization of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
high yields7
High Yields

Recent Scientific Field Trials in the USA

  • Rodale Organic Low/No Till
  • The Rodale Institute has been trialling a range of organic low tillage and no tillage systems.
  • ‘The 2006 trails resulted in organic yields of 160 bushels and acre (bu/ac) compared to the Country average of 130 bu/ac. (Rodale 2006)
high yields8
High Yields

Scientific Review by Cornell University into a 22 year-long Field Study

  • The improved soil allowed the organic land to generate yields equal to or greater than the conventional crops after 5 years
  • The conventional crops collapsed during drought years.
  • The organic crops fluctuated only slightly during drought years, due to greater water holding capacity in the enriched soil.
  • The organic crops used 30% less fossil energy inputs than the conventional crops.
          • Published in the Journal Bioscience
high yields9
High Yields

High Yields , Sustainability and Climate Resilience are achieved by:

  • Adequate Levels of Soil Organic Carbon (Organic Matter)
  • Mineral Balance
  • Ecological Intensification
  • Good Management Systems
organic matter
Organic Matter

Nutrient availability:

  • Stores 90 to 95% of the nitrogen in the soil, 15 to 80% of phosphorus and 50 to 20% of sulphur in the soil
  • Has many sites that hold minerals and consequently dramatically increases the soils’ Total ion Exchange Capacity
  • Stores cations, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and all trace elements
organic matter1
Organic Matter

Nutrient availability:

  • Organic acids (humic and fulvic) help make minerals available by dissolving locked up minerals
  • Prevents mineral ions from being locked up
  • Encourages a range of microbes that make locked up minerals available to plants.
  • Helps to neutralise the pH
  • Buffers the soil from strong changes in pH
organic matter2
Organic Matter

Soil Structure:

  • Promotes good soil structure which creates soil spaces for air and water by
  • Assisting with good/strong ped formation
  • Feeding macro organisms (ie earthworms and beetles etc) the form pores in the soil.
organic matter3
Organic Matter

Directly assisting plants:

  • The spaces allow microorganisms to turn the nitrogen in the air into nitrate and ammonia (air is 78% N)
  • Soil carbon dioxide contained in these air spaces increases plant growth
  • Helps plant and microbial growth through growth stimulating compounds
  • Helps root growth, by making it easy for roots to travel through the soil
soil organic matter
Soil organic matter

Holds water

Cements soil particles

Increases nutrient storage & availability

Humus can last 2000 years in the soil

Electron micrograph of

soil humus

resilient to climate extremes
Resilient to Climate Extremes

Research Shows that Organic Systems use WaterMore Efficiently

‘Soil water held in the crop root zone was measured and shown to be consistently higher … in the organic plots than the conventional plots, due to the higher organic matter ...’ (Lotter 2003)

resilient to climate extremes1
Resilient to Climate Extremes

Research Shows that Organic Systems use WaterMore Efficiently

  • ‘The exceptional water capture capability of the organic treatments stood out during the torrential downpours during hurricane Floyd in September of 1999.
  • The organic systems captured about twice as much water as the conventional treatment during that two day event’ (Lotter 2003)
organic corn 1995 drought
Organic Corn - 1995 Drought

Better infiltration, retention, and delivery to plants helps avoid drought damage



organic matter4
Organic Matter

Research Shows that Organic Systems use WaterMore Efficiently

  • Volume of Water Retained /ha (to 30 cm) in relation to soil organic matter (OM).
  • 0.5% OM = 80,000 litres (average 2004 level)
  • 1 % OM = 160,000 litres
  • 2 % OM = 320,000 litres
  • 3 % OM = 480,000 litres
  • 4 % OM = 640,000 litres
  • 5 % OM = 800,000 litres (pre-settlement level)
organic matter5
Organic Matter

Organic Soil Carbon Systems Have Less Soil Erosion

  • The results of a study that compared erosion in organic and conventional farming over 38 years.
  • ‘This study indicates that, in the long term, the organic farming system was more effective than the conventional farming system in reducing soil erosion and, therefore, in maintaining soil productivity’ (Reganold et al. 1987).
organic matter6
Organic Matter

Organic Soil Carbon Systems Improve Soil

  • "Results of this research suggest that organic farming systems can provide greater long-term soil improvement than conventional no-tillage systems, despite the use of tillage in organic systems.”
  • Journal of Soil and Water Conservation entitled "Strategies for Soil Conservation in No-tillage and Organic Farming Systems" (Nov/Dec 2007, Vol. 62, Number 6).
organic matter7
Organic Matter

Synthetic Nitrogen Fertilisers Deplete Carbon

Scientists from the University of Illinois analysed the results of a 50 year agricultural trial and found that synthetic nitrogen fertiliser resulted in all the carbon residues from the crop disappearing as well as an average loss of around 10,000 kg of soil carbon per hectare.

This is around 33,000 kg of carbon dioxide per hectare on top of the many thousands of kilograms of crop residue that is converted into CO2 every year.

organic matter8
Organic Matter

Synthetic Nitrogen Fertilisers Deplete Carbon

The researchers found that the higher the application of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser the greater the amount of soil carbon lost as CO2.

This is one of the major reasons why conventional agricultural systems have a decline in soil carbon while organic systems increase soil carbon.

soil organic matter living carbon
Soil Organic MatterLiving Carbon

Recycling Organic Matter is a key tenet of Organic agriculture

Soil Organic Matter is rich in carbon

This carbon has been taken out of the air by plants when they use photosynthesis to join carbon dioxide and water to make sugars, starches, oils and amino acids

soil carbon sequestration
Soil Carbon Sequestration

2 Independent Global Meta Reviews

  • FiBL study- Average Globally - Organic farming practices remove about 2,000 kilos of carbon dioxide from the air each year and sequester it in a hectare of farmland
  • UK Soil Association study- Organic farming practices remove about 2,200 kilos of carbon dioxide
organic matter9
Organic Matter

Greenhouse Gas Abatement - Carbon Sequestration

  • Organic agriculture deliberately builds up soil organic matter
  • ‘For example, a 1% increase in organic carbon in the top 20 cm of soil represents a 24 t/ha increase in soil OC which equates to 88 t/ha of CO2 sequestered.” Jones (2006)
  • A 100 hectare farm that had a 1% increase in organic matter would be removing 8,800 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • A million hectares = 88,000,000 tonnes
soil carbon sequestration1
Soil Carbon Sequestration

Rodale Institute Long Term Trails

  • Organic farming practices, using composts can increase soil carbon by 2,300 kgs per year per hectare
  • This removes 8,441 kilos of carbon dioxide from the air each year and sequesters it in each hectare of farmland
          • Rodale (2008)
organic matter10
Organic Matter

Use Plants to Grow Soil Carbon

  • Between 95 and 98% of plant minerals come from water, carbon dioxide and oxygen.
  • The remaining 5% come from the soil.
  • Photosynthesis produces the carbon compounds that plants need to grow and reproduce
organic matter11
Organic Matter

The Carbon Gift

  • 30-60% of the carbon and energy used by plants is deposited into the soil by plant roots as exudates and sheaths
  • Plant roots put thousand of tonnes per hectare of organic carbon and bio available minerals into the soil every year


Cut plants add organic carbon into the soil to feed the microorganisms and the crop



Biological activity in soil is stimulated by rootmass activity which feeds microbe communities and generates soil carbon and nutrients for the crop

reduced tillage better than no till
Reduced tillage (better than no till)

Berner, A. et al. (2008): Crop yield and soil quality response to reduced tillage under organic management. Soil & Tillage Research: 89-96.


Pasture Cropping

Onions Growing in Rye Grass


Pasture Cropping

Oats Sown into Pasture


Pasture Cropping

Oats Sown into Pasture

organic matter12
Organic Matter

Use Compost Microorganisms to Convert Soil Carbon into Stable Forms

  • Convert the carbon compounds that are readily oxidised into CO2 into stable polymers
  • The stable forms of soil carbon such as humus and glomalin are manufactured by microorganisms.
  • Can last thousands of years in the soil.
mineral balance
Mineral Balance

The Yield of any Production System is Limited by Mineral/s that are Deficient

  • A balanced mineral rich soil is essential to obtain optimum yields
  • A complete analysis soil test is used to assess the mineral balance of the soil
mineral balance1
Mineral Balance

The required nutrients are obtained as:

Ground minerals

  • Lime, dolomite, gypsum, rock phosphate, basalt quarry dust

Soluble minerals

  • Trace elements and naturally mined potassium sulfate.

Organic forms

  • Legumes, manures, organic mulch and naturally occurring free bacteria for nitrogen.

Composting speeds up the process of turning the minerals into plant available forms.

sustainability eco intensification
Sustainability Eco-intensification


  • ‘Organic agriculture has demonstrated its ability to not only produce commodities but also to "produce" biodiversity at all levels.’ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO 2003)
  • Lapwings, a bird species that has declined by 80 percent in the U.K. were flourishing on organic farms. Randerson (2004)
sustainability eco intensification1
Sustainability Eco-intensification
  • Full sun systems. Phase of establishment with plantains as temporary shade.
  • Agroforestry system with shade leguminous trees,
  • Successionalagroforestry system with the same shade trees of the agroforestry treatment and in addition natural regeneration and crops
  • Taking into account natural plant species succession, the high turn over of carbon typical for the conditions of humid tropics, self regulation processes with high biodiversity, to use all storeys and provide as much as possible ecosystem services beside the cocoa production.

Sustainability Eco-intensification

… using high diversity nature for promoting beneficial insects and combating pests.

… spraying extracts of plants and other natural compounds against pests and diseases.

… using robust varieties.


Sustainability Eco-intensification


Refuges Created by




Sustainability Eco-intensification

Maximises solar capture

Fixes nitrogen and soil carbon

Flowers attract beneficial


Legume vines in fruit trees



  • A large body of published science shows:
  • Organic agricultural systems can ameliorate Climate Change
  • reduce greenhouse gases
  • sequester carbon into the soil
  • use less water
  • reduce soil erosion and nutrient run off
  • no chemical run off
  • more resilient in adverse weather events
  • achieve good yields of high quality produce