Organic vs. Inorganic Garden Systems

Nature’s Organic Garden System Examines Organic vs. Inorganic Garden Systems

Nature’s Organic Garden System looks at organic vs. inorganic garden systems in which you need to understand the plant diseases and plant chemical needs in every garden. A quick overview of plant diseases, followed by a brief discussion of the necessary chemicals needed. After those topics, we look at the impact of organic vs. inorganic materials.

Plant Diseases

Plant diseases result when a susceptible host and a disease-causing pathogen meet in a favorable environment. If any one of the three conditions listed below is not present, there will be no disease. Also known as sick soil.

  • Pathogens cannot become established.
  • Pathogens become established, but no disease is present.
  • Pathogens become established, produces disease for a short time, and then declines

Plant diseases result when a susceptible host and a disease-causing pathogen meet in a favorable environment. If any one of these three conditions is not present, there would be no disease. Many intervention practices (fungicides, methyl bromide fumigants, etc.) focus on taking out the pathogen after its effects become apparent.

Soil-borne diseases result from a reduction of the biodiversity of soil organisms. Restoring beneficial organisms that attack, repel, or otherwise antagonize disease-causing pathogens will give a soil disease-suppressive. Plants growing in disease-suppressive soil resist diseases better than in soils low in biological diversity. Beneficial organisms added directly, or the soil environment made more favorable for organisms to grow through compost and other organic amendments. Compost quality determines its effectiveness at suppressing soil-borne plant diseases. Laboratory testing determines to assess compost quality.

Plants and Their Chemical Needs

Plants need eighteen chemical elements for their growth—carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur (S), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), boron (B), zinc (Zn), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), cobalt (Co), and chlorine (Cl). Plants acquire carbon from carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen partially as oxygen gas (O2) from the air.

The remaining essential elements are obtained mainly from the soil. The availability of these nutrients is influenced either directly or indirectly by the presence of organic matter. The chemical elements plants need in large amounts are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Macro-nutrients contain calcium, magnesium, sulfur. The other elements, called micronutrients, are essential elements needed in small amounts. (Sodium [Na] helps many plants grow better, but it is unnecessary to plant growth and reproduction.)

Farming practices that maintain or increase soil organic matter can be used to manage soil microorganisms and microbial activity to optimize potential weed suppression. The proportion of water-stable soil aggregates is the greatest in soils with the highest organic matter and was found to be related to the higher enzyme and weed-suppressive activity.

Selected biological indicators of soil quality are associated with potential weed-suppressive soil activity. Only when soil is managed for high organic matter content under reduced tillage systems. This research provides further evidence that soil quality and sustainable agricultural practices is linked to integrated weed management systems for the biological suppression of weeds.

Organic Matter Increases the Availability of Nutrients

Directly

  • As organic matter breaks down, nutrients are metabolized by microorganisms into water-soluble nutrients that plants can absorb.
  • CEC is produced during the decomposition process, increasing the soil’s ability to keep calcium, potassium, magnesium, and ammonium.
  • Organic molecules that hold and protect many micro-nutrients, such as zinc and iron.

Indirectly

  • Substances produced by microorganisms promote better root growth and healthier roots, and with a larger and healthier root system, plants can take in nutrients more efficiently.
  • Organic matter contributes to more significant amounts of water retention following rains because it improves soil structure and improves water-holding capacity. The result s better plant growth and health and allows more mobile nutrients (such as nitrates) to the root.
  • A soil rich in organic matter and continually supplied with different types of fresh residues is home to a much more diverse group of organisms than soil depleted of organic matter. This greater diversity of organisms helps ensure that fewer potentially harmful organisms will develop enough populations to cut crop yields.

Soil Tilth

When soil is in an excellent physical condition for growing plants, it is said to have good tilth. Such soil is porous and allows water to enter quickly, instead of running off the surface. Water is retained in the ground for plants to use between rains, and less erosion occurs.

Good tilth also means that the soil is well aerated. Roots can quickly get oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide. A porous soil does not restrict root development and exploration. When the earth has poor tilth, its structure deteriorates, and soil aggregates break down, causing increased compaction and decrease aeration and water storage. A soil layer can become so compacted that roots can’t grow.

A soil with excellent physical properties will have many channels and pores of many different sizes. Studies on both undisturbed and agricultural soils

  • Organic Gardens have the following attributes.
  • Slow releasing nitrogen and other nutrients
  • Increased physical and biological nutrient storage mechanisms
  • Reduced risk of over-fertilizing
  • Mobilizing existing soil nutrients
  • Retains soil moisture
  • Improves soil structure
  • Reduces topsoil erosion

Organic Downsides

Organic growers should be cautious when purchasing peat moss. Some commercial sources contain wetting agents. Very few commercial wetting agents are available for organic production. Assume that any product with an unspecified wetting agent is not permitted.

Inorganic Gardens have the following attributes

  • It is a necessity to reapply fertilizers regularly.
  • Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus contaminate the water supply.
  • Use of hormones, food additives, genetically modified organisms, herbicides, and plant growth regulators
  • Human-made fertilizers have consequences far beyond what the fertilizer producers know or want you to know.
  • Human-made pesticides have consequences far beyond what the pesticide producers know or want you to know.
  • Destroys organic material, good bacterium and fungi within the dirt by tillage, chemicals, exposure to sun and natural events (flood and wind erosion)
  • Creates soil compaction through equipment compression, water infiltration decreases because mineral crusts form and tillage.
  • Anaerobic fungi and bacteria flourish in compacted soil due to the lack of oxygen.

Chemical Fertilizers

According to Garden Guides, modern chemical fertilizer production began in 1842 when Sir John Lawes summarized a process of treating phosphate rock with sulfuric acid to produce super-phosphate. In the 1950s, fertilizer production changed to accommodate the use of granular fertilizers. Liquid and dry bulk fertilizers became popular to meet the large-scale production of the agriculture industry. More than 75 percent of chemical fertilizers produced in the United States come from the TVA processes. There are many different types of chemical fertilizers, and they come in powder, granular, liquid, and gas forms.

Conventional Farming

  • With conventional agricultural practices heavily dependent on fossil fuels, the increase in the price of energy and the diversion of crops to produce ethanol and biodiesel and other trends—will cause food prices to be higher in the future, resulting in a worldwide upsurge in hunger.
  • Too much nitrogen fertilizer or animal manure sometimes causes high nitrate concentrations in groundwater. These concentrations can become high enough to pose a human health hazard. Many of the biologically rich estuaries and the parts of seas near river inflows worldwide, including the Gulf of Mexico, are hypoxic (have low oxygen levels in plant tissues) during late summer months due to nitrogen enrichment from agricultural sources.
  • Phosphate and nitrate in runoff and drainage water enter water bodies and degrade their quality by stimulating algae growth.
  • Erosion associated with conventional tillage and lack of good rotations degrades the soil and, at the same time, causes the silting up of reservoirs, ponds, and lakes.
  • Soil compaction reduces water infiltration and increases runoff, thereby increasing flooding while at the same time making soils more drought-prone.
  • Another form of soil compaction is walking in your garden.
Soil compaction due to walking on the garden bed
Soil compaction due to walking on the garden bed

In some parts of the country, groundwater is being used for agriculture faster than nature can replenish this invaluable resource. Water is also increasingly diverted for urban growth in dry regions of the country, lessening the amount available for irrigated agriculture.