Organic farmers are limited in the types of seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides they can use. While they are not able to use synthetic fertilizers, there is still a need to use some type of fertilizer to encourage crops to grow. Here are a few options organic farmers can use when fertilizing their crops.
Green manure isn't what you might typically think of when you hear someone mention manure. It is not an animal byproduct, which can provide vegan eaters a bit of added peace of mind. Green manure consists of crops left in the field and plowed into the soil, which then helps to provide the soil with nutrients it needs. Some crops that are typically used for green manure include alfalfa, soybeans, rye, and clover. Farmers may grow these cover crops in addition to their cash crops as a way of keeping plenty of nutrient-rich fertilizer ready and available.
Composting animal and plant matter can also provide an excellent source of fertilizer to use when growing crops. The compost might consist of plant matter from crops that weren't suitable to send to the market, and it can also include raw manure. If farmers choose to use raw manure, either directly or in compost, there must be at least 120 days in between the time the manure is applied to the soil and the time when crops are planted. This helps to prevent the risks of contaminating the food supply. Organic plant matter without raw manure can be used without these restrictions, as it does not carry with it the same contamination risks.
When farmers aren't able to use fertilizer sourced from sustainable materials found on their own farms, they may decide to purchase organic fertilizer. To produce crops that qualify as organic, farmers look for fertilizers that are OMRI-listed products. This certification is provided by the Organic Materials Review Institute, which reviews fertilizers to ensure they meet the standards for organic materials, including fertilizer. Products that have been reviewed and approved will indicate they are OMRI-listed products on their packaging. Some of these fertilizers are derived from plant matter, while others are derived from animal byproducts. With a range of different compositions, there are many choices farmers can select from to help nourish the soil and grow their specific crops.
If you are a farmer who wants to grow organic produce, consider these options for fertilizing your fields. Look for ways you can create your own fertilizer options, or choose OMRI-listed products to help your crops grow.