Organic agriculture strives to integrate human, environmental, and economically sustainable production systems. The term organic does not necessarily refer to the types of inputs to the system but more to the holistic interaction of the plants, soil, animals, and humans in the system. Organic agriculture management promotes maintaining SOM levels for soil fertility, providing plant nutrients through micro-bial decomposition of organic materials, and control of pests, disease, and weeds with crop rotations, natural control agents, and pest-resistant plant varieties (Oelhaf, 1978; Lampkin and Measures, 2001). Organic agriculture is practiced in almost all countries and has been applied to all agricultural products including livestock and milk.
In the 1990s, the land area under organic agriculture production and the number of agricultural products produced organically exploded worldwide. At the present time, there are 24 Mha worldwide in organic production, including grazing lands for organic livestock production. The global distribution of organic farmed land and the number of farms are shown in Fig. 17.1. The large land area and small number of farms in the Oceania/Australia region is due to large areas used for grazing livestock production with no inputs. Early in organic agriculture development, standards varied and certification of organic production was controlled on a regional basis or within country organizations. Now organic certification bodies worldwide are accredited by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (www.Ifoam.org), which sets basic standard organic practices.
Soil properties and soil functioning will be altered as a consequence of converting from conventional fertilizer-based farming to organic farming. During the conversion to organic production SOM levels and other nutrients can decrease (Wander et al., 1994; Rees et al., 2001). However, if manures are incorporated into the transition increases in these soil properties can be achieved. Transition affects
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