Best Growing Practices for Organic Crops
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 | Ed Bloodnick
There is no doubt, the trend for organic grown vegetables and herbs is not only here to stay, but is steadily growing, and the number of growers converting to organic horticulture is rising.
Key Factors for Success
The availability of certified organic products in crop production, especially those for controlling various cultural stresses, is still quite limited. An integrated approach, therefore becomes the best alternative in organic horticulture for controlling insects and pests. In conventional horticulture, pesticides and fungicides can be applied to control insects and diseases. Chemical fertilizers can be applied to correct nutrient deficiency.
However, in organic horticulture, starting plants in quality growing media enriched with beneficial micro-organisms, like mycorrhizae will provide the seeked qualities for a global and fully integrated solution. Plants will then have better resiliency to stresses throughout the crop cycle.
What makes a good organic growing medium?
It starts with the same basic components used in conventional horticulture. You need a balance of good air porosity, good, but not excessive, water retention, a source of plants nutrients for initial growth, a pH adapted to the plants’ needs and beneficial microorganisms.
Although the wetting agents and fertilizers in organic growing media are not the same as those in conventional products, media manufacturers have come up with solutions to help assure homogenous water and fertilisation for optimized crop growth.
Some media are amended with compost for increased moisture which will help with initial wetting, but in the long run, compost contains a lot of fine particles reducing air porosity and sometimes causing growing medium to shrink.
Natural surfactants (yucca extracts) are being used and are by far a better solution, although the initial watering must be repeated more than once to be certain that media is well moistened.
Other Key Success Factors: Monitoring In-Use Growing Medium
Whether you buy pre-formulated growing medium or mix your own, the pH and EC of growing medium as well as water alkalinity should be measured at the beginning of the crop followed by several times during the crop production cycle.
Fertilizers used in organic production release a lot of calcium, therefore it’s is advisable to monitor these levels during crop cycle. It is also strongly recommended to monitor pH of the medium to prevent certain trace elements, such as Iron and Manganese, from becoming unavailable due to pH climb.
For more information about methods for monitoring pH, EC, and corrective measures, contact your Premier Tech Horticulture Grower Services representative.
PRO-MIX® is a registered trademark of Premier Horticulture Ltd.
Organically produced herb and vegetable transplants represent an important commodity both for direct sales to consumers as well as for starter plants for organically grown field crops and potted greenhouse culture.
In the Fall of 2012, we introduced PRO-MIX® MP MYCORRHIZAE™ ORGANIK™ for organic growers. OMRI Listed for Organic Use.