Managing soil fertility in organic farming systems

Christine A. Watson, D. Atkinson, Paul Gosling, Lorna R. Jackson, F. W. Rayns

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    400 Citations (Scopus)


    Complex relationships exist between different components of the organic farm and the quantity and quality of the end products depend on the functioning of the whole system. As such, it is very difficult to isolate soil fertility from production and environmental aspects of the system. Crop rotation is the central tool that integrates the maintenance and development of soil fertility with different aspects of crop and livestock production in organic systems. Nutrient supply to crops depends on the use of legumes to add nitrogen to the system and limited inputs of supplementary nutrients, added in acceptable forms. Manures and crop residues are carefully managed to recycle nutrients around the farm. Management of soil organic matter, primarily through the use of short-term leys, helps ensure good soil structure and biological activity, important for nutrient supply, health and productivity of both crops and livestock. Carefully planned diverse rotations help reduce the incidence of pests and diseases and allow for cultural methods of weed control. As a result of the complex interactions between different system components, fertility management in organic farming relies on a long-term integrated approach rather than the more short-term very targeted solutions common in conventional agriculture.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)239-247
    Number of pages9
    JournalSoil Use and Management
    Issue numberSUPPL.
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2002


    • Organic farming
    • Plant nutrition
    • Rotations
    • Soil fertility
    • Soil structure

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Agronomy and Crop Science
    • Soil Science
    • Pollution


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