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The Organic Difference, Part 2

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Self-sustaining

Organic farmers aim to be self-sustaining. For example, they keep livestock alongside crops, thereby providing valuable manure for the land and organic animal feed. They rotate crops and pastures, preventing disease and soil imbalances. Growing plants known to attract pest-eating insects beside a valuable crop - companion planting - is another way in which they work with nature.

Conventional farmers are more likely to buy in their animal feed, ship out their manure and look outside the farm for solutions to pest problems and soil fertility, ignoring the answers in their own backyard. Overall, organic farms are likely to use far less energy and non-renewable resources (such as diesel fuel) than conventional farms.

Conservation

Organic standards demand that farmers conserve natural wildlife habitats such as grassland, hay meadows and moorland. They also ensure that old farm buildings are protected, existing ponds are maintained, and old hedgerows and stone walls are looked after. In addition to conserving habitats, organic farmers are encouraged to contribute further to the environment by planting native trees, creating ponds, and nurturing wildflowers and grasses in wide borders between cultivated fields.

Conventional farming has, in recent times, meant intensive farming, whereby the larger the scale of a farm the cheaper it has been to produce the crop. However, the cost to the environment of this kind of farming has been heavy. For example, in the last 50 years, half the UK's natural woodlands and 40 per cent of its hedgerows have been destroyed as farmers expand their cultivated land.

The loss of wildlife as a result of this habitat destruction has been enormous - huge numbers of species of birds, bees, butterflies, wildflowers and insects are disappearing fast because of this kind of agriculture.

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