Thursday, April 7 2016

Organic Meat Production

Industrialization of agriculture has enabled us, human beings, to produce more food and distribute our products worldwide. We have learned to make artificial fertilizers which greatly improve growth of our plants; we have learned that animals grow bigger in a shorter amount of time if we inject them with growth hormones. We have also learned that this was not strictly speaking - the healthiest food in the world. The animals’ health suffers, our health suffers, and the environment suffers. Indeed, we have learned a great deal, despite huge advancements in food production.

For this reason, increasing number of consumers are turning to healthier, organic food. This trend directly inspires more farmers to start organic production of food regardless of the origin – animal or plant. Now, most people don’t see the difference between the free-range farming and the organic farming.

Organic-Meat.jpg

The first is a form of traditional farming that was common before the industrialization. Basically, the animals are left out on pastures most of the day (approximately 120 days on average); they are allowed inside only at night or on a bad weather. This is quite opposite to conventionally grown livestock that stays indoor at all times and practically never sees the light of day... Pretty repressive and many animal rights enthusiasts will agree with this assessment!

Organic animal farming is very similar to free-range, but with some added requirements. To get the “Organic” label for your product, your farming needs to meet several, rather strict, standards:

  • Animals must be organically bred from the day of its birth. You cannot just switch to organic at any random point.
  • Use of antibiotics is strictly forbidden. On the other hand, vaccines are allowed.
  • Use of hormones is also a big “no-no”; and not just growth hormones, but any type of hormones.
  • Feed mustn’t be treated with any chemicals, pesticides and artificial fertilizers.
  • Livestock must be taken out on pastures.
  • Feeding livestock with animal byproducts is forbidden by all means.
  • GMO feed is also out of the question.

Free-range produced food can also be organic, but most of the time farmers give their animals antibiotics when they get sick or the feed isn’t always organic. Of course this is no longer considered organic.

Organic farms are much smaller than conventional, they have more livestock species and they are commonly self-sustainable. For example, animal reproduction is quite common on organic farms, and since the farms have limited capacity, the farmers are often forced to sell the offsprings, which is a good economic return. Another good economic return is from products like dairy and eggs. Most organic farms produce both animal and plant products. Since the animals were fed by organic feed, their waste can be used as a natural fertilizer, plus the environment stays preserved, plants get their healthy nutrients and minerals from naturally fertilized land, and the farmer doesn’t have to spend money on manure disposal. Everybody wins!

Organic farming isn't easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to take care of the animals and the land. But in the end, everyone benefit; consumers get healthy meat, animals spend much happier life while being outside, and the farmer gets his financial reward since organically produced food is more expensive than the conventional and for a good reason too!

Floriculture Basics

Floriculture is all about flowers, hence the name - flower farming. It makes a huge and ever developing industry, for flowers are very important for all life on Earth, if not even crucial. Apart from producing oxygen, they also provide food and are used in medical and cosmetics industries. Flowers appeared 140 million years ago and nowadays they grow literally everywhere from the highest mountains to underneath the water, and of course in controlled environments, such as greenhouses.

Flowers.jpgFloriculture deals with all flower crops – from bedding and garden plants, to cut flowers and cut greens, foliage plants, and potted flowering plants. Flowering plants are mainly grown in pots and for indoor use. Those are mainly Orchids, azaleas, chrysanthemums, etc. Foliage plants are also potted plants and are used in restaurants and hotels, to decorate interior as well as patios. These are somewhat larger plants.

Cut flowers, on the other hand, are used for making bouquets and various flower arrangements. They go together with cut foliage. The cut flower industry is huge and always developing.

All in all, flowers as indoor decoration as well as the gardens have always been an important part of people’s lives; but in these modern times, floriculture gardens are becoming an integral part of our lives and more and more people turn to home gardening.

Flowers exist in various colors, scents, shapes and sizes which inspired poetry, literature, art and music throughout centuries and are used for celebrations, as gifts, decoration, even healing! As for the size, the largest single flower is the Rafflesia, also called the corpse flower, which is around 3 feet in diameter. Check it out; it’s pretty huge!

Plant breeding implies purposeful, for want of a better word – influence on plant’s properties with the intention to improve the species in some way; for example to improve their resistance and tolerance to various insects or diseases, to improve quality and quantity, etc. This is done by controlled pollination or genetic engineering, or both.

Because of the increasingly developing flower industry, these are grown in greenhouses. Of course, we all know what a greenhouse is – an ecosystem enclosed with glass or plastic providing necessary special conditions to plants to grow.

Various equipment is used to control heating, cooling, lighting, watering. Computers also help optimization of these conditions – you can schedule watering and air circulation, for example. Some tropical plants, for instance, need the humidity whereas some do not so that the plants need to be arranged carefully within greenhouses.

Flowers are given their common names characteristic of the region and country and their botanical names mostly in Latin; although some are named in Greek. Typical names consist of two words - the first pointing the group of flowers it belongs to and the second describing a characteristic of the flower, for example, color, shape, size, number or really anything distinctive about the plant. So, for example, you have Lactuca, where “lac” means milky white, which describes the milky white sap of the flower. Also “stella” means star for a star-shaped flower, etc.

Agriculture Throughout History

It is believed that the rise of the human civilization was triggered by the development of the agriculture; it all started with domesticating animals and later farming of the key plant species which were commonly used as food.

The very fist methods of traditional farming are now referred to as organic, since there had been many chemical and mechanical changes and improvements since the first form of agriculture which was basically forest gardening dating back to prehistoric times.

Natural ways of preserving and protecting plants include crop rotation, companion planting, biological pest control and naturally-sourced fertilizers. Companion planting is a way of planting different crops in such a manner that it creates a habitat for beneficial creatures, as well as to save farm’s space, as some plants are more comfortable when planted closer to each other. Crop rotation includes growing a series of different types of crops in the same area which helps reduce soil erosion and increase soil fertility.

Biological pest control can be divided into three categories: importation, augmentation, and conservation. The process of importation includes determining the origin of pest and then importing their natural enemy to the area. Augmentation is the same as previous with an exception that it’s done in order to increase the population of already existing creatures when needed. Lastly, conservation is a process of creating a suitable habitat for natural enemies where they can live and reproduce.

Naturally-sourced fertilizers or compost is crucial in organic farming. It consists of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water found in the creation of wetted organic matter which consists of leaves and food waste that break down into humus. These methods were used for thousands of years until the introduction of chemical and mechanical tools. Luckily, the last is back in fashion once again and more and more farmers nowadays turn to organic farming.

Now in 20th century, fertilizers and pesticides were introduced, more precisely in 1940s. Fertilizer is a material consisting of natural or synthetic origin which is applied to the soil for more effective and healthier growth of plants; whereas, pesticides are used as a chemical substance to attract and destroy pests which are harmful to plants.

Fertilizers consist of macronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus which develops roots, flowers, seeds, fruit and potassium which is used for stronger stem growth and movement of water in plants. Secondary macronutrients include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. In the period of 1910 to 1950, the farming process was greatly improved and broadened with the creation of tractors. Tractors replaced most of the manual labors which were previously done by people or animals. Moreover, they drastically increased the production rates since an average farmer could produce food for 2.5 people whereas with the use of machinery that number increased to 100. In the 21st century, all research of agriculture is focused on biotechnologies like genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is a process of adding new DNA to an organism with intent to add more traits to that organism such as adding of proteins and more resistance to insects.