Organic Agriculture & Farming Key Terms

Animal husbandry
Animal husbandry: Rearing animals in agricultural production. Organic animal husbandry aims to improve the health and natural defences of animals by rearing them appropriate to their natural needs.

Animal welfare
Animal welfare: Of crucial importance to organic farmers ensuring a stress free and appropriate environment for the different farm animals.

The number and variability of living organisms within a given area. Organic farming leads to a high level of biodiversity.

Conversion: Turning a non-organic agricultural holding into an organic one. The lengthy and complicated process is required by regulations in order to be able to use organic logos and labelling.

Eco-tourism: Tourism based on reconnection with the natural and rural environment rather than the man-made metropolitan equivalent, and therefore highly suited to organic farms.

Feed: Food given to livestock on agricultural holdings. Organic feed ideally comes from the same farm as the animal, is produced without chemical synthetic pesticides and meets the animals’ nutritional and developmental needs.

Fertilisers: Manure and other organic matter are used in organic farming to boost soil fertility rather than using synthetic fertilisers.

Free range
Free range: An agricultural system favoured by organic farmers allowing animals ample outdoor space to wander about and feed at their leisure.

Genetically modified organisms (GMO)
Genetically modified organisms (GMO): Plants and animals with altered genetic material through scientific intervention which are banned in organic farming.

Green manure crops
Green manure crops: Plants grown to prevent soil erosion and nutrient leaching after harvesting, and to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil when being ploughed into the ground. Green manure crops are in regular use in organic farming.

Growth promoters
Additives such as antibiotics added to animal feed to increase the rate of growth and development of those animals. Growth promoters are prohibited in organic farming worldwide and in EU agriculture generally.

Hedges: Rows of shrub-like vegetation forming living boundaries around agricultural fields. Hedges are used in organic farming to foster biodiversity and protect against wind erosion and water runoff.

Herbicides (chemical synthetic)
Herbicides (chemical synthetic): Chemicals applied to agricultural fields to kill unwanted weeds or other plants growing among commercial or animal feed crops. Chemical synthetic herbicides are prohibited in organic farming.

The organic substance created from decayed or decaying plant or animal matter, which provides nutrients for plant growth and improves soil structure. Humus is one of the primary means of boosting fertility in organic production.

Legumes: A family of plants including peas, beans, clover and lupins grown for animal and human consumption and as green manure crops (see above). Legumes are particularly useful in organic farming because they “fix” atmospheric nitrogen into the soil.

Market channels
Market channels: Ways by which products are made available for purchase to consumers. Market channels for organic food and drink are very diverse.

Meadows: Areas of grassland with diverse low level plants used for light grazing are protected by organic farmers, to promote biodiversity.

Mutilation: In agriculture, the removal or reduction of tails, horns, beaks and other body parts of animals is applied to prevent disease or injury in confined conditions. Organic farming restricts this practice and employs free range (see above) systems that make it unnecessary.

Nutrition: Achieving a desirable level of livestock nutrition is one of the primary goals of organic farming. Access to roughage for all animals is essential in organic farming.

Pasture: Vegetation such as grasses and legumes used as feed by grazing animals. Organic farming provides access to pasture for cattle.

Processing: The procedure of turning raw plant and animal ingredients into feed and food, more complex and desirable products for human consumption. The organic processing sector echoes organic farming’s restrictions on artificial inputs.

Processing aids
Processing aids: Substances used for the processing of feed and food, which are afterwards not contained in the final products. Organic processing allows only a few processing aids.

Pesticides (chemical synthetic)
Pesticides (chemical synthetic): Chemicals used as herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and nematicides applied to agricultural field-crops and animals to fight pests, pathogens or diseases. Chemical synthetic pesticides are prohibited in organic farming.

Soil erosion
Soil erosion: The removal of soil by wind and water, which can be accelerated through tillage. Organic farming counteracts soil erosion by improving organic content and soil structure and by using green manure, hedges (see above) and native vegetation.

Stocking level
Stocking level: The number of livestock per hectare grazed on a particular agricultural field. Organic farmers prefer a low stocking level, to minimise stress, pest and disease pressure, soil compaction and erosion, and to improve farmland biodiversity.

Wide crop rotation
Wide crop rotation: The regular shifting of different crops in agricultural fields over many years to discourage pest and disease build-up and add valuable nutrients. Legumes (see below), for example, provide nitrogen for use by subsequent crops.