Organic Farming Systems

Mixed systems

Mixed systems are most commonly based on ley/arable rotations. Fertility is built during the ley phase, in which grazing and fodder production provides an economic return. The degree of integration of livestock and cropping will vary, depending on rotation, land type and livestock species. For example, sheep may graze turnips or vegetable residues over winter, while pigs are sometimes used instead of a plough to achieve the transition from ley to arable.

Livestock systems

In situations where it is undesirable or impractical to operate a rotation due to soil/land type, climate constraints or conservation issues, the use of long-term or permanent grassland is acceptable within the organic regulations. Management emphasis is, however, still on the maintenance of soil fertility through nutrient recycling, with minimal external inputs.

Stockless systems

The area of organic land farmed using stockless organic systems is increasing while the greatest challenge is management of the nutrient supply. Forage legumes are of no direct economic benefit in stockless systems (other than for set aside payments), so there is greater emphasis on alternative fertility building strategies, such as the use of green manures, grain legumes and the import of manures, composts and other acceptable fertilizers.

Horticultural systems

The term horticulture covers a wide range of systems from field vegetable production to fruit and protected cropping (glasshouse/polytunnels). Intensive organic horticultural production systems are often the most dependent on imported nutrients, while these systems frequently include several crops within one growing season.