Vital connection between plants and animal with organic farming

 their physical environment; it seeks to understand the vital connections between plants and
animals and the world around them. Ecology also provides information about the benefits
of ecosystems and how we can use Earth’s resources in ways that leave the environment
healthy for future generations. Ecologists study these relationships among organisms and
habitats of many different sizes, ranging from the study of microscopic bacteria to the complex interactions between the thousands of plant, animal, and other communities found in
The many specialties within ecology, such as marine, vegetation, and agroecology, provide us
with information to better understand the world around us. This information also can help
us improve our environment, manage our natural resources, and protect human health. The
following example illustrate just the way that ecological knowledge has positively influenced
our lives: biological control is a technique that uses the natural enemies and predators of
pests to control damage to crops. It is based in part on knowing the ecology of pests, which
is used to understand when and where they are the most vulnerable to their enemies. Biological control alleviates crop damage by insects, saves money, and decreases problem associated with pesticides.
Agroecology is the field of the applied ecology, 

linked to the general ecology. Agroecological
science is defined as the application of the ecological principles and concepts in forming
and management of sustainable agroecosystems. The idea of the agroecology is to use alternative directions in agroecosystems’ development, which will be less dependent on the
agrochemicals and energy uptake, emphasizing perplexity of the agricultural systems. Ecological relationship and mutual activity between biological components sustains soil fertility,
productivity and crop protection. In search for re-establishing ecological principles in agricultural production producers neglected key point in organic agricultural development: strong
understanding of the nature of the agroecosystems and running of their principles. Agroecology has grown into the discipline providing basic ecological principles - how to observe,
educate and manage agroecosystems to make them more productive, provide preservation
of the natural resources but on the same time to be culturally acceptable and economically
Agroecosystems are communities of plants and animals in interaction with physical and
chemical external factors man has modified for food production, with other products for
mass industrial use (fiber, fuel and other material). Space used for agricultural production
is a complex system where completely natural ecological processes can be found: cycle of
matter, relationship predator/prey, competition, symbiosis and succession. Agroecosystems
can improve productivity and become sustainable with less negative environmental impact,
social condition with lower external investments.
Setting such system is based on application of following ecological principles:
• Improving cycle of matter, optimization of available nutrients and their balanced flow;
• Providing favorable soil parameters for plant growth, especially increase of organic matter and of biological soil activity;
• Efficient use of available solar energy, conservation of water resources and suitable soil
characteristics by covering larger area with plants;
• Increase of species and genotypes in agroecosystems in time and space;
• Increase of useful biological relationship and synergies between components of agrobiodiversity aimed at promotion of the core ecological processes. 

The most important goal of agroecological approach is fitting of the agroecosystem in the
natural surrounding, which will imitate structure and function of the natural ecosystems.
Agroecology provides knowledge and methodology needed for agricultural development,
that should on one hand be acceptable for environment, and on the other hand should be
highly productive and economically viable. It opens door to the new concept in agriculture
alleviating distance between knowledge gaining and its application in practice. It respects
and valorize local farmers’ empirical knowledge and uses it to achieve sustainability in agriculture. Ecological methods and principles are needed to determine if specific agricultural
practice, inputs or managerial decisions are sustainable in order to provide foundation for
functioning and selection of managerial strategy of agroecosystems in longer period of time.
Leading agroecological principles that should be respected in successful transition from conventional to organic systems are following:
• Cycle of matter, with emphasized use of natural processes as nitrogen fixation and mycorrhiza;
• Use of renewable energy instead of non-renewable (solar, wind, biomass);
• Elimination of external inputs that can be harmful for the environment or for the health
of farmers, workers and consumers;
• If some material needs to be used, it is better to use biodegradable than synthetic;
• Control of pests, weeds and diseases instead of their elimination;
• Renewal of natural biological interactions on farm instead of their reduction and simplification;
• Adjusting sowing and spatial distribution of crops to physical limitations on farm;
• Adjusting biological and genetic potential of crops and livestock to ecological conditions
on farm, and not the other way around;
• Focus is on protection of soil, water, saving and rational use of energy and biological
• Introduce the idea of the long-term production sustainability in the overall layout and
strategy of the agroecosystem management (farm).
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Focus on certain principles can vary, still altogether they contribute to conversion processes.
For many farmers fast transition from conventional to organic systems is not even possible
nor practical. Processes which are leading to organic farm establishment require longer period of time to show effect. There are three different levels of transition:
1. Increase of efficacy of conventional agrotechnical activities with the goal of decreasing
use of expensive and harmful inputs for environment;
2. Replacing conventional inputs and agrotehniques by alternative and organic;
3. Re-designing agroecosystems in a way where they can operate based on the new set of
ecological processes.
1.2. Ecological infrastructures
Control of pests and disease is of fundamental importance on an organic holding, as well as
control of soil degradation and micro-climates unsuitable for crop cultivation. The development of side elements among the organic farmers was highly encouraged. The creation of
hedgerows, rows of trees, grass strips, buffer strips, ponds, haystacks, farm woodlandand
any other permanent vegetable form in the agricultural landscape, is indicated by the expression “ecological infrastructure” and is of great importance exactly for the prevention of
damages due to weather conditions and crop pests.
Typologies of ecological structures
Every holding conducted with organic methods should carefully evaluate any possible alternative and select the ecological infrastructures that best suit its environment.

 The elements that can be possibly introduced are:
• Groves, that is clumps of at least thirty trees or shrubs (e.g.: birch, cherry tree, hawthorn, and euonymus);
• Rows of trees planted 2-3 m apart (e.g.: poplar);
• Wooded strips, made up of forest trees 5-7 m apart (e.g.: alder, maple tree, birch, walnut-tree and laburnum);
• Tall windbreaks made up of forest trees and shrub species (e.g.: beech, oak, hazel and
• Small windbreaks (e.g.: maple tree, hawthorn and seabuckthorn);
• Grass strips to be left natural. These strips should neither be tilled nor fertilized, but just
mowed. For maximum results, they should be at least 2 m wide.
• Also grass crops, cover crops and permanent meadows contribute to creating ecological
Main functions of ecological infrastructures.
The contribution that hedgerows and trees give consists essentially in the increase of the
global equilibrium of the ecosystem in the holding. Through the different specific actions
that are produced, this translates into a potential increase of production.
The main functions are summed up in the following paragraphs.
Wind-breaking action and improvement of the micro-climate
This is the best known function, commonly explained in agronomy texts. Hedgerows must
maintain a wind sieving capacity of 30-40%, in order to balance the wind passing over the
barrier and the wind going through it.
Windbreaks produce three important results:
• decrease of evapotranspiration, which translates into lower hydric stress to crops and
lower energy and water consumption;
• mechanical protection against the beating effect of the wind which may beat down crops
or in other ways damage them;
• protection of leaves against the abrasive action that could be produced to the photosynthetic system by particles of sand and dust carried by the wind, especially in the fields
near the coastal areas;
• the mitigation of the wind force favours also anemophilous pollination and carbon dioxide exchange near the plant, with consequent higher intensity of photosynthesis.

Natural woodland as protection barrier on blackberry orchard in organic farm Tasic, Korbevac village, Serbia (photo S. Oljaca)
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In warm climates, the windbreak action, as already stated above, allows water saving and
reduces evapotranspiration even by 25%. In cold climates, it has a beneficial action as it increases temperatures.
The temperature may increase by 1-2°C (both night and day) and even by 4-5°C if the prevailing wind is particularly cold. This temperature increase, due to the infrastructures that
reduce wind speed and force, beneficially affects the yield of crops and livestock.
Some of the species most widely used as windbreaks are: oak, privet, viburnum, hazel and
Ecological infrastructure in organic farm Kenjeres, Male pijace village, Serbia (photo S. Oljaca)
Protection against external agents
In many parcels located near busy motorways or bordering on parcels belonging to conventional operators who do not take the organic choice of their neighbour into much consideration, or who are quite unable to manage chemical treatments, it is necessary to protect
the crops from drift contamination which might have destructive repercussions on product
If ecological infrastructures are made up, for example, of dense and well-arranged hedgerows, they can act as barriers, or at least as filters, and can remarkably reduce the undesired
agents. It has been noticed that the same mechanism acts as protection of crops against
wind-borne and insect-borne diseases, for example the spores of fungi diseases or the viruses brought by aphids. For herbaceous crops, it may be sufficient to plant hedgerows made
up of shrub species as cornel, hazel, sloe, rose, bramble, hawthorn and dogwood. Instead,
for arboreal species, the hedgerows should not be smaller than the production crop. In this
case, the operator could choose varieties of the same cultivated species, which could be interesting for their pollinating capacity.
The hedgerows also provided better shelter for the livestock which took shelter on the leeward side of the well-furnished areas during wet and windy weather.
Soil protection
This function is of fundamental importance for sloping parcels where, often, the explanations of arboreal species to conquer few meters of arable land, has exposed the soil to destructive erosion processes. On sloping land the ecological infrastructures help control and
purify the water, especially in the autumn and winter seasons, when rainfall is particularly
heavy. It is a fact that with rainfall exceeding 50 mm, every hectare of bare land may lose up
to 3.5 tonnes of good soil!
The presence of wooded strips, hedgerows or simple grass strips slows down water runoff
and facilitates penetration into the ground, thus preventing erosion. Moreover, the nutrients
in the soil, which would otherwise be washed away by rain, are absorbed by the same plants
constituting the ecological infrastructure. In this way,

 fertilizer waste and groundwater pollution are avoided. A stabilizing function can be effectively performed by any species (also
productive ones). If, however, landslide is to be feared, it is necessary to plant colonizing
species such as false acacia, rush, rock rose, berberry, broom and laburnum.
Maintenance of the biological balance
The diversity of plant species in a hedgerow may be a perfect habitat for several species of
birds, reptiles, small mammals and insects. Hedgerows are an important source of cover for
birds and small animals and provide corridors for the movement of wild-life throughout the
agricultural landscape. However, to achieve this objective successfully biodiversity within the
hedgerow is important. The combination of earth bank and ditch provides an environment
for wetland and dryland fauna. A season long supply of fruits and seeds as a source of food
for animals and birds is also important. An unbroken hedgerow provides a corridor for the
dispersal of some insect species throughout the countryside.
It is true that some of these organisms may be harmful to crops, but it is also true that as
many are beneficial either directly (for example pollinators) or indirectly (parasites or predators of destructive species).
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It is important to form as complex a system as possible, rich in animal and plant species interacting among themselves and preventing one from prevailing over the others. All this will
ensure long-lasting stability to the ecosystem and, consequently, to agricultural productions.

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