National Organic Standards Board
FORMAL RECOMMENDATION BY THE NATIONAL ORGANIC STANDARDS BOARD (NOSB) TO THE NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM (NOP) January 23, 2010
Production Standards for Terrestrial Plants in Containers and Enclosures
The organic farming method derives its name from the practice of maintaining or improving the organic matter (carbon containing) content of farm soil through various methods and practices. The reason this is the central theme and foundation of organic farming is not inherent to the organic matter itself, but is based on the importance of the organic matter to the living organisms that inhabit soils, particularly for its positive influence on proliferation of diverse populations of organisms that interact in a beneficial way with plant roots. These microscopic organisms, found in abundance in well maintained soils, interact in a symbiotic manner with plant roots, producing the effect of strengthening the plant to be able to better resist or avoid insect, disease and nematode attack, as well as assisting the plant in water and mineral uptake. The abundance of such organisms in healthy, organically maintained soils form a biological network, an amazing and diverse ecology that is ‘the secret’, the foundation of the success of organic farming accomplished without the need for synthetic insecticides, nematicides, fumigants, etc. In practice, the organic farmer is not just a tiller of the soil, but a steward of the soil ecology on the farm, hence some of the alternate names for this realm of production, such as ecological or biodynamic farming.
Observing the framework of organic farming based on its foundation of sound management of soil biology and ecology, it becomes clear that systems of crop production that eliminate soil from the system, such as hydroponics or aeroponics, can not be considered as examples of accept able organic farming practices. Hydroponics, the production of plants in nutrient rich solutions or moist inert material, or aeroponics, a variation in which plant roots are suspended in air and continually misted with nutrient solution, have their place in production agriculture, but certainly cannot be classified as certified organic growing methods due to their exclusion of the soil-plant ecology intrinsic to organic farming systems and USDA/NOP regulations governing them.