Chapter 5

Soil Tillage in Organic Farming Systems

National Organic Program Standard for Soil Tillage

The National Organic Program (NOP) final rule (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2000) states certified organic farmers must document the tillage practices and procedures performed as part of their Organic System Plans [NOP section § 205.201(a)(1)]. Hand weeding and mechanical cultivation are among the allowed weed control measures [NOP section § 205.206(c)(4)]. Farm records must document the frequency of tillage applications. This can be done in a number of ways; an organized and easy-to-use system should be adopted by the producer for documenting tillage, rotation, and amendment history (in addition to other information required by the NOP standard) for each field. When reviewing a producer's farm plan, the organic inspector will consider whether tillage and cultivation practices are being used in ways that maintains or improves the physical, chemical, and biological condition of the soil and minimizes soil erosion [NOP section § 205.203(a)].

Section 205.203(a) Soil Fertility and Crop Nutrient Management Practices

As stated in § 205.203(a), organic producers must use tillage and cultivation practices that “maintain or improve the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil.” Tillage and cultivation practices that meet these criteria will have the following general characteristics.

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