Organic farming is a system of farming that is steadily gaining popularity in the world. Organic farming provides an alternative to the modern forms of farming such as using chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, growth hormones, and other artificial techniques. Tracing its roots all the way back to the 20th century, organic farming relies on methods of using organic fertilizer such as green manure and compost manure. Organic farming also employs other techniques such as companion planting, planting of cover crops, and crop rotation, which ultimately maintains a balance between the hosts and predators.
This method of farming is not only restricted to plant farming but also in animal farming. The method has gained popularity due to a number of reasons. Key among those reasons is the protection of the environment from harmful chemicals that threaten to destroy the natural and crucial nutrients in the soil. By doing this, the natural composition and balance of the environment is preserved while improving the soil.
Organic Farming In Europe
As of 2015, Europe had a total of about 11.9 million hectares of land that was being used for organic farming. In the same year, there were about 269,000 farmers practicing organic farming in the European Union 28 (EU-28) nations. Within the same region of the EU-28 countries, the number of organic processors numbered about 58,000 in 2015. Compared to previous years, this figure was a considerable increase. The increase in the number of organic farmers coincides with a boom in the European market for organic products as more people are more conscious about their health. For example, in 2015, the total value of organic goods sold was a whopping €29.8 billion. Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden are some of the biggest consumers of organic food in the world.
Top European Countries For Organic Farming
In terms of the countries with the most land for organic farming and the number of farmers practicing organic farming, Spain and Italy really stand out. Looking at the numbers from 2015, Spain was easily the leading producer with land that was about 1.9 million hectares dedicated to organic farming. Italy was in the second place with about 1.5 million hectares, while France followed closely in the third position with around 1.4 million hectares. Germany was the only other country on the list with over one million hectares (1.1 million hectares). Closing the top five was Poland with almost 600,000 hectares. The bottom three countries each had less than half a million hectares each. These countries were the United Kingdom (495,929), the Czech Republic (478,033), and Greece in the tenth position with a relatively small size of 407,069 hectares.
Data about the rate of growth of the acreage used in organic farming shows that there was a respectable increase of about 21% in 2015 compared to the 9 million hectares of 2010. In all the countries of the EU-28, there was an increase except for two nations, the United Kingdom and Holland. The former had the highest decrease of 29% while the latter had a decrease of only 4% compared to 2010.
Expectedly, the figures were not that much different in 2016 with the top four nations of 2015 still at the same positions as in 2015. Interestingly, in 2016, the top four countries contributed more than half of the total land used for organic farming in Europe. Spain contributed the most land (16.9%) with Italy, France, and Germany following with 15.1%, 12.9%, and 9.5% respectively. Together, these four heavyweights made up around 54.4% of the total land used for organic farming in the EU-28 countries. In 2015, these nations accounted for a slightly less total of 52.8%, which shows that the land used for organic farming increased slightly in 2016.
Arable Land Dedicated to Organic Farming
Of the total size of land that was used for agriculture in the EU, there was an increase from 5.6% to 6.7% from 2012 to 2016. The data shows that the nations using the highest share of arable land for organic farming in 2016 included the likes of Austria, Estonia, and Sweden with each dedicating more than 18% of the total arable land for organic farming. The likes of the Czech Republic, Italy, Finland, and Latvia had all dedicated more than 10% of the total arable land in 2016. The last nation on the list, Greece, had a respectable share of just above 5%. The United Kingdom was lower on the list with less than 5% of the total arable land dedicated to organic farming. Top performer, Spain, allocated around 9% of the total arable land to organic farming.
Types of Crops
Organic farming is divided into three major types of crops. These crops are arable land crops (which include the likes of fresh vegetables and industrial crops), permanent crops (which include the likes of vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees), and permanent grasslands (which include meadows and pastures).
Permanent grasslands, which are majorly used for grazing livestock, covered land that was more than 5 million hectares in 2016. On a broader scale, this figure represented about 45.1% of the total land used for organic farming in the EU-28 countries. Arable crops were in the second position in terms of the total size used with 44.0% while permanent crops were last with a share of 10.9%.
For ten member states in the EU, the land used for arable land crops was well over 50% of the total land used for organic farming. Arable crops were dominating in nations such as Finland (99.0%) and Denmark (83.4%). The likes of Italy and Spain each had less than 50% of their total organic land dedicated to arable farming. In the case of Spain more than 50% was dedicated to permanent grasslands. However, the Czech Republic was the leading nation in terms of land used for permanent grasslands with a share of a massive 85.6%. In 15 nations in the same region, permanent grasslands were the dominant crops with a coverage that was more than half of the total organic land. In most of the EU countries, permanent crops were the least planted.