Along with the healthy lifestyle trend, organic farming is becoming more and more popular with the general public. Many players in organic farming have emerged together with an increasingly open market share. Not only because of its high economic value, but organic farming is also important to repair agricultural ecosystems that are increasingly degraded by contact with synthetic or chemical substances such as pesticides.
Professor of Pest and Plant Disease Control, Hasanuddin University Makassar, Prof. DR. Sylvia Sjam emphasized the need to promote organic farming as a sustainable agricultural solution, especially for farmers.
“It must be conveyed that dealing with pests and diseases is not only through synthetic pesticides and home-made fertilizers, which are cheaper and more affordable and healthy for the agricultural ecosystem,” said Sylvia in a conversation in Unhas, Makassar, Friday (Nov .2018).
According to Sylvia, organically managed plants tend to be more resistant to pests and diseases. It is related to the fertility of plants growing on healthy soil.
“When the soil is fertile, the plants grow much better. Plants become more resistant to pests. If the soil becomes fertile with the addition of organic matter, we expect the plants on it to receive better nutrients,” he added.
On the other hand, if the soil contains a lot of synthetic materials, the microorganisms in the soil will not develop. Microorganisms have an important function in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.
“(Microorganisms) can act as biodegrades. There is also an antagonist that can control diseases but cannot develop due to the use of chemicals,” he explained.
Professor of Pest and Plant Disease Control, Hasanuddin University Makassar, Prof. DR. Sylvia Sjam emphasized the need to train farmers to promote organic farming as a sustainable agricultural solution.
Sylvia gave an example that using urea fertilizer, which is quite high for rice and vegetable growing, actually affects reducing soil quality and kills soil microorganisms.
“The use of urea containing nitrogen is not prohibited, but it must comply with the usual regulations. It’s just that according to the organic regulation, it’s impossible to use synthetic fertilizers like urea.”
According to Sylvia, converting conventional land to organic requires patience. It could be a year, although some say it could be 6 months. Everything will depend on the country’s history, whether it has been exposed to large-scale synthetic fertilizers and pesticides or herbicides. If the ecosystem is damaged, it must be repaired first.
“If the (country) is not too bad, the recovery can be quick. As long as we stop and continue treating the land with sufficient organic fertilizer. The patterns also need to be improved. Therefore, a mixed culture is highly recommended. You have to think about how plants naturally get nitrogen from the air.”
Prof. DR. Sylvia, Sam also owns an organic farm under the Presko Organic brand. This effort is an application of science and an educational effort to change people’s attitudes toward organic farming.
Organic farming also requires wholeness and consistency, once you declare it organic you can no longer use chemicals even on a small scale.
“If we choose organic, there has to be totality, in the sense that all use of chemicals has to stop. It can’t be organic and then go back to artificial fertilizer next season. It takes a lot of patience. Organic fertilizers should always be applied over several seasons. The challenge then is, are we going to be tired first and have fun later?”
In reality, most farmers want everything immediately, although the biological process requires a non-simple process. For example, a lot of organic fertilizer must be provided. Although it can be purchased, making your organic fertilizer is much better as farmers can guarantee the authenticity of the fertilizer produced.
“Therefore, we need to encourage the local production of organic fertilizers at the farmer level. It has to be in there so you don’t have to worry about transporting fertilizer to the country.”
According to Sylvia, the government needs support to promote the organic farming movement. One of them is providing plant hoeing machine facilities for composting materials. In addition, the government can designate one or a region as a center for the production of organic products.
“We can see, for example, in Bali, where a regional ordinance has been issued that Bali must produce organic products. Maybe they made a regional arrangement because many external consumers like organic products. They are supported by the government to certify farmers so their produce is organic.”
Sylvia continued that organic farming can also be applied to hard and long-term crops like cocoa. Not just for herbal products, as many have done so far.
“Now there’s a market for organic cocoa like Japan, which is very strict.”
This requires intensive support for farmers so that they are no longer dependent on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
“Farmers are taught not to use pesticides if they don’t need them. This requires support from the synergy of farmers, the private sector, and the government. Farmers can also diversify their crops.”
The high level of pest infestations in cocoa cultivation is due to a lack of biotic suppressors, cultivation patterns, and incorrect handling methods. For example, if a farmer sees a pest, his mind needs to be sprayed, which in turn kills the predator.
“If the natural enemy dies, there is no suppression of this pest. If we grow the same thing all year round, food is constantly available, and there are many hosts, although the same cycle must be broken. Could be by using the same strain.”
Sylvia also highlighted the importance of ecosystem management in agriculture. In this case, the ecosystem is set up in such a way that even if pests are present, they will never be in the population, which can lead to economic losses.
“That’s why I said that people say that cocoa is pest control in cocoa. Not so. His mind is a pest there, only controlled. What we can do is ecosystem management to reduce pest infestations on cocoa plants. We have proven that. Dealing with fertilizer, mulch, and shading There are other plants besides cocoa, the grass is not cleaned with herbicides, but used as organic fertilizer. Including a Roark hole in the garden.”
Organic farming by residents of Sumberbening Village, Dongko District, Trenggalek Regency, East Java, who rely on springs and rivers for their agriculture and plantations. Photo: Petrus Riski/Mongabay Indonesia
Aside from being an academic, Sylvia also owns an organic farm under the Presko Organic brand. These efforts are also a vehicle to learn the application of science, as well as educational efforts to change the way people think.
“I’m glad that people are talking about organic, there are many perpetrators, at least a lot of effort has been made with organic claims.”
Running an organic business accompanied Sylvia 10 years ago with many challenges. There are still many pessimists, including among scientists themselves.
Regarding the future of organic crop cultivation, Sylvia sees promising economic prospects, even if it is cultivated with limited land.
“The economic prospects are very favorable because there is a price difference. In addition, the cost of producing organic fertilizers can be reduced by producing fertilizer itself using the existing waste. You don’t need a large area, especially for vegetables, because we only have to establish a planting plan. alternately planted. Marketing is also easier because it can be done through online marketing like Facebook and Instagram.”