Soil health and farm environments in organic pork production

Organic pork production begins with the health of your farm’s soil. Your farm is treated as a whole ecological unit comprised of interrelated systems. Organic farming practices aim to minimise external inputs by recycling and composting your farm’s waste as nutrients.

Looking after the environment

There are minimum requirements for managing the environment of an organically certified farm. For example, you will be expected to set aside at least 5% of your land to areas where there is no agricultural production. Wetlands, native pastures and tree ‘buffers’ encourage native animals and plants. Areas set aside will help you to manage farm pests and diseases.

The national certification standards lists the environmental requirements.

Soil fertility and health management

Healthy soil is fundamental to any organic system. For your farm to be certified organic, you must be able to demonstrate it is recycling nutrients and reducing external inputs. You can do this by:

  • rotating the fields in which stock is raised
  • cultivating legumes, green manures or perennial deep-rooting plants
  • sheet-composting using animal manures and green manure crops
  • spreading organic compost (certification standards apply rules on the make-up, saturation and temperature of composts)
  • balancing the nutrients in soil to encourage microbial life for production of humus.

Livestock manures can supplement soil nutrients. Manures should be composted before use and they should be recycled on the farm that produces them. With manures or fertilisers, no more than 170kg of newtons per hectare, per year can be added as a recycled nutrient.

Water management and ecology

Organic farms should improve the efficiency of their water use by:

  • increasing the water holding capacity of the soil on your farm with gradual humus build up
  • improving your mulching practices to contain moisture
  • using efficient irrigation equipment and systems.

Pest and weed management

Synthetic and nitrate fertilisers, pesticides and all genetically modified organisms are strictly prohibited from certified areas. You can control pests and weeds in organic systems by using:

  • companion and trap cropping
  • soil solarisation
  • mechanical controls such as traps, barriers, light and sound
  • protecting pest predator habitats
  • mulching and slashing
  • flame and steam weeding
  • adjusting mineral and biological balance within the soil.

Certification standards list the substances that are prohibited and restricted on certified organic farms. Controls also apply to any plastics, sludge, seeds and machinery you bring into certified areas.

Selecting a site

If you are adapting an existing piggery to meet organic standards, or developing a new piggery, you need to assess how it will impact existing communities.

Learn more about site selection for free-range and organic pork from the National Environmental Guidelines for Piggeries.