A Conversation with Agricola – Part 1

Are you looking for articles, a thesis, translations, patents, monographs, proceedings, technical reports, and related materials for any of the agricultural aspects? If yes, we have a perfect solution for you – Agricola. Be it tips to start organic farming or the formation and composition of compost; this database produced by the NAL (National Agricultural Library) can help you with all.

In today’s post, we will be talking about materials from Agricola that are related to organic farming and gardening, organic matter like humus, compost, manure, soil tests, and a lot more. However, before we get started with all these conversations, let us quickly have a look at what Agricola is.

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What is Agricola?

If you are into the agricultural field, you might have heard of Agricola. If not, fret not! We are here to tell you everything about it. This is an online database that stands for Agricultural Online Access. The “AGRIC “in Agricola comes from Agriculture, “O” and “L “comes from Online, and “A” comes from Access.

This database is created as well as maintained by the US National Agricultural Library which is further a part of the United States Department of Agriculture. Moving on to the purpose of this online database, it acts as an index and catalog for all the agriculture-related collections in the United States National Agricultural Library. All of this information is easily accessible to the public.

Now, let us learn about its scope. As mentioned above, this database is particularly related to Agriculture and data related to it. It has various publications that along with agriculture cover fields like entomology, plant sciences, animal and veterinary sciences, aquaculture and fisheries, forestry, food and human nutrition, earth, and environmental sciences, farming and farming systems, agricultural economics, and extension and education.

Now, While Agricola is for the glossary and index of research, there is another database introduced by them that is focused on the full-text publications and journal literature from the scientists of USDA. This was released in 2015 and is called PubAg. This database is available for farmers, scholars, students, scientists, and even the general public.

Now, you must be wondering how these two – AGRICOLA and PubAg differ. In simple words, while there is some overlap between the two, both serve their purpose. The former is a public catalog of all the records in the National Agricultural Library. Also, like PubAg, it has citations to articles. Along with citations related to Agriculture, Agricola can also have journal articles that are not peer-reviewed.


Organic Farming and Gardening

Organic Farming and Gardening

After Agricola, let us move to learn about organic farming and gardening with its help. First, let us see what it is. In simple words, organic farming and gardening is a system of agricultural practices that is a combination of science and nature. This kind of farming comes from the belief that the best foods can be produced in soil that is not treated but nurtured.

Instead of treating their soil with chemical fertilizers, organic farmers take care of their soil by providing it with organic matter and soil nutrients to keep it healthy. It can be the same as a person taking care of their body to keep it healthy. Over the years, this kind of farming has become one of the fastest-growing agricultural segments in the states. The practices involved in it can do the following:

  • Improve the fertility of the soil and maintain it
  • Maintain and improve soil structure and biodiversity
  • Reduce soil erosion and leaching
  • Eliminate the risks of toxic materials
  • Meet local production conditions
  • Satisfy local markets

Further, different programs by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture have impacted organic farming to a great extent. These programs have facilitated the development of organic agriculture production, processing, as well as breeding methods. These also evaluate the possible economic advantages of these processors and procedures.

Further, NIFA’s programs also explore international trade opportunities for organic farmers so that they could benefit from their organically grown and processed commodities. These also help regulate looked-for traits for organic products. Further, NIFA’s policies also focus on marketing and policy constraints involving the expansion of organic agriculture and gardening.

These policies also help farmers conduct on-farm research and development. These are usually done on working organic farms. It also involves the development of better seed varieties needed for organic gardening and farming. Along with all these, they also provide educational tools to agricultural professionals to start organic farming from scratch or to have a smooth transition from conventional to organic farming practices.


  • Tips for Organic Farming by USDA

If you have decided to start organic farming or want to eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers and make a smooth transition from inorganic to organic farming, resources at Agricola can also offer you tips for the same. As per an article by USDA, irrespective of whether you are an avid gardener or just starting out, organic farming can be super simple if you manage to understand its basic principles.

Mathieu Ngouajio, who is a national program leader for organic agriculture at NIFA (USDA), in order to have a successful organic garden, you will need to have soil that has healthy soil texture and structure and is rich in nutrients. Typically, for those just starting out, it is advised to use a well-draining soil kind that is sand, silt, clay, and compost.

Ideally, it should have 50 percent solid particles with 50 percent pore space. Even if your backyard or garden soil does not have this perfect ratio, it is always possible to make use of compost or manure to achieve it. Further, the most ideal soil type for organic gardening should have a loose, crumb-like structure. Also, the water, air, and roots of the plants should easily be able to penetrate through them.

The next factor organic farmers need to keep in mind is – soil fertility. Now, various factors determine it. Some of them include soil nutrients, texture, pH, organic matter in it, etc. The best way to build the natural fertility of your soil is by adding organic matter to it. This will not only enrich the soil with nutrients but also eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.

Another issue you can face as an organic farmer is unwanted pests. In the case of inorganic farming, you can readily make use of synthetic pesticides for it. However, the same cannot be done for organic farming. Mathieu Ngouajio reveals that integrated pest management can be used by organic farmers.

This system makes use of cultural, biological, chemical, and physical strategies to tackle and control pests. These methods are the least environmentally harmful, and toxic methods are only used if they cannot handle the situation. Some examples of IPM methods include crop rotation, using pest and disease-resistant varieties, releasing predator organisms, cleaning tools, covering plants, etc.

Naturally, you can get rid of weeds by pulling them out manually, using weed flamer, smothering them with mulch, or simply growing plants that can grow faster and stronger than weeds. To sum it all up, if you wish to start an organic garden, there should be a total absence of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in it.


Soil Test and Its Importance in An Organic Garden

When it comes to organic farming, you can readily use organic matter and organic fertilizers. However, before you do that, it is crucial to know the value of humus and organic matter in the soil. A soil analysis like this can not only let you know about this but also nutrient deficiencies that may occur in the future. Here is why a soil test is important in an organic garden:

  • Complete Soil Assessment

Interpreting a soil test is rather complicated if not done properly. However, if you manage to collect the sample the right way, and get it tested from trusted libraries, a soil test can tell you a lot of details. One of them is the determination of nutrients your soil lacks. Once you know this, you can easily know the steps you need to follow to make amendments and enjoy maximum yield.

  • Assess Soil Health

In order to be successful in organic farming, your soil needs to be healthy. This cannot be estimated just by looking at the soil. A soil test is crucial for it.

  • Check the Soil pH

The next thing a soil sample can help you with is checking the pH of your soil. Usually, different soils have different levels of this – between 6 to 6.5. If these levels rise, there are chances that some nutrients can become less available, and thereby affect plant growth and development.

A soil test can easily outline the pH of your soil along with major nutrient issues. Now, since you know all this, you will know exactly what amendments it needs. You can readily buy those and save on other products.


Final Thoughts

So, this is all you need to know about Agricola and materials from it that are related to organic farming and gardening, organic matter, and soil tests. We hope it helps you out, and have a successful organic garden with the best yield.