Having watched the Aamir Khan anchored Satyameva Jayate episode on organic farming you may be one of the many new convert to the world of organically grown food and vegetables. During your recent visit to one of those boutique stores who stock organic veggies you may have paid a premium buying a bunch of organically grown spinach or cauliflower, all along assured that at no time was chemical fertilizer or pesticide used to grow the vegetable. Now stored in your fridge it awaits to appear in its palak-mutter avatar on your dining table soon. You’re happy that you and your family will taste their maiden pesticide-free vegetable dish. It’s all because you care for your family’s health.
Wait, don’t be too happy. Let me ask you (Am I puncturing your happy bubble): Kya aapke toothpaste mein namak hai stuff? Plainly, Is your palak nutritious enough? Does it contain the amount of iron it is supposed to have?
FYI palak (spinach) contains 2.7 milligrams of iron per 100 grams
You will be surprised to know that answers to both are: NO. Still you paid a premium. Only, only because it was pesticide free.
Why? Why? Why?
Because did anyone tell you that worldwide, India included, the TOC ( total organic carbon) of the soil has come down to abysmal .5 per cent. And unless the SOC (soil’s organic carbon) is increased your palak and other vegetables will continue to be just plain green leaves, lacking any substantial nutrition.
TOC is the carbon (C) stored in soil organic matter (SOM). Organic carbon (OC) enters the soil through the decomposition of plant and animal residues, root exudates, living and dead microorganisms, and soil biota. SOM is the organic fraction of soil exclusive of non-decomposed plant and animal residues, according to http://soilquality.org
Soil Organic Carbon is the main source of energy for soil microorganisms. Its one of the most important constituents of the soil due to its capacity to affect plant growth as both a source of energy and a trigger for nutrient availability through mineralization. Humus participates in aggregate stability, and nutrient and water holding capacity.
Compiled data shows that farming practices have resulted in the loss of an estimated 4,400,000,000 tons of C from soils of the United States, most of which is OC. To compensate for these losses, practices such as no-till may increase SOC. Other practices that increase SOC include continuous application of manure and compost, and use of summer and/or winter cover crops. Burning, harvesting, or otherwise removing residues decreases SOC.