Editor’s note: this is the actual language from the National Organic Program’s Rule relative to the issue of soil and hydroponics. It does not define specific land practices that producers must use. But it does identify general soil management and environmental protection objectives. From these objectives, producers and the organic certifiers they work with must determine whether specific farming practices meet the NOP criteria. Readers wishing further insight into this rule and how to apply it may want to read an ATTRA publication by Barbara C. Bellows called “Soil Management: National Organic Program Regulations” available at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/download.php?id=180
(a) The producer must select and implement tillage and cultivation practices that maintain or improve the physical, chemical, and biological condition of soil and minimize soil erosion.
(b) The producer must manage crop nutrients and soil fertility through rotations, cover crops, and the application of plant and animal materials.
(c) The producer must manage plant and animal materials to maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances. Animal and plant materials include:
(i) Applied to land used for a crop not intended for human consumption;
(ii) Incorporated into the soil not less than 120 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion has direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles; or
(iii) Incorporated into the soil not less than 90 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion does not have direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles;
(2) Composted plant and animal materials produced though a process that:
(i) Established an initial C:N ratio of between 25:1 and 40:1; and
(ii) Maintained a temperature of between 131 °F and 170 °F for 3 days using an in-vessel or static aerated pile system; or
(iii) Maintained a temperature of between 131 °F and 170 °F for 15 days using a windrow composting system, during which period, the materials must be turned a minimum of five times.
(3) Uncomposted plant materials.
(d) A producer may manage crop nutrients and soil fertility to maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances by applying:
(2) A mined substance of low solubility;
(3) A mined substance of high solubility: Provided, That, the substance is used in compliance with the conditions established on the National List of nonsynthetic materials prohibited for crop production;
(4) Ash obtained from the burning of a plant or animal material, except as prohibited in paragraph (e) of this section: Provided, That, the material burned has not been treated or combined with a prohibited substance or the ash is not included on the National List of nonsynthetic substances prohibited for use in organic crop production; and
(5) A plant or animal material that has been chemically altered by a manufacturing process: Provided, That, the material is included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production established in § 205.601.
(e) The producer must not use:
(3) Burning as a means of disposal for crop residues produced on the operation: Except, That, burning may be used to suppress the spread of disease or to stimulate seed germination.