Organically grown plants are those produced without the use of man-made products; typically fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Instead, everything that is applied to such crops must occur naturally, which often means that it requires more labor to produce these crops, but the grower guarantees that they have not been touched by man-made chemicals. Organic alfalfa is one such crop, and may be grown as feed for livestock that is used to produce food or turned into food supplements for humans.
When producing organic crops, weeds can become a serious problem if they aren’t adequately controlled. One method of minimizing the growth of weeds is to keep the field planted continually with either organic alfalfa or a cover crop, such as oat grass. This method keeps the area covered with a desirable plant that usually comes in thick and grows fast, choking out most of the weeds before they can get started. Shortly before it is time to plant the alfalfa, the oat grass is plowed under and allowed to rot so that it also serves as fertilizer, or what is commonly called green manure, and provides nutrients for the new crop.
Organic alfalfa is also commonly fertilized with old manure from horse or cattle barns, or aged organic compost that may include rotted grass clippings and kitchen waste as well as other plant material. It is important that everything added to the compost is organic, as chemical contaminants at any stage of the process can mean that the resulting alfalfa is no longer truly organic. Most growers of organic crops are meticulous about such things and go to great lengths to avoid any possibility of non-organic materials coming in contact with their crops.
Since chemical pesticides are definitely man made, growers of organic alfalfa must find other ways of dealing with the pests that are drawn to the fields. One very popular method is the use of natural controls, specifically predatory insects that prey on those bugs that might otherwise destroy the organic alfalfa crop. Ladybugs, certain wasps, pirate bugs, and praying mantis are all used to control various pests without the need to resort to the application of chemicals that may be dangerous.
Despite the higher cost of organic alfalfa, in part because it is more expensive to produce, many people feel that it is worth the extra cost to avoid the health concerns that accompany so many of the man-made products that are in common use. When the alfalfa is used as animal feed, there is no chance of unhealthy pesticides or other chemicals building up in the meat or milk of food-producing animals. In some cases organic alfalfa is used to make a nutritional supplement for humans, and the majority of people who choose to use such supplements seem to prefer that the product not be made from alfalfa that has been exposed to potentially harmful chemicals.