Fertilisers and plant tonics for use in organic production

"The health of man, beast, plant and soil is one indivisible whole; the health of the soil depends on maintaining its biological balance and, starting with a truly fertile soil, the crops grown on it, the livestock fed on those crops and the humans fed on both have a standard of health and power of resisting disease and infection greatly in advance of anything ordinarily found in this country"
[Lady Eve Balfour, The Living Soil, 1943]

Fertility in organic systems

Organic farming is a holistic, low-input agricultural production system working with, rather than against, natural systems. The soil is the heart of an organic system, feeding plants via intricate relationships with microflora and fauna. Microbial activity within the soil processes organic matter to provide a range of minerals and nutrients. These are used by the crop to achieve healthy, vigorous growth. Biodiversity within the system and optimum crop health, work together to minimise the incidence of pest and disease attack.

The nutrient cycle is completed by returning organic matter/fertility back to the soil that has been removed through production and harvest of the crop. The building and maintenance of soil structure and the provision of essential nutrients and minerals, including N, P & K, is therefore achieved using a number of fundamental processes, including:

  • Planting legumes
  • Effective crop rotations
  • Incorporating green manures
  • Appropriate application and incorporation of composts and composted farm yard manure (FYM).

It is essential that these principles and practices are seen as the primary tools to maintain an effective organic system. Any additional inputs should be viewed only as supplements - and not substitutes - to the system, and should only be called upon when absolutely necessary.

If you do recognise a need to supplement the fertility-building process, an examination of the system, such as a nutrient budget and/or full soil analysis, will normally be required.

What fertiliser products are included in this online directory?

All products in this directory have been verified as acceptable for use by organic producers under EU regulation 2092/91 and the Defra Compendium of Organic Standards for organic food production. These products contain only substances that can either be used with or without prior permission from your certification body. A soil or leaf analysis may be required for products that require permission or approval to be granted before use. You may need to provide justification to use such products by filling in a restricted practice form. You can get these forms from your certification body.

What if I want to use a product which is not registered in the online directory?

The directory is not a definitive list of all products. Any products not included should be assessed by your organic certification body before use to ensure that they comply with organic standards. In the UK, organic standards are governed by EU regulation 2092/91 and the Defra Compendium of Organic Standards for organic food production. If you are a Soil Association certified license holder then you will need to refer to section 4.8 of the Soil Association organic standards (Revision 16.5). Any material not specifically listed in the Soil Association standards as either recommended, or as requiring prior permission, or not requiring prior permission for use, is likely to be prohibited. If you are in any doubt contact the Soil Association Producer Team on 0117 914 5100, or your certification body.

Please note that if standards are quoted, we are referring to the Soil Association Organic Standards. Please ensure you use this information in conjunction with the standards of your certification body.

The Soil Association is unable to take responsibility for the efficacy of any of the products listed in the online directory.

How can I register a product to be included in this online directory?

If you would like to have your product verified, you can download a verified input application pack. Please also contact a member of our friendly team on 0117 914 2406 who will be happy to answer your queries.

Genetic  modification

Inputs used on organic farms must not be derived from or produced using, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or their derivatives. If you wish to use brought-in non-organic manures, green waste composts, propagating composts and slaughterhouse waste products not listed in the online directory, a GMO declaration may be required. GMO declaration forms are available from your certification body.

How do I know what level of approval is required before using a product?

The term "prior approval required  used in the online directory and by Soil Association Certification Ltd (SACL) is equivalent to the terms "must be approved before use" used by Organic Farmers and Growers (OF&G), and "need recognised by inspection authority" used by Defra Compendium of Organic Standards.

The categories for use of organic products are as follows:

Permitted: You may use this product.

Permitted with justification provided at inspection:
You may use this product but you must be able to justify its use at your inspection with evidence such as test results, records, forms a plan etc. For example you must record why you needed to use that particular product

Prior approval required: Before you use the product you must have been given approval by your certification body. This approval may cover more than one use. For example you may submit an annual plan to your certification officer that will then need to be approved before you can use the product.