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Finding "Organic": Search Strategies and Terminology
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Finding Organic: Search Strategies and Terminology

Farmer examining seeds with a magnifying glass.
Compiled by:
Mary V. Gold
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center

July 2007

This resource is part of our Organic Production/Organic Food: Information Access Tools tutorial which identifies outstanding sources that address organic agriculture, research and information sources, contacts and experts, research funding sources, educational and career opportunities, and upcoming events.

For more information related specifically to how and where to search, see:

1. Defining the challenges

The unique nature of organic production and marketing makes searching on organic topics challenging. Why?

  • There are many unrelated topics connected with the word organic, such as organic chemistry, organic acids, and soil organic matter, that preclude searching on just the word organic with the expectation of meaningful results.

  • There is the confusing nomenclature associated with organic production: organics, organically grown, biodyamic, biological farming, ecological agriculture, and more - a host of almost synonymous terms. There are also many organic practices and organic commodities that may not always be labeled as such, but that may be relevant to a particular search, e.g. biological pest control, or natural foods.

  • There is the holistic nature of organic production itself. Particularly in the area of organic farming, one may need to consider the whole-farm, economic, political, philosophical, and economic aspects of organic. This is not easy to do, especially on discipline-focused databases.

2. Glossary of best keywords and phrases

Note on electronic searching: Terms or phrases with multiple forms of one word (e.g. farm/farms/farming) may be searched using truncation or stemming on search engines with these search capabilities. Phrases should be searched as phrases, e.g. enclosed with quotation marks (" "), whenever possible.


Using precise words and phrases is especially important in searching on organic topics. The following terms are used as descriptors of organic systems and/or are synonyms for organic systems.

This list of terms in arranged into the following categories:

  1. Whole/Integrated Organic Systems
  2. Related Alternative Agriculture Systems and Disciplines
  3. Selected Organic Practices
    1. Disease, weed and pest control
    2. Soil and soil fertility management
    3. Livestock management
      1. Livestock health
    4. Economics and marketing

1. Terminology Associated with Whole/Integrated Organic Systems

biological agriculture
biological farms/farming+
ecological farming+
natural farming+
nature farming+
organic agriculture
organic certification#
organic certified/certified organic
organic cropping system(s)
organic culture
organic farmer(s)*/farm/farms*/farming*+
organic food(s)*
organic garden/gardens/gardening
organic husbandry
organic livestock*
organic production#
organically farmed/farmed organically
organically grown
regenerative agriculture+
regenerative cropping system(s)
regenerative farming

2. Terminology Associated with Related Alternative Agriculture Systems and Disciplines
Terms that denote systems/practices that overlap, over-arch or include organic systems. Many of these terms are often confused with terms that pertain to strictly organic systems.

agricultural ecology
alternative agriculture
alternative farming#+
crop ecology*
cropping systems#
farming systems#
holistic management+
holistic resource management (HRM)
integrated agricultural system(s)#
integrated farming system(s)+
integrated production system(s)
low input agriculture#
low-input agriculture+*
permanent agriculture
plant ecosystem(s)*
reduced input farming
reduced input agriculture
sustainable farm/farms/farming
sustainable agriculture#+*

3. Terminology Associated with Selected Organic Practices

  1. Disease, weed and pest control
  2. Soil and soil fertility management
  3. Livestock management
    1. Livestock health
  4. Economics and marketing

Disease, weed and pest control

alternative pesticide(s)*
beneficial arthropod(s)#
beneficial insect(s)#*
beneficial microorganisms*
beneficial nematode(s)*
beneficial organism(s)#
biobased/bio-based control
biological control(s)#+*/controlling biologically
biological control agent(s)#
biorational pesticide(s)
botanical pesticide(s)*
cultural control*
disease suppression*
disease tolerant
disease resistance#/disease resistant
fungal antagonists#
horticultural oil(s)#
insecticidal soap(s)#
integrated pest management# (IPM)
integrated weed management#
mechanical control
microbial pesticide(s)#*
mixed cropping#
natural enemies#
natural substance(s)*
natural pesticide(s)
non-chemical methods
non-chemical control(s)*
parasites of plant pests
parasitoid augmentation
pest resistant
predator augmentation
predators of plant pests
predatory arthropods#
predatory insect(s)#
predatory mite(s)#
relay cropping#
soil heating#
soil solarization#*
strip cropping#

Soil and soil fertility management

alley cropping
animal manure(s)#
animal waste(s)
carbon sequestration#
compost(s)#* [food residuals composts#; yard waste composts#]
composted manure(s)#
conservation buffers#
conservation practices#
cover crop(s)#/cover-crop(s)*
cover cropping
crop rotation(s)#*
cropping sequence#
food webs#
green manure(s)#/green manuring
humic acid(s)#
live mulch(es)#
living mulch(es)*
microbial ecology#*
mycorrhizal fungi#
nitrogen fixation#*
nitrogen-fixing bacteria#
nutrient management#
organic amendment(s)
organic fertilizer(s)#
organic matter#*
soil amendment(s)#*
soil food webs#
soil inoculation#
soil microflora*
soil microorganisms#
soil organic matter#*
soil organisms*
soil-plant interaction(s)#
soil-plant-nutrient relations*
suppressive soils#*
windrow composting#

Livestock management

alternative livestock#
animal manure management#
chicken tractor
controlled grazing
grass-based/grass based
grass-fed/grass fed
grass-fed livestock#
grazing management#
green feeding
holistic management (HM)
integrated parasite management
intensive grazing
ley farming
management-intensive grazing (MIG)
manure management
mixed grazing#
moveable fencing
multispecies grazing/multi-species grazing
nutrient management#
pasture-based/pasture based
pasture-fed/pasture fed
pasture management#
prescribed grazing
range improvement#
range management#
rational grazing
riparian best management practices
riparian buffers#
riverbank protection#
rotational grazing#
rotational stocking
seasonal dairying
short-duration grazing
targeted grazing

   Livestock health

   alternative medicine# (veterinary)
   alternative therapy (veterinary)
   animal welfare#
   animal well-being#
   bioenergetic medicine
   biological control#
   biological control agent(s)#
   complementary medicine (veterinary)
   ethnoveterinary medicine
   herbal drug(s)
   herbal medicine(s)#
   holistic medicine (veterinary)
   homeopathic drugs#
   homeopathy*/homeopathic/homeopathically (veterinary)
   natural medicine(s) (veterinary)

Economics and marketing

alternative crop(s)#
alternative market(s)/marketing
alternative enterprise(s)
community food systems
community supported agriculture#/ community-supported agriculture/ CSA
CSA farm(s)
direct marketing#
green marketing
ethical trade
fair trade
farm direct marketing
local food systems/local food distribution
locally grown
on-farm processing
organic certification#
regional food systems
value-added products#

Return to AFSIC's Organic Production/Organic Food: Information Access Tools.

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