Finding "Organic": Search Strategies and Terminology
Mary V. Gold
The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC)
National Agricultural Library (NAL)
U.S. Department of Agriculture
For more information related specifically to how and where to search, see:
- AFSIC Databases directory
- Organic Production and Organic Food: Automated Database Searches
- Organic Information Resources: What are They? Where are They? How can I Find Them?
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, biodynamic, 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.
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.
Terms denoted with a plus sign (+) are described in more detail in (and linked to) the Related Terms section of Sustainable Agriculture: Definitions and Terms. http://afsic.nal.usda.gov/sustainable-agriculture-definitions-and-terms-1
Bolded Terms (also denoted with pound sign (#) ) are terms used in the National Agricultural Library's Agricultural Thesaurus. Link to the Thesaurus' main entry for "Organic Production," http://agclass.nal.usda.gov/mtw.exe?k=default&l=60&w=7144&n=1&s=5&t=2
Starred* items denote terms selected for searching by Mark Lipson in Searching for "O" Word (Organic Farming and Research Foundation, 1997).
This list of terms is arranged into the following categories:
- Whole/Integrated Organic Systems
- Related Alternative Agriculture Systems and Disciplines
- Selected Organic Practices
organic certified/certified organic
organic cropping system(s)
organically farmed/farmed organically
regenerative cropping system(s)
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.
holistic resource management (HRM)
integrated agricultural system(s)#
integrated farming system(s)+
integrated production system(s)
low input agriculture#
reduced input farming
reduced input agriculture
- Disease, weed and pest control
- Soil and soil fertility management
- Livestock management
- Economics and marketing
biological control(s)#+*/controlling biologically
biological control agent(s)#
disease resistance#/disease resistant
integrated pest management# (IPM)
integrated weed management#
parasites of plant pests
predators of plant pests
compost(s)#* [food residuals composts#; yard waste composts#]
green manure(s)#/green manuring
soil food webs#
soil organic matter#*
animal manure management#
holistic management (HM)
integrated parasite management
management-intensive grazing (MIG)
multispecies grazing/multi-species grazing
riparian best management practices
alternative medicine# (veterinary)
alternative therapy (veterinary)
biological control agent(s)#
complementary medicine (veterinary)
holistic medicine (veterinary)
natural medicine(s) (veterinary)
community food systems
community supported agriculture#/ community-supported agriculture/ CSA
farm direct marketing
local food systems/local food distribution
regional food systems
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
National Agricultural Library, ARS, USDA
10301 Baltimore Ave., Room 123
Beltsville, MD 20705-2351
Phone: 301-504-6559; Fax: 301-504-6409