Depending on the location of your farm and the climate conditions you experience, you’re bound to experience different soil properties that may or may not make your planting experience trouble-free. While you might be struggling with poor soil fertility, penetration or erosion, there are plenty of soil management strategies to implement that can improve your soil structure in order for your plants to grow better.
There are many tried and tested techniques that can help to revive your soil, however, organic methods have proven to deliver amazing health benefits for the soil as well as the produce. Organic farming is not rocket science, so with the right farm implements, you will be able to improve your soil, sustainably.
Soil is home to a number of living organisms. And despite what most farmers think, soil is not always damaged by pests, diseases or a lack of nutrients. It’s damaged by physical condition and how you treat it. Be it bacteria, fungi, insects or more, these are the different organisms that you need in your soil in order for your plants to grow and deliver successful yields. While you need to apply the correct methods when watering your plants, over watering can also lead to the soil becoming compact and dead.
Tips for reviving your soil the organic way
Before you consider the different ways to revive your soil, you need to have a clear understanding of what organic farming is and how to implement it on your small farm. In short, organic farming is referred to as an agricultural practice that supports the environment. These activities reduce human, pest and plant hazards by eliminating chemical products and certain farming practices in your approach. Look at using green fertiliser options and trying new ways to improve the health of your crops with minimal disruption.
Here are a few ideas to consider.
Practice a no-tillage farming approach
Many commercial farmers are against tillage as a farming practice, while small farmers tend to make use of a no-till farming approach, which simply includes minimal tillage with their farm tillage equipment. Most organic farmers do not make use of this practice at all, however, you will need to base your decision on your soil’s health and the size of your crop. If you till your land in moderation, you will be able to reduce soil erosion and you’ll be able to strengthen your crops. In order to reduce the amount of disruption you do on your farm, you can make use of smaller farming implements such as a hand rake to create minimal disturbances on the soil. This can then be followed up with cover crops for further benefits.
Add mulch to your crops
Also known as cover crops, this technique allows you to retain as much moisture as possible in your soil so that it isn’t exposed to wind and sun that leads to soil erosion. If you live in an area where there are heavy rains, you can rest assured knowing that heavy rains will still not affect your crops when covered.
Covering your crops with organic-friendly mulch bags will add organic matter to your soil and reduce the chances of pests getting into your planting areas and destroying your plants. Another tip with this is to plant as much into your soil of combination crops to ensure the majority of your soil is covered.
Keep your feet and wheels off of the soil
Once you revive your soil, you will need to pay careful attention to the amount of time you spend on the soil itself. Heavy machinery and pressure from farm workers’ feet will damage and crush the soil structure. If possible, walk or drive on the same areas to avoid damaging the soil on a large scale.
Don’t forget about pest control
When your soil becomes healthy and your crops start to flourish, you will see an increase in pests. If not controlled, you will also start to see an increase in weeds, which can become an infestation if not cleared. Monitor your crops daily and invest in chemical-free products to clear the problem you have. Of course, some plants need more attention than others, so be sure purchase the correct product for your needs.
Organic farming has many perks, both for the soil as well as the quality of the produce. If you make use of the correct techniques, you will be contributing to the environment at large. Sustainability contributes to a better future. And if you want to improve the quality of life, take advantage of organic farming.
Plant growth and the optimisation of crop yields are wholly dependent on good soil fertility. A soil’s fertility levels can easily deteriorate if the correct practices and intervention measures aren’t adopted swiftly. To prevent poor soil fertility and major production losses, here are a few practices to incorporate.
You cannot adopt good soil fertility practices without first knowing the quality of your soil currently. It’s important to first test the nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous levels, as well as the pH level, to determine the quality of the soil fertility. By understanding your soil’s nutrient levels you can take the right steps to ensure enhanced yields. However, it’s vital that soil testing is done regularly to detect any fundamental soil changes that could impact on crops.
Grain legumes are renowned for enhancing soil fertility through a process known as biological nitrogen fixation. Whether grown as pulses for grain, manure, pastures or tree components, these plants form the basis for all sustainable farming systems as they prevent nitrogen leaching.
By incorporating cover crops, which consist of organic matter, the soil structure will improve thereby promoting healthy and fertile soil. Essentially, the cover crop aerates the soil as the roots grow and die. Also, it holds onto water and nutrients to prevent them from being leached out of the topsoil. In addition, they provide food and habitat for vital soil microorganisms which further enhance soil fertility.
Organic fertilizers are formed out of plant and animal residue, all of which contain the vital components of nitrogen, phenols, and lignin. This is the best option of fertilizer if your soil fertility is severely lacking. The addition of fertilizer enhances the soil nutrients, ensuring a healthy yield of nutritious crops. Fertilisers are, however, a stop-gap method and can harm the environment if not used properly. Rather incorporate other soil fertility-enhancing techniques to avoid future use.
Every farmer knows that the sight of earthworms indicates a healthy soil. These macro-organisms play a key role in recycling soil nutrients and increase their availability to plants. In addition, they feed on dead and decaying material which is digested and excreted as nutrient-rich dung. There is a big movement towards vermicomposting which is the growth of earthworms in organic wastes as they accelerate the composting process.
If the soil is too acidic, it might be time to lime the soil to neutralize it and reach the optimum pH range of 5.5 to 6.5. Anything outside of this range could severely damage plants because of nutrient deficiencies and toxicity.
Adding compost to soil greatly improves its fertility and this can be done either by adding store-bought organic compost or by maintaining your own. Compost is full of organic nutrients and the composition of properly matured compost improves water drainage and aeration in just about every type of soil. With compost, nothing is wasted – leaves, bits of plant, manure and all other organic material will feed the plants. It also helps prevent soil compaction, encouraging the movement of water.
If you are going to create your own compost pile – a very good idea for consistent soil fertility – then adding milk to the pile is a handy trick. Milk (particularly raw and untreated) is a natural fungicide and soft-bodied insecticide as insects can’t digest the sugars in milk. It is also known to improve the soil’s ability to absorb air and water while increasing the beneficial microbe populations.
If nitrogen levels in your soil are low then livestock manure is a fantastic solution. However, ensure that you apply manure with care because of potential pathogens within the manure. Allow for three months between application of manure and the harvest of any root crops or leafy vegetables to protect against contamination.
Wastewater contains most of the essential elements for soil, in the correct quantities. The use of wastewater for improved soil fertility also means less water wastage, which is vital in the current climate crisis.
For more information on agricultural and tillage equipment, contact Radium Engineering. With years of expertise, a passion for the agricultural industry and a commitment to manufacturing superior equipment, Radium Engineering is the answer to all your farming and agricultural and tillage equipment needs.