Soil fertility is very essential in ensuring high crop productivity. However ,we need to understand fullyย when a soil is said to be fertile for us to be able to maintain and improve its fertility.

Definition.

When is a soil considered fertile? From an agricultural point of view, a fertile soil is one that can provide adequate amounts of nutrients to the garden to ensure optimal plant growth, which results in better crop yields and quality. So, what makes a soil fertile? Here are the various factors that define and contribute to soil fertility.

How do we maintain our soils?ย ย ย 

Managing the fertility of our soils is very key. It will ensure high crop productivity, thus improve food security.Manging our soils entails a lot of acitvities.Let us discuss some of them

1.Regular soil tests.

Well, when human beings get sick, they go to the healthy centres,but before the doctors write any prescriptions, they have to carry out severalย tests to give the correct prescriptions. Just like human beings, our soils at some point also get sick, and to give the correct soil amendments, we need to carry out soil tests.

2. Adding organic matter

Regular additions of organic material may be the most important way to enhance soil quality. Organic matter improves soil structure, enhances water and nutrient holding capacity, protects soil from erosion and compaction, and supports a healthy community of soil organisms. Organic matter includes residue and roots from the previous crop, animal manure, cover crops, or amendments from off the farm. The organic matter content of the soil can be determined through soil testing.

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3. Avoiding excessive tillage and soil compaction

Tillage is valuable for loosening surface soil, preparing the seedbed, and controlling weeds and pests. But tillage can also break up soil structure, speed the decomposition and loss of organic matter, increase the threat of erosion, destroy the habitat of helpful organisms, and cause compaction. Reducing tillage minimizes the loss of organic matter and increases the residue protecting the soil surface. Compaction reduces the amount of air, water, and space available to roots and soil organisms. Compaction is caused by traveling on wet soil or by heavy equipment. Therefore we need to be very careful whenever we cultivate, sometimes we can also employ minimum tillage, so as to reduce the physical disturbance of the soil.

4.Managing pests and nutrients efficiently

In this century, pesticides and chemical fertilizers have been taken up by most farmers. In as much as they help us reduce disease and pest incidences,, they can harm non-target organisms and pollute water and air if they are mismanaged or used in excess. Nutrients from organic sources also can become pollutants when misapplied or over-applied. Efficient pest and nutrient management means applying only the necessary chemicals, at the right time and place to get the job done; testing and monitoring soil and pests; and adding non-chemical approaches to your management toolbox (such as crop rotations, cover crops, and manure management).

5. Keeping the ground covered

Bare soil is susceptible to wind and water erosion, and to drying and crusting. Groundcover protects soil, provides habitats for larger soil organisms (such as insects and earthworms), and can improve water availability. Farmers often leave crop residue on the surface to cover the ground between growing seasons.

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Living cover crops create new organic matter and help feed soil organisms. Groundcover must be managed to prevent problems with delayed soil warming in spring, diseases, and excessive build-up of phosphorus at the surface. In areas where we are not cultivating, we can just plant carpet grass or even shrubs, just to provide soil with covers. This will prevent through splash or surface runoff.

6. Multiple cropping.

Diversity is beneficial for several reasons. Each crop contributes a unique root structure and type of residue to the soil. A diversity of soil organisms helps control pest populations and a diversity of cultural practices reduces weed and disease pressures. Multiple cropping over the seasons ensures full utilization of the available soil nutrients. Monocropping will only have one or few nutrients utilized, thus the unused nutrients will be leached. Multiple cropping is therefore key to improving soil fertility through crop diversification.

7. Monitoring soil performance

A farmer can do this through having the records of his/her yields over the seasons. If a farmer notices a reducing trend in the crop yields even though all agronomic practices are observed, then automatically, it is the quality of soil that is depreciating. The farmer should therefore carry out a soil test and apply the necessary amendment in time.

 

CREDIT:

Consulting Agronomist at Inforgric Services.

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