Soil is a dynamic ecosystem where a huge number of smaller and larger living organisms perform a variety of critical functions: convert dead and decaying organic matter and minerals into plant nutrients, fight with plant diseases, pests and weeds, and enhance the ground structure, having a positive effect on soil moisture and its ability to retain nutrients. All of this ultimately contributes to the improvement of crop production. In addition, soil health is one of the key factors that help mitigate the effects of climate change by organic carbon content management.
In both farming and gardening spheres, soil health implies the land’s ability to stay productive while not harming the environment. The criterion of a healthy soil includes sufficient nutrient content, biological pest control, and regulated water and air supply that overall support plant growth. But all of these processes depend on different soil properties that may change under the influence of its treatment practices. That is why the ways in which the soil is managed can either enhance or decrease its quality and health.
Since healthy soil is one of the benchmarks that ensure the success of both farming and gardening, this guide will lead you through the most effective soil management practices. You will find out how to control soil moisture, nutrients, and organic matter content, and more to ensure your land’s fertility.
Here are soil management tips for farmers to improve and preserve their land’s crop-producing power.
It’s hard to deny the value of cover cropping in terms of land health. Cover crops serve as a shield that protects soil in periods when the main crop is not growing. Such crops create biomass that enriches soil organic matter and reduces the threat of erosion. Besides, cover crops can help preserve critical nutrients that can decrease as a result of leaching.
Farmers can manage nutrients through thoughtfully planned application methods, right timing, and quantity of various fertilizers to satisfy crop nutrient demands while preventing nutrient excesses. Besides, growers can use different nutrient sources to preserve soil health. For instance, manure and compost add not only nutrients but also organic matter.
Apart from harmful pests, there are insects that benefit biological control in the area. However, intensive insecticide application can harm them. To ensure there are enough those beneficial organisms attracted, farmers should focus on improving and managing biodiversity on the field. Water reservoirs, hedgerows, and cover cropping can be used for this purpose. Such an approach to pest management can even be used to control soil moisture and organic matter by helping to prevent different types of soil erosion.
Now, let’s move on to soil health practices that are beneficial specifically in the garden setting.
Here are soil management tips for gardeners to enhance and maintain their land’s healthy state.
Similar to field setting, using green manures and cover crops is one of the most effective ways of improving the soil in the garden too. They enrich garden nutrients, contribute to organic matter, and loosen and lighten soil structure. Besides, cover crops also play a significant role in weed control in the off-season.
Most worms feed on soil particles and organic matter, releasing waste that fills in holes in the soil. And earthworms can transfer significant amounts of soil from the lower layers to the top, while also moving organic matter deeper. What is more, they increase the soil porosity during movement. Some species are able to penetrate very deeply into the ground, creating channels for effective soil drainage. At the same time, other species dig horizontal tunnels in the upper fertile layer and minimize rainfall-caused erosion by improving drainage in the topsoil.
Soil tests are essential in gardening, especially when starting a new one or when the soil health worsens significantly. The test will show if any important nutrient is missing. To receive the most accurate results, it’s best to take nutrient tests in the late summer or early fall.
Effective and environmentally sound farming or gardening system is impossible without healthy land. All of the practices above aim to help farmers and gardeners to improve and keep their soil health through the application of effective control mechanisms.