THE SOIL HEALTH CYCLE – PRESERVE TODAY, PROVIDE FOR TOMORROW
Unearthing the secret to a good crop
Soil holds the secrets to keeping your roots and your crop healthy. To help ensure your soil supports a plentiful harvest year after year, you will benefit from a clear understanding of the actions you can take to keep it a productive resource.
What is soil?
Soil is the topmost layer of the Earth in which plants grow. It is composed of mineral and organic materials and living forms, and it plays a fundamental role in providing structural support to plants and crops, while serving as the source of water and nutrients.
That is why every season, in every crop cycle, you must take the right steps to preserve soil health.
What is soil health?
Doran describes soil health as “The capacity of soil to function as a vital living system, within ecosystem and land-use boundaries, to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and promote plant and animal health” (Doran et al. 1996).
Healthy soils are industrious players on the farm. They can suppress naturally soil-borne pathogens and pests, support efficient nutrient cycles and provide improved physical structure for robust root foundation and plant growth.
And this is why it is important to know what agricultural practices we can adopt in order to boost soil health.
So, what makes a soil healthy and what can you do about it?
Dialing up the health of your soil
Soil is a living and active part of your farm, and it contains a variety of beneficial organisms including nematodes, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, macro- and micro-arthropods.
These organisms respond sensitively to land management practices you implement on your farm, so it’s very important to be selective in how you manage farm inputs such as nematicides. When these products are not selective, they have the potential to disrupt the symbiotic relationships among these organisms and crop roots.
Thankfully, you can proactively implement informed farming practices that have minimal impact on beneficial organisms that exist in the soil.
Rooted in soil health - Nematodes
Crops draw nutrients from the soil through their roots. The roots in turn, release food that sustains the beneficial organisms in the soil. This is how the soil food web works.
However, roots are not immune to threats. A variety of factors can destroy roots. One of the least understood threats is harmful or bad nematodes, which are microscopic and invisible to the naked eye but have the power to ravage a crop and cause significant yield loss. Control of harmful nematodes is essential to keeping your crops healthy.
Contrary to what many people think, the number of harmful or bad nematodes in the soils is easily outnumbered by the number of good or beneficial nematodes that promote natural fertility and quality over time
Beneficial nematodes feed on bacteria, fungi, insects, or bad nematodes in the soil, stimulating soil nutrient cycles, and keeping populations of damaging plant pests and diseases at bay.
Therefore, it is crucial to adopt farm management tools that work in harmony with the beneficial nematodes.
Why should we care about soil health?
A healthy soil is the foundation of crop productivity and sustainability. And every season, we have the opportunity to take actions that help improve soil health, promoting good crop yields and long-term soil sustainability.
How can we improve long-term soil health?
Farmers can take several actions to preserve and promote the health of their soils, including:
Continuing the cycle
Healthy soil equals an ecosystem where all life can thrive. It promotes healthy crops and abundant yields for years.
A simple shift from merely managing the soil to proactively advancing soil health and recognizing the greater role it plays in benefiting farmland and the planet can create long-term value. As farmers you can take action today to leave behind a legacy for the future.