Soil fertility management

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Soil fertility refers simply to the ability of a soil to support plant growth. It is a product of
  • the soilís physical structure (which determines aeration, water-holding capacity and root penetration) and
  • its chemical fertility (its ability to supply essential nutrients to the plant).

Both physical and chemical characteristics of the soil tend to deteriorate due to cultivation of crops and removal of harvested product. Methods available to maintain soil fertility include:

Soil Structure

Soil chemical fertility

fallowing under natural vegetation

rotation with pasture

∑  incorporation of organic matter, especially slow-degrading (eg. straw)

∑  soil ameliorants: eg. gypsum, lime

∑  minimum tillage and controlled traffic techniques

∑  preventing surface runoff and erosion (eg. contour ridges or hedgerows, applying surface mulches)

∑  fallowing with natural or planted species, especially legumes

∑  growth and incorporation of green manure crops

∑  incorporation of organic matter, especially fast-degrading (eg. manure and composts)

∑  chemical fertilizers

∑  retaining crop and weed debris in the field as mulch.

 

Both physical and chemical characteristics of the soil affect, and are affected by, the soil biology.  A healthy soil has a balanced population of bacteria, fungi and tiny animals, which have direct and indirect effects on plant health.  While soil biology is often overlooked, many problems associated with soil deterioration and soil-borne diseases are associated with an imbalance in soil organisms.  Preserving soil structure and organic matter levels is the best way to ensure a healthy soil ecosystem.

 

Contributed by: Jane O'Sullivan

Further topics on Soil Management:

Soil structure

Soil organic matter

Plant nutrients

Fertilisation

Causes of nutritional disorders

Diagnosing nutritional disorders

Correcting nutritional disorders

Other topics on Crop Management:

Land preparation

Planting material preparation

Planting

Water management

Vine lifting

Integrated pest management

Harvesting

Postharvest practices


A  loose-textured soil is good for sweetpotato production (F. Villamayor).


Fertiliser application before planting in the Philippines (F. Villamayor).