Good soil management needs three 'golden' basics
All plant and animal life has the best potential to grow and reach maturity when living in an environment best suited to its specific needs; similarly any restrictive condition will ultimately reduce its potential. Soils are a living environment, which provide the essential plant necessities of water, air, anchorage and nutrients.
Good soil management requires three 'golden' basics;
Any imbalance of these basics will reduce a plant's ability to optimise it's potential, irrespective of any further 'cosmetic' treatments.
- Adequate drainage to prevent water-loggin
- The correct level of compaction for root anchorage and the movement of air and water
- The appropriate pH level to allow the plant to grow and mature optimising the available soil nutrients
Soil is a medium which enables worms and micro-organisms to live and carry out the function of breaking animal and plant residues. This assists the cycle of further plant development, but in doing so produces acid soils which display significantly reduced bacteriological activity.
This build up reduces pH levels, creates 'stale' soils and places plants under stress which reduces their ability to make effective use of the nutrients and organic matter available to them.
Heavy soils, particularly clays, although benefiting from regular liming tend to maintain pH levels since they have greater ability to retain calcium/magnesium ions and displace hydrogen ions. In clay soils the soil particles are of denser construction and do not allow so easily the free movement of bacteria and micro organisms. The addition of lime modifies the characteristics of the clay particles so that they flocculate resulting in improved drainage and easier movement of all major ingredients in plant and life development.
Sandy soils have reduced capacity for holding liming materials and as a result of their free draining nature they require more frequent liming at lower dose rates. It is on these soils that troubles from acidity are most common and most acute, but easily remedied.
Farming today faces its greatest challenges, to protect our basic resource – the soil; to exceed increasing environmental demands; and to optimise crop production and feed an ever increasing population. The soil as the basic medium remains the same, but never before has the need to work and maintain the three 'golden' basics been greater. Appropriate and correct pH levels are fundamental in any sustainable soil management plan.