Whether you’re a commercial grower or a backyard hobbyist, there are three things that will never lie to you: your soil, plants, and animals. When we are willing to observe their simple truths, we gain a tremendous amount of understanding and a new appreciation for the world around us.
Soil is the foundation.
The soil is a living organism; a complex network of macro- and micronutrients, microbes (bacteria, fungi, nematodes), water, air, and earthworms to only name a few. A healthy and vibrant soil is responsible for providing a suitable environment for capturing and transforming energy to plants, animals and microbes. What is added or subtracted from this complex network has great consequences on the ability of these key players to perform or operate.
A comprehensive description of soil quality includes a diversity of microorganisms. Choosing soil amendments or practices that support this living organism is critical to its survival! Unfortunately, many products on the market today are only concerned with yield…not quality. Because soil quality is so crucial, products should not only feed the plants, but they should also feed the soil.
Soils that are biologically active will contribute to overall plant health, yield, and quality year after year. To feed the plants, we must first feed the soil! Effective application of plant-available, soil nutrients during high demands is essential for optimum crop performance and environmental protection (23, 39).
Many other factors affect the availability of nutrients already present in your soil.
Soil pH. Chemistry in action. pH can affect availability of several essential nutrients needed for plant growth. Extremes in soil pH can tie up nutrients or cause toxicities. The key to excellent root growth is a soil pH between 5.8 and 6.4.
|Compaction. In compacted fields, roots remain shallow and are usually not well anchored. Shallow roots are at greater risk of lodging and drought stress. They are unable to tap into deep-soil nutrient or moisture reserves. Essentially, a compacted soil cannot “breathe”. Thus, gas exchange is very important to soil health.|
|Organic Matter. Organic matter is a key characteristic of soil and environmental quality (12, 17, 36). Plant debris breaks down and eventually becomes available for the next crop. It is a rich nutrient resource and has many exchange sites for nutrients to attach. A soil with 1% organic matter content could be expected to mineralize approximately 40 lbs nitrogen/acre/yr (32).|
Microbes and earthworms. To maximize results, we MUST recognize the role of living organisms in the soil; we can no longer look at a field as a lifeless storage bin for water and inorganic nutrients (40). Soil is so much more!Read More
Fertilizer inputs. Timing, rate and placement all influence nutrient availability. Making fertilizer accessible to roots at critical growth periods is essential for establishing healthy, vibrant plants. However, too much nitrogen can potentially create environmental problems.Read More