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Soil Structure - Critical for Good Soil Health

  • Physical properties and processes of soil affect soil fertility.
  • Physical soil characteristics important to soil fertility include:
    • Soil structure
    • Soil texture
    • Water repellence.
  • Important physical properties that affect fertility include soil structure and texture.
    • Structure is the amount of aggregation and pores in soil.
    • Texture is the proportion of clay and sand particles in soil.
  • Both affect soil fertility by affecting water movement through soil, root penetration and water logging.
  • When soil structure and texture are unfavorable for water movement through soil water erosion and water logging may be increased.
  • Soil salinity is a chemical property but can affect soil physical fertility by decreasing the movement of water through the soil.
  • Good soil structure is one of the major factors for soil health and sustainable soil fertility.
  • Good soil structure is present when the soil forms stable aggregates or cohesive groups of particles producing pore spaces encouraging root penetration and easy passage of water, nutrients and air.

Soil Organisms - Why They Are Vital to Soil Health

  • Helps soil to form from original parent rock material.
  • Contributes to the aggregation of soil particles.
  • Enhances cycling of nutrients.
  • Transforms nutrients from one form to another.
  • Assists plants to obtain nutrients from soil.
  • Degrades toxic substances in soil.
  • Causes disease in plants.
  • Minimizing disease in plants.
  • Assists or hinders water penetration into soil.

Organic Matter - #1 Driver of Good Soil Health

  • The number one driver of a healthy soil - Soil Organic Matter.
  • Many things effect soil health, or non-health.  Some are inherent properties such as texture, mineralogy, depth (to bedrock or other restrictive layer), geographical climate (precipitation, temperature), rocks, and land form/aspect.
  • These conditions or properties are quite difficult to change.
  • However, all can be modified to some extent by human manipulation.
  • SOM is what we strive to increase as much as possible because it has so much influence on virtually every other factor, property, or indicator of soil health.
  • If your SOM levels (and biological activity) are high, all other balances (systems, processes, cycles, etc.) seem to "self regulate".

Incorporation

  • Doing so disturbs the physical, chemical and biological balances in the soil.
  • It can change the: Amount of nitrogen that is available to plants, the way soil sticks together (soil aggregation) and the number and type of organisms present in the soil.
  • Incorporating organic matter into soils can change the amount of nitrogen (and other nutrients) that is available to plants.
  • Adding organic matter can also increase the activity of earthworms, which in turn can also improve soil aggregation.
  • If organic matter is retained in the soil, the number of microbes in the soil increases because the microbes can use the organic matter as a source of energy allowing them to grow and multiply.