PROBLEMS WITH YOUR COMPACTED SOIL? LET’S SEE THE SOLUTIONS
To have a fully functional organic garden we need our plants and crops to grow in a suitable environment. This medium is the soil and if it has structural problems, the yields of our vegetables will be affected. We are going to see the possible solutions and alternatives to a compacted soil.
The land degradation is a problem suffered by all arable areas of the world and is not only linked to large productions where practiced highly mechanized agriculture .
In fact, as a curiosity to tell you that the compaction produced by a horse or any draft animal is similar to that of a medium-size tractor. This is due to the pressure surface that is made on the ground (much less surface that of an animal’s leg).
In previous articles we gave you some tips to protect your soil against crusting ( you can see it here ), and today we are going to tell you about some cultural practices to improve the structure of a compacted soil.
KNOWING A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE STRUCTURE OF THE SOIL
To give us an idea, the air content of a soil is defined by its percentage of macropores and micropores . So to speak, the former are related to aeration of the soil, and the latter to the accumulation of water.
The relationship of a soil with these two components is vital to ensure the growth and development of any plant or microorganism (let’s not forget the importance of the latter).
THE PROBLEM OF COMPACTED SOIL AND POROSITY
Knowing the above, when a soil is compacted, there is an imbalance between the relationship of macropores and micropores . Large pores are lost, hampering water drainage and soil oxygenation. All this translates into a simple answer: less root development and therefore less plant growth.
A misused technique is to plow a soil when it is wet . When there is a build-up of water or moisture in the soil, it is more prone to warping (compacting) and compressing. Although it is the most comfortable solution since the tillage is much less laborious and no dust is raised, the long-term consequences are worse.
It is not a fact applicable only to large areas of crops, but also to the garden. The secret of John Seymour’s deep bed is to avoid stepping on the ground at all times.
Thus the roots have soft soil on which to develop, the drainage improves and the soil is more oxygenated.
HOW TO IMPROVE A COMPACTED SOIL
And here we come to the part where we discuss some methods to improve a compacted soil and regain the value of arable soil.
COVER CROPS IN COMPACTED SOIL
A totally biological method to improve the structure of a soil and increase its porosity is by growing plants that cover a large area at a low cost . When they grow, their roots excavate galleries that remain intact (if not carved) until the next crop. It is something like a planted fallow. The earth is recovering minerals and on top of it the porosity is improving.
The great disadvantage of this method is that it takes a few years for a visible improvement of the soil to take place, around 2 years, as well as the cost of cleaning or removing stumps from shrubs and small trees that may have grown.
THE NO-TILLAGE METHOD
Zero tillage is a method especially indicated when we have a soil that is highly affected by erosion. In the absence of tillage operations, the soil is not “crushed” by agricultural machinery and compaction problems do not arise.
This book explains this system in detail. (No- tillage sowing in conservation agriculture ).
TRACTOR CONTROLLED PASS
This technique consists of controlling the trace made by the tractor, so that it can be used for future passes. In addition, the use of large implements to reduce passes is also beneficial here .
If this footprint is preserved for future years, only a very small part of the entire terrain is being compacted, compared to if the tractor runs uncontrollably across the terrain.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MINERALS TO REDUCE COMPACTED SOIL
Here comes the importance of pH and organic matter. If we grow plants that do not adapt to the pH of the soil, their growth will logically be limited. This is summarized in less root development and greater soil compaction. That is why it is important to know the pH where the plants feel “comfortable”, which you can see from this table .
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