Healthy soil is the key to healthy plants. The soil is a whole system inhabited by various microorganisms that play a significant role in ensuring and maintaining its health. Organic farming suggests using compost instead of synthetic fertilizers to conserve soil and plant health. Natural fertilizers prevent infection and the spread of disease, while pesticides and herbicides disrupt the biological interactions between microorganisms in the soil and crops. In addition, crop rotation is often used in organic farming systems. It nourishes the soil, helps retain water, and prevents erosion.
Fertile soil is the most important aspect of agricultural productivity and profitability, respectively. Farmers can develop crop management systems that help maintain a critical resource like soil. Management practices should focus on preserving nutrient cycling, controlling pests, and regulating irrigation and air delivery. These practices also benefit the care of the environment. All processes in the soil occur naturally, and the ecosystem is not ruined.
Table of Contents
How Do Organic Farming Practices Relate to Soil Health?
Organic matter in soils contributes to proper air circulation and water absorption. Whereas soils with low organic matter are prone to erosion, and nutrients are not released properly. Cover crops, the use of mulch, and restrictions on tillage are the mainstays of organic soil management. Organic matter is also a source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur that nourish plants. Lack of these substances usually results in low yields.
Compliance with these principles contributes to the increase in the amount of organic matter and its preservation. Organically cultivated soils contain more organic matter than conventionally cultivated soils.
Nitrogen Holding and Fixing
Nitrogen and carbon dioxide are potent greenhouse gases that negatively impact the climate when released into the atmosphere. Fortunately, organic farming methods help trap greenhouse gases in the soil. The effectiveness of the management and production of organic products is evidenced by the US Department of Agriculture research.
Approximately the same amount of N2O is lost in zero and lane processing, but these figures are much lower than losses in traditional processing. In addition, the nitrogen that remains in the soil provides the crops with essential nutrients. This process is of great benefit to farmers.
Legumes grown in organic fields fix more nitrogen than those produced in traditional ones. The nodules on the roots of legumes can extract nitrogen from the air and retain it. In organic soils, soybeans and other beans form more small roots and can therefore hold more nitrogen. And then, the following crops in the rotation can absorb the retained nitrogen as a nutrient.
Scientists consider that traditional fields contain excess amounts of readily available nitrogen due to synthetic fertilizers. Therefore, the grown plants there do not need such a developed root system to obtain nutrients.
Cover Crops Use
Cover crop cultivation is an excellent practice for maintaining the health and protection of soils. These crops have the advantage of preventing erosion in winter when no main crop is present on the soils. The biomass produced by the cover crops is returned to the ground and thus increases organic matter.
Cover crop stem roots reduce soil compaction by creating macropores, while cover plant fiber roots promote soil aggregation and stabilization. Cover crops can also increase the population of beneficial fungi, add nitrogen to the soil, retain nitrates, and keep nutrients from leaching out.
Lack of the nutrients needed for plant growth can limit yields. It is necessary to ensure their availability in the soil and optimal amounts of organic nutrients to achieve high productivity that meets food needs. The timely provision of micronutrients is a potential means of improving plant nutrition in a deficiency in the soil.
The combination of eco-systemic processes with the required amount of nutrients forms the basis of a sustainable soil health management system. It has the potential to produce higher yields using fewer external inputs.
Nitrate nitrogen is leached out in the autumn-winter period, as well as in early spring. If this substance is contained in fertilizers and manure, then, without getting into the soil, it evaporates in the form of ammonia. It is also worth remembering that phosphorus hardly penetrates deep into the soil. However, mycorrhizal fungi in the root system of plants can help solve this problem.
In any case, knowledge of these nutrients is essential to maintain soil health and good nutrient management. In this way, we can count on good nutrient management and soil health.
Frontiers in Microbiology studies indicate that soils on organic farms are more affluent in beneficial organisms than on traditional farms. Soil microorganisms suppress pathogens and promote nutrient absorption. In the journal Applied Soil Ecology, Taiwanese researchers reported similar results from banana plantations.
The quality of our nutrition depends on the availability and balance of nutrients in the edible parts of the plant, which in turn depends on their presence in the soil. Therefore, the more biologically diverse the soil, the more nutritious our food is.
Today, we need to take care of the availability of sufficient food and the environment. Rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere can destabilize our climate. Organic matter is rich in carbon, which does not harm the environment, staying in the soil and nourishing the plants.
According to the National Soil Project data analysis, organic farming practices contribute to carbon sequestration. In addition, organic soils contain more compounds that give the topsoil a rich brown color.
Pesticide Use Reduction
Not only pathogens suffer from pesticides, but also valuable substances and microorganisms contained in the soil. Farmscaping is a set of measures that will help increase biodiversity. This method offers to landscape using insectary plants as well as hedges and ponds. Cover crops are also crucial for attracting and maintaining populations of beneficial organisms that prey on insect pests. Farms can also be a filter that prevents water runoff and soil erosion.
Only healthy soils can provide the population with the necessary amount of food. Organic farming methods allow farmers to reap crops and profits while caring for the soil and the environment. Research shows that greenhouse gases in the ground remain in the soil, such as growing cover crops. Thus, they do not enter the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change.
Do you have any more ideas on how to improve soil quality by organic farming? Comment below.