As the golden and amber waves of summer crops reach harvest time, growers once again find themselves in a prime position to prepare and build healthy soils for the next growing season.
Through seasons of use, soils can become depleted of nutrients and organic matter.If left unattended, this will lead to a decrease in yields for the grower.
Proactive growers work for their soil to ensure that it works for them.
Sustainable soil management practices
Increase soil organic matter
Between the various macrofauna like worms and insects and the millions of microbes that make their homes in the ground, healthy soil is teeming with life. These creatures play their roles in nutrient cycling, or the process of breaking down crop residue, such as corn stubble, and degrading it into organic matter in the soil so that the nutrients that can be used by plants, animals and humans.
Tilling the soil can damage the local agribiome and should be used only when necessary to remedy issues such as soil compaction. Tilling can increase competition between the planted crops and weeds by bringing dormant seeds to the surface.
Keep the surface of the soil covered
The use of cover crops increases the nutrient availability in the soil, but also significantly reduces the chance of soil erosion. When fields are kept uncovered after harvest and during winter, they are susceptible to erosion from wind and rain, which leaves the grower a step behind in building a healthy basis for springtime crops.
Different crops will use different nutrients in varying amounts and increase the availability of nutrients, such as nitrogen, for use by the crops that follow. Crop rotation also plays a part in preventing soil erosion. Not only does the field remain covered, but varying root lengths will hold onto soil at varying depth throughout the seasons and maintain stability against heavier rain and wind.
By using these management practices in conjunction with measures such as soil testing and field scouting during the growing season, growers give crops the best possible foundation for subsequent seasons.
For further information and advice on incorporating these practices, contact your crop advisor, Alltech Crop Science representative or firstname.lastname@example.org.