Friday, 26 October 2012

How to improve the Soil

In our Agriculture for Everybody blog series, we are going to see the ways to improve the soil.

As we all know, the Soil is the base for any agricultural activity.  In this blog, we will discuss ways and means to improve the soil.

The details given below are for both "unused barren land" and "land in use" as well as for land which needs to be moved from chemical farming to organic farming.

Land Improvement - Method 1

The following 5 types of Seeds are required and their quantities are mentioned as well for 1 Acre.  Overall, you require 4+4+4+4.25+1.75 = 22 Kgs of seeds per acre.
  1.  Pasunthaal (Green Manure Seeds) - 4 Kgs
    1. Sanappu (Sunhemp) - 1Kg
    2. Thakkaipoondu (Daincha) - 1 Kg
    3. Avuri (Indigo) - 1 Kg
    4. Sesbania (Sesbania) - 1 Kg
  2. Siruthaaniam (Millet Seeds) - 4 Kgs
    1. Cholam (Cholam) - 1 Kg
    2. Cumbu (Spiked Millet) - 1 Kg
    3. Kelvaragu (Ragi) - 1 Kg
    4. Samai (Samai) - 1 Kg
  3. Payaru (Cereal Seeds) - 4 Kgs
    1. Ulundu (Blackgram) - 1 Kg
    2. Pacchapayaru (Greengram) - 1 Kg
    3. Karamani (Cowpea) - 1 Kg
    4. Thuvarai (Redgram) - 1 Kg
  4. Ennai (Oil Seeds) - 4.25 Kgs
    1. Verkkadalai (Groundnut) - 2 Kg
    2. Ell (Gingely) - 0.25 Kg
    3. Amanakku (Castor) - 1 Kg
    4. Soya Mochai (Soya Beans) - 1 Kg
  5. Vaasanai (Perfume Seeds) - 1.75 Kgs
    1. Thaniya (Coriander) - 1 Kg
    2. Kadukku (Mustard) - 0.25 Kg
    3. Venthayam (Fenugreek) - 0.25 Kg
    4. Sombhu (Jeera) - 0.25 Kg

  1. The land has to be tilled for 1 or 2 times before the seeds are broadcasted.
  2. The above 20 seeds mentioned need to be mixed thoroughly and broadcasted by hand.
  3. Just before flowering of the crops(in 3 months time), the crops need to be dealt in two different ways.
  4. If the land is slushy, the entire crops need to be tilled again so that the crops as well as the soil are mixed throughly and allowed to decompose.
  5. If the land is not slusy, the entire crops need to be cut at the base and allowed to decompose in the soil.
  6. Mostly these needs to be done before the main crop is grown or if you are not growing any main crop and just for soil improvement, it is better to do this during the rainy season.
Land Improvement - Method 2
  1. Normally, most of the villages will have temples / mosques  and along with them they will have ponds, tanks etc which stores water and which is used for the temple as well as for the common use.  Even if there are not any temples around, definitely there will be ponds, tanks or other sources of water storage.  This is an excellent source of nutrient rich soil as most of the water that arrives in this place carry with them the top soil from many places and depoit them here.
  2. With the permission from the temple or local body, collected not more than 15-30 cms of top soil from the pond, tank etc.  By doing this, you will allow the water storage structure to retain more water.
  3. Spread the top soil collected from the ponds, tanks etc in your farm to improve your soil.
  4. The top soil need to be taken out only after sufficient amount of top soil has been collected in the ponds, tanks etc.
Land Improvement - Method 3
  1. Spread 4 inches of dry leaves or dead mulch on the soil.  This will decompose and improve the soil.
  2. A little bit of cow dung with urine can be sprayed on top of this to improve faster decomposition.
Land Improvement - Method 4
  1. Beans can be grown all over the place with little effort and they produce huge amounts of leaves which can be "chopped & dropped" and this improve the soil as well.
  2. A little bit of cow dung with urine can be sprayed on top of this to improve faster decomposition. 
Land Improvement - Method 5 (Green Manures List)
  1. The following Green Manures can be applied to the soil to improve the soil.
    1. Agathi - Sesbania grandiflora
    2. Avuri - Indofera tinctoria
    3. Adhatoda - Adhatoda zeylanica Medicus
    4. Avaram - Cassia auriculate
    5. Otiyan - Lannea coromandelica
    6. Erukku - Calotropis gigantean
    7. Kattukottai - Jatropha curcase
    8. Kattukolunchi - Tephrosia purpurea
    9. Sanaappu - Crotalaria juncea
    10. Seemai Agathi - Cassia alata
    11. Toyya-k-kirai - Digera muricata
    12. Cen-kitai or Malai Murungai - Sesbania bispinosa
    13. Thumbai - Leucas aspera
    14. Nalvelai - Cleome gynandra
    15. Naivelai - Cleome viscosa
    16. Nattu Cavundal - Leucaena leucocephala
    17. Nochi - Vitex negundo
    18. Nuna - Morinda coreia
    19. Pannaipoo - Celosia argentea
    20. Peyavirai - Cassia occidentalis
    21. Pungam - Pongamia pinnata
    22. Poovarasu - Thespesia populnea
    23. Nilavirai - Cassia senna
    24. Malai Vembu - Melia azedarach
    25. Murungai - Moringa oleifera
    26. Rail Poondu - Croton bonplandianus Baillon
    27. Vaagai - Alibizia lebbeck
    28. Vadanarayanan - Delonix elata
    29. Vembu - Azadirachta indica
Chemical Farming to Organic Farming

  1. The method mentioned above is also applicable for moving from Chemical Farming to Organic Farming.
  2. The catch here is that this needs to be done atleast for a continuous period of three years to notice the soil improvement.
  3. Once you plan to move from Chemical Farming to Organic Farming, it is advisable to stop using Chemical Farming altogether from the first year.
  4. The farmer may notice dip in their production during the transition period.  In case this is an issue, plan the transition in a phased manner like transitioning only 25% of the land every year.


  1. Great summary around soil replenishment! What would be the cost per acre of the 20 variety of seeds mentioned here? I am trying to determine the material costs.

    1. The cost is reasonable considering the benefits getting out of it. As of now, I do not have the cost information.

    2. Is there any single source to get all these seeds?

  2. Replies
    1. Can you rephrase the question to better understand what you are looking for?

  3. How to make the soil to sow the seeds, either wet or dry? ( Like groundnut or paddy).
    How about irrigation? Is it compulsory to til the soil within 2 and half months? How long it'll take for decomposition? Whether we can able to start farming immediately after tilling are not?

    1. Generally, the seeds are broadcasted for this purpose (Soil Improvement). The soil does not need any specific irrigation. It can grow with the available moisture or rain.
      Depending on the type of next commercial crop, the grown up crops needs to be ploughed into the soil before the flowering of the crop.
      No need to worry about the decomposition as the next crop will use the nutrients released slowly.
      Yes. It is possible for the next crop to grown immediately.

    2. Thanks for your detailed reply. As you have mentioned "Depending on the type of next commercial crop" we planning to keep green leaves(Keerai), so at which stage we have to plough the soil.

    3. 3 months time is enough or before the flowering of the (soil improvement) seeds. Since you are going for Green Leaves (Keerai) , they don't take or reduce much of the nutrients and hence crop rotation may be ideal in your case after the initial soil improvement.

  4. Is there any single source to get all these seeds?

    1. As of now, i do not have the seeds availability info. But will provide the info once I get hold of it.

  5. Sir, land I am looking at has a lot of laterite soil, around 2-inch stones with sand etc, white-colored soil, interspersed with red soil, it is around 5 acres. There is a channel of water flowing adjacent to the land. Farmers in that area say water is available at around 400 to 500 feet. I am interested in doing floriculture/horticulture. Also, sheep/goat rearing. Do you think I can change the soil for my requirements without having to bring in red soil from other fields around the place. Do I have any hope of growing commercial crops successfully as I am planning to quit my job and take up farming seriously. The rates of this land are cheaper than others around the place, thus my extra interest. Please help.

    1. Any land can be made healthy by applying the right techniques. You don't need to bring in soil from outside.
      Since your focus is on floriculture/horticulture, the land you mentioned can be bought for the same. You may need to amend the top soil with lot of green manures and any available dry leaves etc.

      By the way, you should quit your job only after you see good/reasonable income from your farm. This may take atleast 5 years in my opinion.

    2. Thank you sir, it is encouraging to hear this from an experienced person like you. And yes sir, quitting my job is a transition that is going to take place slowly, too many responsibilities and loose ends to tie up.

      I have sent the soil for testing. Will place the results before you when they come up for further advice.