Wednesday, 31 October 2012

How to improve / sustain the Soil

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

Continuing with where we left in the last blog, we will discuss more ways to improve as well as sustain the soil.

As a rule of thumb, please remember "The Soil need not be exposed to direct sunlight and the sunlight is required only for the plants and that too by the leaves of the plants"

Don't expose the soil to direct sunlight

  1. Most of the land is occupied by Trees, Crops etc and only the minimal area is not occupied by any crop.  In this situation, we can go for Live (or) Green Mulch, Dead Mulch.
  2. In case of traditional crops like Paddy, Sugarcane etc, the unwanted roots or branches should not be burnt and left as is to decompose in the very soil.
  3. Live Mulch can be even weeds as well as any legume crops or grasses as well.
  4. Dead Mulch can be plantains, dead leaves, twigs, broken branches etc.  The Dead Mulch need to be spread in those areas where the soil is exposed to the sunlight and this will reduce the soil getting hot and also will reduce the evaporation in the process.
The Soil can be improved further if we allow the earthworms to live there.  The earthworms cannot tolerate direct sunlight and hence will not be coming to the top of the soil if there is direct sunlight.  As we all know, the more the earthworms, it is better for the soil as well as for the farmer.  The earthworms improve the air passage, water seepage and provide nutrients to the roots of the crops.

We can also improve the soil by making the dead mulch decompose faster by sprinkling (cow dung + cow urine) mixture whenever there is heavy dead mulch available.

Traditionally, the goats / sheeps are allowed to stay overnight in the land so that the excreta that falls from them will improve the soil and this method is employed even today.

Soil carried by Wind
  1. We need to implement Wind Breakers to control this and this has to be done in a V shape model.
  2. The plants selected should have many branches and it should be thick (like Glyricidia) and should not have only one stem like coconut.
  3. During the summer, we can go for short term crops to ensure that the top soil is covered and hence cannot be carried by wind.
Soil carried by Water
  1. Water should not flow very fast and this is also one of the reasons for losing the top soil and the nutrients along with it.
  2. Where water flows very fast, it should be made to walk. Create trenches along the gradient of the slope or every 25 or 50 feet to ensure that the speed of the water is reduced considerably.
  3. Where water walks, it should be made to crawl.  If the land is occupied by grasses or other crops, it will make the water slow down to a considerable extent.
  4. Where water crawls, it should be made to stop.  This can be a storage pit or tank or pond.
Compactness or Hardness
  1. The Compactness or Hardness of the soil is done by humans by walking, heavy cattle grazing, heavy machinery, long term non-usage of the land etc.
  2. Heavy machinery should never be used when the land is very wet. By Heavy Machinery, I mean tractors, harvesting machines etc.
The above are some of the ways we can sustain or improve the soil.

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