FOUR WAYS OF IMPROVING SOIL FERTILITY
Farmers are sometimes up against the challenge of improving the soil on their farmlands. Not all soils are great for growing crops, and soil improvement is a common task for agricultural workers, whether they are engaged in a small project or a large one. In order to do soil improvements effectively, the individual will have to bring some specific skills and strategies to the table. Here are some of the commonly recommended ways to improve soil and raise the effective yield of a piece of farmland.
- Check which nutrients your plants need.There are three extremely important nutrients for farming ; nitrogen (N) for leaf and stem growth, phosphorus (P) for roots, fruit, and seed, and potassium (K) for disease resistance and overall health. Young plants may need more phosphorus to focus on leaf growth, and plants typically need much less of these nutrients outside of the growing season.
For best results, look up the specific plants you are growing to find out their needs. This is usually given as three “NPK” numbers, telling you the ratio or total amounts of these nutrients in that order. If you want a detailed report on the nutrients already in your soil, send soil samples to your local extension office or soil-testing laboratory.
- Choose fertilizers from organic sources.Plant and animal matter such as fish emulsion or fish hydrolysate provides the best type of fertilizer for long-term microbial growth, which keeps soil nutrient-rich and porous. Fertilizers synthesized in laboratories typically feed the plant without improving the soil, and in some cases may even have negative effects.
Always protect the hands and face when working with soil additives, as these can contain some bacteria and other health threats.
- Using manure or other organic matter.Instead of a manufactured fertilizer, you may be able to find cheaper, unrefined options from a garden supply store or farm. Manure can add nutrients as well as organic matter that will break down and improve the condition of the soil. Here are a few common options:
- Manure should be left to decompose for at least a month before use, to avoid damaging plants. You want to avoid manure from that source, as the herbicide will be present in the manure. Chicken or turkey manure is cheap, but can cause runoff issues in large fields. Cow, sheep, goat, and rabbit manure are higher quality and have a less pungent smell.
- Also ,add bone meal for phosphorus, or blood meal for nitrogen.
- Make your own compost.New compost typically takes four to eight months to mature, unless you speed up the process with special bacterial additions. This long term project will greatly benefit both soil texture and nutrients, if you are willing to keep up the process. Set aside a large outdoor container, tightly closed to protect it from animals, but with holes for air flow. Care for it with these techniques:
- Begin with about 20% soil, manure, or mature compost; 10 to 30% raw, plant-derived food scraps; and 50 to 70% dry leaves, grass, and yard clippings. Mix these together thoroughly.
- the compost warm and wet, and throw in raw, non-meat food products from kitchen scraps.
- Turn the compost with a pitchfork or shovel at least once every week or two, to introduce oxygen that encourages beneficial bacteria.
- Search for worms in moist areas underneath rocks, and add them to the compost bin.
- The compost is mature (ready to use) when it clumps together when squeezed, but can easily be broken apart. Plant fibres should still be visible, but the compost should be mostly homogeneous.
- Try sifting your compost. Compost that falls through the sieve is ready to use.
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