The choice of soil within agriculture is crucial for your success. The quality of this soil is also of the highest importance. Luckily there are guidelines which need to be maintained which ensure the quality of your soil will always be at a certain level.
Sustainability is key as nobody wants a soil which is good for a year and poor the next. The USDA Forest Service in America were the first organisation to look at this. They maintained that soil productivity in forests could be worsened by site preparation and harvesting and investigated the consequences of this. Various soils were tested and their hypothesis was found to be correct – the soil from some areas was found to have a poorer structure and to be lower in nutrients than that where there had been no harvesting or site preparation.
Monitoring the soil
To achieve sustainability, environmental agencies monitor the soil. The threshold values vary for different types of soil, but they aim to ensure that soils do not become nutritionally deficient or have a poor structure and that bad practices and over cultivation of land does not lead to this.
How to check your own soil
You want to make sure your soil is of the quality it should be in order to get the most out of your agriculture business.
Firstly you will want to check if your soil’s structure is OK and you can do this by digging a small hole and examining it. If the topsoil is spacious between the aggregates and can be crumbled between your fingers and the subsoil is in larger blocks with lots of vertical channels and cracks and can also be broken relatively easily, then your soil is well structured. If your topsoil is dense with very few pores and is difficult to break apart and the subsoil is dense with few cracks or pores, then your soil is poorly structured.
This will have an effect on the yield of your crop and could run the risk of causing environmental damage.
Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs) standards dictate that farmers must take measures when they have harvested to ensure that run off is possible and the soil is protected against erosion. It is forbidden to take certain kinds of machinery on to water logged land because that compacts the soil and can interfere with its structure.
There are measures which can be taken to help the soil quality remain good. These include not cultivating wet soil, regular loosening of the top soil, minimising heavy machinery use and regular checking of subsoil to ensure it is still of a high enough quality.
It’s a farmer’s responsibility to ensure their soil falls within these environmental guidelines and there are penalties for failing to do so. Ultimately though it is in the farmer’s best interests to maintain good quality soil in order to get a decent crop yield and to ensure that their ground can be cultivated year upon year.