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Soil

Basic soil preparation guide

Soil preparation has a significant influence on yield and quality of the crop. Unfortunately equipment and tractors not only cost a lot but are expensive to maintain. In most cases it is more economical to hire someone to do the ploughing with better equipment that what you can afford. If your soil is managed poorly, it will lead to poor stands, compaction, waterlogging and reduced yields. Badly managed soils can make your farm unprofitable.

The opposite is also true. Over tilling will destroy the soil structure by breaking up soil aggregates. As these aggregates are pulverized the soil has less pore space, resulting in reduced root development and penetration. more run-off thus less water penetration into the soil. The higher run-off rate also increases soil erosion.

There are three soil characteristics that have a huge impact on the amount of soil preparation required:

Structure

Light soils with low clay content may require less tillage for certain crops, but also may be fitted with fewer or less-aggressive tillage operations. Heavy soils on the other hand, are more subject to compaction because they are often poorly drained.

Moisture level

We soils compact more than dry soils. Heavy equipment will compact wet soils more severely than light equipment. Soil aggregates, when wet, are more pliable and compact under traffic loads, which explains why working soil when it is wet produced many clods, When you leave a rut, you will create soil compaction.

Organic matter content

High organic matter levels will improve the soil preparation of certain tillage operations. Organic matter acts as a bonding agent for the sand, silt and clay particles. This leads to good tilth. Soil aggregates with high organic matter content is more stable under traffic loads. Organic matter does not only improve soil structure, water permeability but it improves nutrient uptake and nitrogen release. Remember, organic matter content varies considerable and must always be replaced as it is continuously being broken down by bacteria.

 

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