SOIL HEALTH

The quality of all life on earth, including ourselves, depends on the quality of the usable parts of the earth’s topsoil.

 

Synthetic fertilizers, for the most part, contain no carbon and no energy. As a result, soil life is forced to use the soil’s energy reserves. The soil’s energy supply soon runs low. The chemicals don’t get properly processed, and plants are fed unnaturally, causing them to have a dramatically lower resistance to pests. As a result, diseases and insect pests are invited in. Eventually microbe and earthworm populations decline, the soil dies and loses structure.

 

The earth consists of about 30% dry land of which 11% is suitable for food crop production. All life on Earth is supported by a thin layer of topsoil. Fertile topsoil is the result of decaying organic matter which adds carbon to the soil and also by decaying rock. Both must be present. The quality of the soil determines the quality of the air we breath, the the water we drink and the food we eat.

 

A study has shown that communities has become extinct as a result of land becoming depleted.

Agriculture is in trouble today because most of the soil’s organic content is far below sustainable levels.

Organic levels should be 3 to 5 percent and up to as high as 8 percent of the weight of the soil.

Soil weakens due to:

  1. Sunlight on exposed soil.
  2. Mircobes and organic matter are lost when soil are being plowed.
  3. the use of high amounts of N-P-K fertilizer.
  4. Fertilizers contain lime and salts that destroy the organisms in the soil.

When plants are attacked by insects, we use insecticides which end up in the soil and destroy all life it comes in contact with.

Plants collect carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen. It then charges or connects the carbon with other elements and energy of the sun in order to produce carbohydrates. The carbohydrate energy produced by plants is the only way that solar energy can be utilized by humans and animals.

 

Data collected over a long period of time by the Rodale Institute in the USA proved that organic farming is much more successful in collecting carbon dioxide from the air and depositing it in the soil. Therefore soil carbon is build up so much faster with organic farming.

Agricultural land with a high organic content can absorb 100 – 150 mm of rain per hour while chemical fields can only absorb 18 – 25 mm.

 

Why aren’t more farmers switching to organic farming?

The answer is “change” we are afraid of change. We just say to ourselves “it’s not going to work”. This should be a new field for me but I will need to make a study of this. Who is going to give me advice?

 

We would like to report on a conversation we had with a farmer from Thabazimbi in 2018. He is an irrigation farmer who cultivates 2,700 hectares of land on which he grows wheat, soybeans and maize. They were in their fourth season of using organic fertilization. Nothing but the harvest itself; namely the wheat grains, bean and maize kernels are removed from the fields. All plant remains are ploughed back into the soil and he adds 2 m³ of compost per hectare. He has already realized that this is not the ideal recipe, as the decomposition process binds nitrogen and only after the plant parts have been broken down is it released again. He now plans to first make compost from the plant residues before ploughing it into the fields.

Regardless of the mistakes made, he could note the following after only three seasons;

  1. The compost aerates the soil, plants also need oxygen in the soil.
  2. The cultivation of the soil is much easier.
  3. The water holding capacity of the soil has improved so much that the irrigation has been reduced by as much as 15 to 20%, resulting in huge savings.
  4. The application of Sodium was reduced from 140 to 100 kilograms per hectare. A saving of 40 Kg @ R 12.00 per kilogram = R 480.00 X 2700 hectares = R 1,296,000.00.
  5. Diesel consumption has decreased from 65 litres to 12 litres per hectare per season. This is due to other implements that could have been used (softer soil), less application of fertilizers (some fertilizers were still applied). A tractor does not work as hard as the soil is softer. Less weed and disease control is done as the plants are more resistant. This saving amounts to 53 litres per hectare @ current ± R 13.37 per litre = R 708.61 X 2700 = R 1,913,247.00 per season.
  6. Savings should improve every year organic farming is done.

 

Why is it essential to switch to organic?

  1. It improves soil health and the general production of plant grown. The fact is that is not toxic and the minimum amount of toxins that is there benefits the good insects; birds, lizards, frogs, earthworms and microorganisms in the soil. Remember, only one to two percent of insect species are harmful.
  2. It is cost effective.
  3. Saves time. Since fewer poison sprays are needed.
  4. Less diseased and insect infested plants comes up. Nitrate and salt containing chemical fertilizers and insecticides are harmful to the environment especially to the organisms in the soil.
  5. Plants are more stress resistant. Plants that grow in humus-rich soil are more stress resistant such as e.g. heat, cold, too much or too little water or other unusual weather conditions. Micro elements are found in large numbers in humus rich soil and it helps with stress management. Organically grown plants has larger and deeper root systems.
  6. It improves the taste of food types. It’s very simple, eat some organically grown foods and taste for yourself.
  7. The ecosystem benefits from it. All plant material is recycled and nature and the farmer benefit from it. Natural organic compost stimulates microorganisms, which in turn process and neutralize toxins such as insecticides, excess salts and heavy metals in the soil.

 

Organic farming is a new adventure!

 

The reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up, instead of what they have to gain. – Rick Godwin

 



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