Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Six easy ways to improve your soil

A new guide by the UK’s LEAF organisation (Linking Environment And Farming), 'Simply Sustainable Soils', contains six easy ways to help farmers improve soil condition. 

The guide explains that there are six simple steps which will help farmers to understand how to improve the performance, health and long-term sustainability of farmland.   As well as soil sampling and mapping to help assess current and improving soil condition, following the six steps will give a clear understanding of its condition and health.  The guide explains how to assess the 1) structure, 2) drainage, 3) compaction, 4) organic matter levels, 5) pH & nutrients and 6) biological health of soil.

In addition to giving clear and practical advice for farmers, the book also highlights the significant global problem of soil erosion.

In South Asia, annual productivity losses are estimated at 36 million tonnes of cereal equivalent, valued at £3,390 million by water erosion, and £1,130 million due to wind erosion – £4.4bn in total.  In the USA the total annual cost of erosion is estimated at £27 billion per year, or about £155 per ha of farmland, and topsoil erosion is also a serious problem in Australia and China.

LEAF also emphasises that whilst it is not on the same scale, soil erosion and degradation in the UK has increased.  Most fields are experiencing erosion rates of up to 1.0 t/ha/yr and with soil regeneration rates in the range of 0.5 – 1.0 t/ha/yr, this is not sustainable.

The easy-to-read and clear guide is available from the LEAF website.