Every person who works with the land, whether as a farmer or studying himself, has to know everything related to soil fertility. Knowing if a piece of land is fertile or not makes it easier to work with agriculture or promote the reforestation of a specific area. If you don’t have much knowledge on this particular topic, you are at the right place.
We’ll start by giving you a complete definition of what soil fertility is. In addition, you will know terms associated with it, such as natural, chemical and physical fertility. At the end, you will already have a mastery over the most important factors that the soil must have for it to be fertile.
Definition of soil fertility
When talking about soil fertility, reference is made to the ability of a land to provide nutrients and minerals that allow plant growth. That is, it is a piece of land or hectare that has enough nutrients to encourage flora growth. Now, the fertility of the soils depends on 3 important factors that are: the physical, chemical and biological or natural aspect. We’ll talk later of this.
To know if a soil is fertile or not, we can identify aspects such as the amount of minerals it contains, if it has organic matter and if there are living plant and animal organisms. Of course, water and oxygen are factors that must also be present in a fertile soil. In fact, a country plot has high amounts of all these mentioned points.
It must be taken into account that the fertility is found in a thin layer of soil It can be formed naturally or by human intervention. In general, such fertility arises from dead plants, decaying animals, rocks that have been eroded over the years. All this makes a mixture that provides nutrients to the soil and makes it fertile for all kinds of plants. Of course, we can achieve the same results if we use a fertilizer that contains minerals, nutrients and other compounds that favor soils.
What is the natural fertility of the soil?
As its own name indicates, they are nutrients, compounds and other minerals that come from nature itself. For example, minerals have their origin in a parent rock, which breaks down over time, either by disintegration or erosion caused by water. It is important to mention that this erosion can reach great distances thanks to constant air currents.
In the same way, there is organic matter, which is produced by the decomposition of dead plants and animals. In agriculture, it is often use organic waste as part of organic matter and provide nutrients to the plantations. In fact, before the industrial era, leftover fish was used to boost soil fertility. Today this is not necessary.
However, a very important aspect for natural fertility are the microorganisms that live in the soil. These are divided into two types of great importance: organisms that are capable of breaking down organic matter, such as worms and insects, and those that release nutrients. The latter have the ability to release nutrients and restore vitality to certain plant species. The important thing is not to have a large amount of fertility, but rather to know how to maintain and/or recover it.
What is the chemical fertility of the soil?
Regarding chemical fertility, there are three basic components that make it up: water, soil pH and different nutrients. As for the last point, we usually talk about calcium, zinc and magnesium. It could be said that they are the three fundamental components that soil chemistry must have. Of course, you also have to there is an optimal pH level so that plant life can occur on land. However, in terms of the growth of crops and plants, it is necessary that the land has:
- Nitrogen: this component has the ability to invigorateand color to the leaves of plants and trees, as well as encourage their growth.
- Phosphorus is a very important compound that promotes the root system. So the sprouts and seeds have a better chance of developing.
- Finally, we have potassium, which focuses on maintaining a good metabolism of the plant and helping it generate certain level of resistance to pathogens that can affect the plant.
What is the physical fertility of the soil?
This is the ability of soils to provide some kind of structure that allow the growth of an entire crop or plants of different species. Regarding physical fertility, aspects such as its structure, the capacity to retain water, apparent density, resistance to penetration are taken into consideration. These are just some of the variables that must be present and that are usually studied in terms of this type of fertility, in fact, it is something that is usually kept very much in mind in the agricultural sector.
What are the most important factors of soil fertility?
There are many factors that we could detail at this point, however, we have reduced the possibilities to the most important, which are:
- The consistency of the soil and the depth Of the same. These two factors will be crucial for the productivity of the plant and its ability to fix its roots in the soil.
- Amount of organic matter, minerals and nutrients that exist and are necessary for a large number of plants.
- Whether or not it has the corresponding texture. This can be achieved using clay, sand or with certain proportions of silt.
- The soil must have a good capacity for absorption and retention of liquids. This with the aim of providing vital matter to the plant.
- The presence of biomass is essential to obtain a fertile soil and avoid the loss of nutrients.
Why is it important to diagnose soil fertility?
If we focus on an agricultural aspect, knowing if the soil is fertile or not will depend to a large extent on the quality and quantity of the crops. If you do not have a good diagnosis of the soils, there is a high probability that the crop quality are not adequate, not to mention that the amount will not be the most optimal.
On the other hand, the amount of land or fertile soil that is available is very low, so it is vital to maintain proper use of it. However, there are projects and initiatives that are promoting the restoration of damaged floors, either by felling trees, burning soil, natural or artificial erosion, among other aspects. In fact, having a good diagnosis of the soils can help the vegetation and the natural balance that has been deteriorating to gradually return to its natural state.
Lastly and most importantly, the diagnosis of the soil allows us to know if there is a presence of microorganisms. This significantly helps to know how possible it is to restore a soil that has been the victim of human contamination.
Is soil fertility and productivity the same?
It seems to be the same at first glance, but the reality is that it is not. As for the fertile soil, reference is made to the amount of organic matter that exists, as well as the amount of nutrients. In addition, agronomic conditions are also taken into account to provide the possibility of starting and maintaining crops.
On the other hand, there is the term of soil productivity. This is the capacity that it has to be able to preserve fertility and manage to maintain agricultural production. That is to say, that, on the one hand, you have all the “materials” that are used to give fertility to the soil, and on the other, the ability to retain it and use it for the benefit of a crop.