Soil is a living ecosystem that is inhabited by various organisms. They all play an essential role in creating and maintaining a healthy environment. Without living organisms, the release of nutrients cannot properly occur in the soil, and without them, there is no space for air circulation.
For the nutrition and functioning of the organisms that inhabit the soil, organic matter is needed. Accordingly, for the soil to be healthy, farmers constantly need to return organic matter to it and thus protect it from degradation. There are several methods called soil conservation, which help to protect the soil.
Due to field monitoring, today, farmers can observe the state of every element, including the soil, but what measures will help prevent degradation? In this piece, you will learn about the soil conservation tips and methods that can be recommended for soil protection.
1. Crop rotation
This is a common practice and an excellent alternative to planting one and the same crop every year. This practice involves sowing the soil with different crops. For example, farmers can rotate their main crop with cereals, legumes, or fodder crops.
This method helps to reduce the risk of pests and disease. Since the cultivated crop is constantly changing, pests do not have time to take root in large numbers. You can significantly reduce the use of pesticides in your fields.
In addition, forage crops can be used to fertilize the soil without digging them out after ripening. Farmers can mix them with the soil and fertilize them in this way. It is one of the few plant species that can absorb atmospheric nitrogen.
7. No-till farming
Tillage helps farmers make planting less labor-intensive. However, this method also has a downside. The top layer of the soil is affected during the tillage while the vegetation cover is removed along with organic nutrients. It also makes the soil more susceptible to erosion.
No-till farming involves narrow furrows without plowing. Thus, the ground will not lose moisture. It is protected by the remnants of cover crops from the effects of temperatures. Water freely penetrates the soil, and the number of microorganisms and organic matter increases, enriching the soil.
3. Buffer Strips
The vegetation cover, the trees, grasses, and shrubs covering the buffer strip, filters sediment out of the effluent. Using this method helps to prevent soil leaching, as well as subsidence and siltation of water. At the same time, the growers don’t have to till the buffer strip. This area should also not be a place for grazing livestock or the movement of agricultural machinery.
Growing trees in buffer strips prevent wind erosion of soils, and trees planted along the ponds also shade the water. Buffer strips not only help fight erosion but are also a home for insects, birds, and animals. It contributes to creating an appropriate living environment for fish and other aquatic organisms, which is one of the most important reasons for soil conservation.
4. Cover crops
This practice is used to prevent exposure of bare soil to water. Thus, farmers tend to use alfalfa, fenugreek, winter wheat, radish, sweet clover, lentil, and rye as cover crops. Cover crops support the soil and protect groundwater sources from contamination. This method is a great way to cover the soil for the late fall and winter, fight erosion, and control weeds. Moreover, the cultivation of these crops provides a microorganism diversity that is vital for soil health.
If you are growing legumes, you can also use oats as a cover crop. This cover crop is preferable if the winter runs without snow but with frost. Oats act as a blanket that covers and warms your main crop.
Windbreak and protection strips are designed to prevent wind erosion as well as to combat snowfall. These strips are shrubs or trees planted in several rows at the western (also southwestern and northwestern) border of the field. Besides protecting against erosion, windbreaks also create a more attractive landscape and provide optimal soil moisture during the vegetation season.
This technology of soil conservation also helps to enhance the wildlife environment. Birds can nest on them, predatory animals take shelter from the cold, and serve as a place to sleep. Furthermore, larger animals can also contribute to rodent control.
Agricultural sustainability is not achievable without soil conservation. Each of these methods is beneficial and helps to achieve more efficient soil use. Soil conservation allows farmers to increase infiltration, retain moisture, and improve the supply of nutrients to the soil. The use of cover crops promotes biodiversity, protects the topsoil, and nourishes living organisms. Using these practices helps to avoid soil erosion and degradation. The soil will remain healthy and fertile due to reliable protection and essential microorganisms in it. It is also the way to contribute to preserving the environment.
Salman Zafar is an ecopreneur, consultant, advisor, speaker and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection, conservation and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe. Salman is the Founder of EcoMENA, a popular voluntary organization based in Qatar. He is also the Founder and CEO of BioEnergy Consult, a reputed consulting firm active in biomass, waste-to-energy and waste management segments.
Salman is a professional environmental writer with more than 350 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass environmental awareness in different parts of the world.
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