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Soil management

Watch Dr Martin Lukac explain why healthy soil is important for crop production.

Vines can grow and produce good grapes on comparably poor soils, but for most other crops the quality of the soil is one of their main determinants for a good yield. In this video Dr Martin Lukac explains why a healthy soil is so important for many crops.

Martin mentions how carbon from the atmosphere can be stored in the soil, which is illustrated by this picture of the carbon cycle below. Living plants use CO2 from the atmosphere to form carbohydrates by photosynthesis. Decaying plant material increases the amount of organic matter in the soil, enabling a variety of organisms to thrive and form and ecosystem that supports plant growth. Crops also transform CO2 into carbohydrates, but as they are continually harvested, only little plant material goes back to the soil and the amount of organic matter is reduced over time. Tillage and the application of fertiliser help to increase crop yield, but they don’t increase organic matter in the soil. In the long run, a low organic matter content in the soil decreases soil health and ultimately its productivity.

This image provides a summary of the information in the preceding paragraph. It shows plants growing in the soil in full leaf with roots extending down into the soil surrounded by decaying material, organic matter which provide nutrients. Above the soil the plant is exposed to sunlight and the diagram includes arrows to show the plant absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It also shows plants being harvested and the ground being fertilised.

Figure 1: Carbon Cycle (Click to expand) © University of Reading

Were you aware what precious resource soil is and how long it takes to develop? Let us know your thoughts in the comment area below. Remember you can ‘like’ and reply to comments made by your fellow learners.

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The Future of Farming: Exploring Climate Smart Agriculture

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