Soil isn’t just dirt.
It’s a complex biological system that ultimately supports life. Billions of microorganisms exist in just one spoonful of soil. These microorganisms exist in a symbiotic relationship with plants, meaning they need each other to thrive. Plants photosynthesize and bring carbon to this ecosystem, and in turn, these microorganisms deliver nutrients directly to the plant’s roots.
Microbes in the soil are directly tied to nutrient cycling especially carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur. These microorganisms help keep soils healthy and productive. We need to protect and conserve soil. It is a living resource, and it is finite.
But where do we start?
When it comes to understanding soil health and how it relates to growing, a great starting point is to do a soil sample from the area you intend to plant in. Analysing the soil can tell us many things including pH, organic matter content and plant available nutrients and knowing all of this is important when determining if your soil can grow your intended crop. You may need to supplement nutrients or amend the soil for more efficient uptake. Having soil sample results is just one part of the puzzle, but it is a great starting point.
What are the other piece of the puzzle?
1. Fertilizer choice and considerations:
When choosing what products to use to fertilize and amend your soil, there are many considerations. Do you choose conventional or organic products for example. It all depends on certain factors. An organically certified grower MUST use organic products that have been approved for use by the Certification Body they are working with for example. Read more about this here. Before you can choose, it’s important to understand the differences between your options.
Organic vs. Synthetic Fertilizers
There are two types of fertilizers that can used: organic and synthetic.
These fertilizers may be available in raw, granular, water soluble and liquid forms. Remember, it does not have to be one or the other. You can use a synthetic fertilizer and add in organic amendments/nutrients to complement each other.
Organic Fertilizers (such as bonemeal or feathermeal) are materials derived from plant and animal parts. Organic fertilizers are often slow release and have a smaller analysis than a conventional/synthetic fertilizer.
Synthetic Fertilizers (such as Ammonium sulphate or Potassium sulphate) are “man-made” and may be derived from by-products. Synthetic fertilizers provide basic nutrients to the plants. Synthetic fertilizers have the capacity to deliver a fast and direct boost of specific nutrients to plants at a targeted time. They are generally easy to handle and apply.
To support soil health it is important to increase soil organic matter using compost, manure or cover cropping and incorporating crop residues. A healthy soil has good water holding capacity, structure and tilth. Adding organic matter can also improve the potential nutrient mineralization capacity.
2. Building a fertility program:
When building a fertility program, it’s important to build one with soil health in mind. It is equally important to:
- Know the common nutritional needs for your crop
- Apply maintenance nutrient sprays if required
- Maintain optimal soil fertility levels by doing soil analysis every few years
- Fertilize trees based on nutrient demand minus supply
- Monitor your nutrient management program.
The final goal while considering soil health, is ultimately to select management strategies that maximize benefits while reducing drawbacks. Healthy soils will be resilient against weather disturbances, support crop production, support beneficial biological activity, cycles nutrients, forms soil structure, and helps fight disease and contributes to environmental sustainability.
It can be overwhelming for sure, but our Growers Support team is here to help with questions about fertilizer considerations and can help you build the correct fertility program to suit your needs.
We’re proud to carry a new line of ViviGro fertilizers with formulas that bridge that gap between organic and synthetic. By adding organic matter to synthetic fertilizers, they are marrying the benefits of both together. With a more holistic approach to soil health, ViviGro fertilizers will bring the best of both worlds to our farmers.
Soil isn’t just dirt. Soil supports life. It’s living, it’s finite and it needs to be responsibly managed.