Soil fertility is the capacity of soil to support plant growth and the many beneficial processes that occur in soil. Soil fertility is the combined effects of chemical, physical and biological characteristics of the soil. We understand the physical and chemical characteristics of soil much better than we understood the biological part.
Biological fertility refers to the activities of soil organisms that improve plant growth. The biology of soil is complex and we need to have a better understanding of how it impacts the chemical and physical aspects of our soils.
Our soils are alive and biological fertility encompasses a variety of soil organisms that include bacteria, fungi, microbes, nematodes, earthworms and insects. Soil organisms in soil fertility are involved in:
- Contributing to the aggregation of soil particles
- Enhancing cycling of nutrients
- Transforming nutrients from one from to another
- Assisting plant to obtain nutrients from soil
- Degrading toxic substances in soil
- Causing disease in plants
- Minimizing disease in plants
- Assisting or hindering water penetration into soil
Biology/soil organisms contribute in a variety of ways to the condition of our soils. The challenge is to select management practices and products that manipulate soil conditions to take advantage of beneficial biological processes.
Watch for my next update where we will continue this discussion on soil fertility.
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