This article throws light upon the ten main characteristics of a healthy soil. Some of the characteristics are: 1. Good Soil Tilth 2. Sufficient Depth 3. Sufficient but not Excess Supply of Nutrients 4. Small Population of Plant Pathogens and Insect Pests 5. Good Soil Drainage 6. Large Population of Beneficial Organisms 7. Low Weed Pressure and Others.
Characteristic # 1. Good Soil Tilth:
Soil tilth refers to the overall physical character of the soil in the context of its suitability for crop production.
Characteristic # 2. Sufficient Depth:
Sufficient depth refers to the extent of the soil profile to which roots are able to grow and function. A soil with a shallow depth as a result of a compaction layer or past erosion is more susceptible to extreme fluctuations in the weather, thus predisposing the crop to drought or flooding stress.
Characteristic # 3. Sufficient but not Excess Supply of Nutrients:
An adequate and accessible supply of nutrients is necessary for optimal plant growth and for maintaining balanced cycling of nutrients within the system. Excess nutrients can lead to leaching and potential ground water pollution, high nutrient run-off and green-house gas losses, as well as toxicity to plants and microbial communities.
Characteristic # 4. Small Population of Plant Pathogens and Insect Pests:
In agricultural production systems, plant pathogens and pests can cause diseases and damage to the crop. In a healthy soil, the population of these organisms is low and/or inactive. This could result from direct competition from other soil organisms for nutrients or niche habitats, hyperparasitis, etc. also, healthy plants are better able to defend themselves against a variety of pests (similar to the human immune system).
Characteristic # 5. Good Soil Drainage:
Even after a heavy rain, a healthy soil will drain more rapidly as a result of good soil structure and an adequate distribution of different size pore spaces, but also retain adequate water for plant uptake.
Characteristic # 6. Large Population of Beneficial Organisms:
Soil microbes are important to the functioning of the soil. They help nutrient cycling, decomposition of organic matter, maintenance of soil structure, biological suppression of plant pests, etc. A healthy soil will have a high and diverse population of beneficial organisms to carry out these functions and thus help maintain a health soil status.
Characteristic # 7. Low Weed Pressure:
Weed pressure is a major constraint in crop production. Weeds compete with crops for water and nutrients that are essential for plant growth. Weeds can interfere with stand establishment, block sunlight, interfere with harvest and cultivation operations, and harbor disease causing pathogens and pests.
Characteristic # 8. Free of Chemicals and Toxins that may Harm the Crop:
Healthy soils are either devoid of harmful chemicals and toxins or can detoxify and/or bind such chemicals making them unavailable for plant uptake due to their richness in stable organic matter and diverse microbial communities.
Characteristic # 9. Resistant to Degradation:
A healthy, well aggregated soil is more resistant to adverse events including erosion by wind and rain, excess rainfall, extreme drought, vehicle compaction, etc.
Characteristic # 10. Resilience when Unfavorable Conditions Occur:
A healthy soil will rebound more quickly after a negative event such as harvesting under wet soil conditions or if land constraints restrict or modify planned rotations.
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