What to look out for, and how one can optimise yield

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To make the very best of their land and stay financially viable, farmers must know the potential of their soil. Karabo Puswe, agricultural specialist at FarmSol, explains how this data is gained.

Marginal soils: What to look out for, and how to optimise yield
The impression of waterlogging on maize planted in marginal soil in Morgenzon through the 2021/22 season. The image clearly illustrates the chance concerned in planting in marginal soils.
Photograph: Provided

Every year farmers, monetary establishments and traders lose hundreds of thousands of rands due to marginal soils. Farming has grow to be costly and doesn’t permit room for errors.
It’s due to this fact vital for farmers to analyze the soil profile and fertility standing of every manufacturing unit, in order that related measures might be taken to mitigate the chance of capital loss.

However what’s marginal soil? The time period is broad, however the easy definition in agricultural context is soil with a restricted reservoir of water and vitamins accessible to vegetation.
Marginal soil might be categorised by bodily traits and chemical composition, amongst others.

Bodily Traits
The bodily traits of the soil has to do with rooting depth and soil texture, and whether or not its content material is stony, sandy or clayey. A farmer can do nothing to alter the bodily traits of the soil, however she or he can work with nature.

Soil depth is among the key elements figuring out the yield potential of the crop. Maize, as an illustration, requires a soil depth of greater than 1m to succeed in its most yield potential. Because of this, the capability of land with a shallower depth will already be restricted.

The farmer must fertilise the soil and select a cultivar that can optimise the yield potential of the land, or plant crops which are suited to the land, or maybe keep away from planting such fields.

Merely put, a shallow discipline ought to by no means be fertilised and planted with a cultivar that has excessive yield potential, as a result of the bills won’t ever be recovered.

Throughout a season with heavy rain, marginal soils are liable to waterlogging (see major photograph) and water run-off. These soils dry out faster and the plant roots can’t penetrate to deeper ranges of the soil, the place water can be saved, throughout dry seasons (see Image under).

The impression of drought on maize planted in marginal soil in Chrissiesmeer.

Many South African farms have Afrikaans names which are descriptive of their lack of potential, equivalent to Vlakfontein, Vlakplaats, and so forth.

Mushy plinthic rock in a discipline (see image under) is commonly a sign that the soil is shallow. Nonetheless, it’s nonetheless advisable to dig a profile gap to find out the precise soil depth.

Mushy plinthic rock.

Soil texture
Soil texture is the coarseness or the fineness of soil particles. Soils with a rough texture are sometimes rocky or sandy, whereas soils with a tremendous texture are clayish.

Coarse-textured soils have poor water and mineral retention capability, and are liable to nutrient leaching. These soils are sometimes costly to domesticate, as a result of they have to be mineralised extra typically and put on down implement shears faster. Clayey soils, alternatively, have excessive water and nutrient retention capability, maintain water over a protracted interval and soak up vitamins.

Chemical composition
The chemical composition of the soil refers to its nutrient standing, in different phrases the supply of vitamins. A chemical imbalance (an excessive amount of or too little of particular vitamins) will have an effect on plant development and well being and result in appreciable crop losses, which find yourself in a drop in income.

In contrast to the bodily traits of the soil, chemical imbalances might be rectified. Soil samples needs to be taken and despatched to a registered laboratory for nutrient evaluation to determine the nutrient standing of the soil and chemical imbalances. The laboratory usually recommends the required soil correction interventions.

Ought to the soil be acidic or present pH under 7, lime is perhaps beneficial, and the place soils present alkalinity or pH above 7, gypsum is perhaps beneficial. The incidence of vegetation equivalent to steenboksuring (Oxalis corniculata) in a discipline point out that the soil has low pH or is acidic.

For the very best outcomes, farmers ought to take into account soil mapping of their manufacturing items. In different phrases, items of land with the identical traits are grouped collectively throughout soil evaluation and coverings to forestall an over- or undersupply of inputs and to realize the complete potential of the soil.

Consideration also needs to be given to soil correction. Plant small hectares appropriately and develop from there, fairly than planting huge areas in marginal soils and with inadequate inputs.
Plant crops which are much less dangerous in marginal soil, equivalent to pastures, or take into account a sort of farming that shall be higher suited to the world, maybe livestock as a substitute of crop manufacturing.

Telephone Karabo Puswe on 082 715 4878.


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