If you are a farmer or you want to venture into farming you must have asked yourself, what type of soil is best for agriculture? By the end of this article, you will have the information necessary to answer that question, manage your land, and get the most out of your gardening.
It is always disheartening to see your neighbors’ crops lush while yours wither. First, understand that soils are different depending on their properties and structures.
Soils range from columnar, granular, to blocky etc. However, some soils have simple structures made of single particle types. For best results, we recommend loamy soil.
This particular soil structure is favorable for farming since it has adequate spaces between particles for root penetration and smooth circulation of the components necessary for healthy plant life.
In answering the question of what type of soil is best for agriculture, experience and studies have established that loamy soil best. However, your land must have a delicate balance of the properties and nutrients.
We recommend that your soil should have the right balance between water retention and drainage. The earth should also have sufficient composition of organic matter and mineral nutrients.Though it might need improvement in some cases, loam is a sure bet for these qualities because of its mixed form.
Improving your soil can come in the form of adding organic manure or even fertilizers. Therefore, whether for gardening or commercial agriculture, we strongly suggest you go with loam soil.
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What Type of Soil is best for Agriculture?
Having established the superiority of loam, let us explain to you why we say so. Loam is roughly composed of approximately 60%, 30%, and 10% sand, clay, and silt particles, respectively.
Good loam soil also contain sufficient humus from the natural cycle of plant and animal matter. It will also contain macronutrients like potassium, nitrogen, and phosphates, which are complemented by micronutrients.
Remember, we mentioned the importance of structure. Loam will not disappoint you as it contains sand, which makes it crumbly or granular. These are the structures you need to allow water and air circulation, as well as the formation of adequate root systems for nutrient uptake.
The clay component of loams retains water, which keeps your plants hydrated. Silt and humus also retain water on top of providing nutrients vital for agriculture.
Loam is known for its excellent drainage, so no water logging or nutrient lock-up. With this combination of properties, you are set for that garden you see in gardening commercials.
Evaluating your Soil
So far, we have answered the fundamental question of what type of soil is best for agriculture. However, the soil’s ability to support healthy plant life is determined by its physical, chemical and biological composition.
You can examine some properties like texture, color and structure by eye. You cannot do the same for chemical properties in the soil. Therefore it is crucial to test your soil.
That being the case, you need to ask, what are the objectives of testing soil? Testing is done to determine the exact nutrients present and the pH of the land.
It is essential in deciding fertilizer requirements as unnecessary addition of nutrients to the soil will upset the balance, thus impairing productivity as well as poisoning the soil, water and life present in the ground.
Additionally, there are many other benefits to soil testing such as helping in fertilizer and manure rationing. Testing informs you of the soil’s health which reduces expenditure on fertilizers and eliminates events of over-fertilization, which could lead to soil degradation.
You can test your soil inexpensively at home. The question ‘are home soil test kits accurate’ is a concern among many agriculture enthusiasts. These fears were allayed by studies that showed that home testing kits post results comparable to laboratory tests.
Furthermore, technology has evolved a lot, and currently, home test kits are made safe and easy for you to use with most of them being plug and read gadgets. Therefore you must test your soil for the best experience in growing plants.
Managing Your Soil
While you might be concerned about what type of soil is best for agriculture, it also vital for you to understand the importance of taking care of your soil.
Most farmers don’t realize is that however good your soil is, continued use depletes it and managing it is a continuous practice.
However, this must be done without adversely affecting the environment with harmful emissions like greenhouse gases. You must be cautious not to poison the soil itself. When working on your land try to do so without compromising its property and structural integrity by exercising the following.
- Limit traffic on the soil surface to reduce compaction, which reduces aeration and impairs water infiltration.
- Increase plant material on the surface to hamper erosion by alternating high and low residue crops.
- In working the soil, tillage is necessary. However, consider using minimum soil disturbance methods. Such methods least affect the established soil structure. They also reduce erosion and increase water retention by maintaining plant residue on the surface.
Since use depletes soil you must then learn how to make soil more fertile. The best way is by adding organic matter to the soil, which raises its carbon dioxide content and diversifies microbial life in the soil an added advantage for your plants.
To replenish macronutrients like phosphorous, potassium, sulfur and nitrogen, consider adding fertilizers. You have a choice between organic or synthetic fertilizers. Except for potassium fertilizers, most use of fertilizer affects the soil pH and is associated with acidifying of soils.
Therefore you need to understand the properties of the soil and determine the most efficient way of making it fertile without upsetting its property balances.
For Best Results
By now, we know how to have and keep soil fit for healthy plant life. In enhancing productivity, there are tips on how to make a vegetable garden grow faster. You need a high quality soil with adequate nutrients.
Improve your garden at least annually with compost to bolster nitrogen and improve drainage and aeration, which is crucial for high demand plants. Warmth and sunlight is a must for vigorous germination and development.
Warm soil is also ideal for germination, which you can be achieved by spreading black plastic over the land. This also impairs weed growth.
Plants are reliant on sufficient moisture for optimal performance. Use drip systems instead of overhead delivery systems to reduce wastage, panning and spread of diseases across wet leaves. Install small, inexpensive moisture meter to alert you before plants feel the deficiency.
A more natural way is by sticking a finger in the soil and ensuring it feels wet at least an inch below the surface. Ensure to water the plants to maintain consistent moisture levels without waterlogging the garden.
For robust growth, consider using transplants that you had started well in time indoors. Transplanting should be done on cool, overcast days with sufficient watering to alleviate transplant shock.
With the garden going, it is crucial to monitor and control weeds, pests and disease. Diseases are best handled by uprooting and destroying the infected plant and rotating the crop in subsequent periods.
Most pests can be eradicated by hand and if not possible insecticides can be applied. Weeds are managed by removing them periodically and spreading mulch to hinder their growth.
Amazing Tips for Determining Soil Type
Since we already know what type of soil is best for agriculture and how to take care of it let us look at some of the quick methods you can use to determine your garden’s soil type. Get a soil sample from the field and eliminate unorthodox particles like rocks and wood.
Add a little water to the soil and make a ball which you then throw about a meter in the air and catch. If it disintegrates, it means the soil is mostly composed of sand particles.
If it holds together, the soil mainly contains clay.
Alternatively, squeeze the ball you have made, and if it crumbles or sticks to your hands, it is made up of mostly sand or clay respectively.
Another easy way is by taking the soil and rubbing it between your fingers. If it is gritty, it mostly contains sand particles, and if it spreads smoothly, sticks to your fingers and feels oily, it is mostly clay. You can also wet the soil and make a rod by rolling it in your hands. Place the rod upright. If it crumbles, it is mostly sand, but if it holds, it is mostly clay.
You can also employ a bit of physics and mathematics. Put a soil sample in a bottle, fill it with water and shake it vigorously. Let the mixture settle, although this may take quite some time. The different particles will settle sequentially based on their weight with sand at the bottom, then silt and clay at the top. Measure them and calculate their ratios in the sample
Loamy soils are considered the jackpot for agriculture. To achieve the best results in farming, it is essential to test the properties of your soil, which you can do yourself using home soil test kits.
Once the properties and structure of the soil are known, you can determine the best crops to grow and how best to handle the soil. Soil needs consistent care, and properties can be enhanced and managed by adding manures and fertilizers.
For you to get optimal results, you also need to maintain favorable conditions like sunlight and water. Overall, results are based on the quality of soil, management of the soil and taking proper care of the plants.