Published by AMTEC on 07th Jul 2021


Healthy soil is vital to supporting crops and livestock; whatever you produce on your land, soil health will improve productivity.

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Healthy soil is vital to supporting crops and livestock; whatever you produce on your land, soil health will improve productivity. It also has many environmental benefits such as clean water, carbon sequestration and improved air quality. Healthy soils need an optimised balance between chemistry (pH and nutrients), physics( soil structure and water balance) and biology (earthworms and plant roots). Your agronomist can give analytical and professional advice to provide stability for particular conditions. However, constant monitoring is advised as we still have a lot to learn about the ground beneath our feet.

One point that we have control over is the effect our cultivation has on our soil structure. Good soil structure increases the planting window to get results. It also minimises cultivation costs by reducing the number of passes and implements required.

Soil is made up of topsoil and subsoil, both of which need different characteristics to combine as the perfect soil structure.

Well-structured topsoil comprises small, rounded aggregates allowing for good aeration, root proliferation, and good drainage. The soil structure will change naturally as plant roots and earthworms move through the soil, moving soil particles and extracting water. It is good to encourage these naturally occurring changes as this is all part of maintaining good healthy topsoil and improving its resilience against heavy rainfall and drought.

A well-structured subsoil is often vertically orientated and consists of continuous pores and fissures formed by the earth’s physical shrink-swell process and then maintained by root and earthworm action. The profile strength of the subsoil, which enables it to bear the weight of machinery, is made up of column-like structures which should be protected to avoid damage from compaction.

To get an accurate picture of the health of your soil, you should take a look at an untrafficked section, i.e. a hedgerow and compare it with areas such as a gateway or headlands. The best time to do this is in early spring or late autumn to ensure the soil is moist.

There is no definitive answer to the best management of soil structure; no one system provides the perfect solution for all farms. Soils are highly variable across the landscape, and what you see on a field visit or open day test plot might not translate into the same results for you. It is essential to work closely with your agronomist to make sure you get the most from your soil.

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