Welcome to the twelfth, and final, instalment of our Know your Soils series sharing practical tips for monitoring the soil health on your land.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
7 Soil health mantras to follow on your farm
Insights from Niels Corfield, Soil Health Advisor
How do you build soil health? Below we share the six soil health principles to follow on your farm. Implementing farming practises and any new ideas which encompass as many of these principles as possible will get you firmly on the path of regenerative farming. With every decision you can use these principles as a checklist to guide you to the best tool to move forward to build a regenerative farming system.
1. Living Root
Living plants have living roots, they photosynthesise and transmit energy into the soil. This energy is feed for the beneficial soil organisms at work, creating aggregation in the soil.
2. Covered Soil
It’s best to have living plants in the soil, as then you have living roots. But the next best thing is to ensure you cover ground with plant residue, e.g. with a terminated cover crop
3. Minimise Disturbance
Ploughing disturbs the soil organism population, preventing them from doing their necessary work to maintain healthy soil. Reducing cultivation or going no till keeps them happy!
A diverse range of plants in the soil means a diverse range of roots and a diverse diet for the soil organisms the roots are feeding. Roots have unique functions e.g tap roots bring nutrients up from deep in the sub soils and legume roots fix nitrogen directly in the soil.
5. Feed soils
Feeding the soil with compost, manure or compost tea will directly increase soil organic matter levels and provide plenty of food for worms!
6. Incorporate Animals
Grazing livestock in a rotation is beneficial for increasing soil organic matter, terminating cover crops and decreasing weeds in your fields. Why not try mob grazing?
7. Minimise Chemicals & Synthetics
Adding chemicals can undo the good work you put in for the principles above — pesticides kill soil organisms, fertilisers make plants dependent and herbicides kill living roots.
Microbial activity in the soil will lead to good soil structure; if generally improving soil health is your first objective then fostering microbial activity is a good place to start. Feeding microbes directly with manure or compost is one way to do this, or encouraging grass plants to grow bigger faster is another. Different grazing practises offer ways to achieve this too.
What management practises have you found useful for building soil health? We’d love to hear from you – send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
See our free online soils guide for soil tests you can do at home and find out how our app Soilmentor helps you record & learn how your soil is changing.