Soil, the life of agriculture
Soil houses not only the roots that provide life to crops, but it also houses the needed nutrients, soil structure to prevent erosion, ensures proper water retaining capacity, helps regulate the climate, ensures housing for carbon traps that in turn give us clean air, and above and beyond all, it provides us with life.
Soil is therefore not only something that we grow crops in, but without soil, life would not be possible. Agriculture has contributed to the degradation of soil through overgrazing, overplanting, clearing of natural vegetation to ensure that more agricultural development can take place, and much more. We have assumed responsibility for the development of soil; therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure that this development is sustainable and efficient.
SIZA promotes healthy soil practices to ensure that agriculture and nature can move forward in a harmonious manner. The SIZA Environmental Standard outlines practices and procedures relating to the management of soil, and promotes the sustainable use thereof, alongside the conservation and restoration of damaged soils. But in order to manage soil efficiently, SIZA outlines steps to ensure that soils can be placed at the forefront of management initiatives. Risk management and the identification of risks related to soils ensure that management practices are aimed at improvements, rather than being shots in the dark, so to say. Management should conduct a risk assessment that includes measurement and monitoring aspects related to soil management such as:
- The identification, classification, and mapping of all soil types based on a soil profile and soil analysis on your relevant site.
- Soil nutrient content must be regularly assessed through proper soil sampling procedures and analyses at an accredited laboratory using accredited methods to ensure the quality of the soil.
- Soils are analysed periodically for levels of soil carbon by an accredited laboratory using accredited methods, to determine whether soil organic carbon is increasing and to see whether soil conservation practices like the use of cover crops or crop rotation are in use.
- A visual assessment is undertaken to identify areas where soils are degraded or at risk of degradation. Based on visual evidence and the abovementioned aspects, management practices can be developed accordingly.
- A review of the effectiveness of current management programmes to prevent or halt the degradation and/or restore these soils.
A systematic approach to soil management can not only ensure healthy soils and prosperous growth in agriculture for generations to come, but it can further contribute to the financial feasibility of your agricultural practices. This can be done through minimal or no tillage to protect the structure of the soil, in turn preventing erosion and soil degradation. The planting of cover crops and crop rotation can in turn contribute to the improvement of soil organic carbon, water holding capacity, soil structure, and organic diversity of soil.
Just like the farmer who slaughtered the golden goose, we should ensure that we don’t kill the soil providing us with our green gold, we should nourish and protect the soil because it is the lifeline to agriculture.