Going from poor soil to fertile soil to allow it to provide plants with the nutrients needed for their growth is possible!
The ground in vegetable gardens, like that on farmland, is classed as poor if the soil is not able to provide sufficient quantities of the nutrients required for the proper development of the plants grown, and at the right time.
So based on this simple fact, how do we make a soil and land fertile?
Knowing your soil: a complex task!
In order to best understand the concept of soil fertility, we first need to understand the composition of the soil, as well as its functioning. Indeed, a soil is not just a medium used to grow plants, but rather a subtle melting pot containing the following:
- Physico-chemical components specific to the type of land: clay soils are not cultivated in the same way as sandy soils, just like practices need to be adapted between acid soils and limestone soils.
- Organic matter, ranging from fresh organic matter (residues from previous crops, manure, compost) to humic acids (stable humus content in the soil), which are the essential components of the soil fertility reservoir (mixed with clay components), and which also ensure good soil structure and therefore good water circulation.
- A myriad of microorganisms (bacteria for decomposition, fungi for humification), living in symbiosis with the crop roots, tirelessly converting, recycling and storing nourishing nutrients in the soil to make them available to plants. This ‘assembly-line’ process also helps limit losses from leaching, for nitrogen in particular, and therefore soil and water pollution (groundwater).
- Micro and macrofauna (myriapods, arthropods, earthworms, etc.) working together with microflora to boost inherent soil fertility.
- Nutrients (either endogenous – originating from the organic matter present and in the process of decomposition – or contained in the fertilisers and composts applied to soils throughout the crop cycle).
- And lastly water, the key element without which no life is possible.
How to apply the principles of soil fertility?
Jak dostosować zasady żyzności gleby?
This subtle melting pot can only work effectively if it is balanced, hence the need to assess the possible impact of each intervention on the soil balance. Attention needs to be paid, for example:
- To not over cultivating the land, and in any case to only cultivate the surface at a shallow level in order not to disturb the biological balances (earthworms, bacteria, fungi, etc.).
- To regularly inputting organic elements (compost, green manure, etc.) so as to nourish this soil life with carbon chains, the true fuels that drive this microscopic life and supply stable humus in soils. In the same vein, plant residues from crops (stems, leaves) should be left on the soil surface to be recycled by the soil (return, etc.).
- To applying fertilisers at the right time, in the right dose and as and when required, playing close attention to the types of fertiliser used, and avoiding chemical fertilisers that are too acidifying as much as possible, as soil acidification is a powerful impediment to the proper functioning of the ecosystems at work in soil fertility.
Going from a poor soil to a rich soil to grow vegetables in urban environments or for large-scale crop cultivation is possible. The solutions are right at our feet, directly within the soil. So what if, after years of cultivating plants, we started cultivating soil fertility in our vegetable gardens and farmland?
The goal is well within our reach, if we apply the aforementioned principles of agroecology and use our common sense. The current challenges are too daunting – demographics, climate, water quality – not to seek a new approach. The first revolution is perhaps that of our mindsets…