Use of healthy land or soil

Actions we must carry out in the while implementing food safety programs in the field:

Water and the nutrients making up the soil are essential: they ensure growth and nourish crops the farmer grows. Also, the community of millions of microorganisms living in the fertile land is beneficial for plant roots growing in it. Therefore, keeping this resource healthy is imperative for good farming development.

A healthy soil is a living and dynamic ecosystem, full of microscopic and larger organisms fulfilling various vital functions, including the transformation of inert and decomposing matter, as well as minerals, into plant nutrients (cycle of nutritional elements); controlling plant, insect and weed diseases; improving soil structure with positive effects for water and nutrient retention capacity of soils and, lastly, improve crop production. Furthermore, healthy soils help mitigating climate change by preserving or increasing their carbon content.

Food availability depends on soils: nutritional and good quality food and fodder for animals can only be produced if our soils are healthy. Therefore, a living, healthy soil is an essential ally for food safety and nutrition.

Tips for the soil fertility preservation and increase:

  1. Carry out a physical-chemical analysis of the soil, in order to determine if it is suitable for the desired crop. For such, the following studies shall be carried out:

Analyze land texture.

Soil can go from loose (sandy) to hard and compact (clayey), passing through intermediate textures such as silty loam, loamy, light clay, heavy clay, etc. This analysis will determine what farming practices can be carried out on such land, the erosion control methods that should be used and also the type of plants that can be used to install biological barriers, especially on sloped areas.

Soil depth.

Soil depth is the space between the surface and the rock bed below it. The minimum depth necessary to grow certain superficial root species is 30 cm     (11.8 in) and it reaches depths greater than 60 cm (23.6 in). Soil depth will help determining which species can be successfully grown in each available plot.

Water infiltration.

Water infiltration is the ability of the soil to absorb water.

Water drainage.

Water drainage is the capacity of the soil to move accumulated or infiltrated water in it. This is also important in determining the type of crops for which it is suitable, as well as determining which soil preservation techniques can be used to increase soil drainage.

Soil fertility.

Soil fertility is not only important to obtain the highest possible yield from crops, but also to establish natural anti-erosion barriers, especially in crops located in sloped areas.

Soil acidity.

Soil acidity is the measure of its alkalinity or pH. This measure is not only important to determine the species to be planted, but also to promote or restore the presence and multiplication of living, biological elements, beneficial to increase farming production of the soil and preservation.

2. Control of erosion caused by any natural or artificial element:

Erosion causes the productive layer of the soil to start disappearing until land fertility is gone, to the extent that fertilizers are not even useful in crops.

In order to control and reverse its effects, building or installing alive or artificial barriers or other control means is recommended, following the land slope to be grown. Taking these preservation measures under consideration allows, in the long run, preserving soil health, reducing fertilizer consumption, and achieving a greater crop yield.

3. Planting deep root fruit or timber trees at a safe distance which does not affect the crops around production units. This practice will reduce the effects of wind, retaining the fertile land in the production unit, and will also generate additional profit by cutting the wood or harvesting the fruits the trees produce.

4. The incorporation of wastes from previous crops (“soca” in Spanish) and some products for degradation; protect the soil from erosion and preserve continuous humidity and temperature. These are food sources for bacteria and other beneficial organisms, not only for crops but also for the land itself.

5. The incorporation of organic matter:

Organic matter incorporated may be in the form of dry animal excrement, humus, incorporation of worms and other animals which loosen the soil and deposit their waste in it, serving as crop food also help giving permeability to the soil.

6. Crop rotation combining grasses with legumes.

Each plant species has different soil nutritional needs and different root depth. The staggered use of species allows the soil to recover the nutrients lost while growing, in addition to loosen the soil and increasing oxygenation and resistance to water erosion.

7. Measured and optimal use of chemical fertilizers:

Although it is true that chemical fertilizers produce higher yields than organic ones in the short term; but in the long term, they damage the chemical composition of the soil. This is why it is necessary to perform soil sampling and analysis of these, in order to determine the amounts of chemical fertilizers needed to grow the various species, according to soil quality and nutritional consistency according to nutritional needs of the plants to be grown. This practice will not only give your crops a higher yield, it will also preserve the chemical balance of soils.

8. Controlled and measured use of chemical pesticides:

Chemical pesticides kill beneficial biological elements in soil; these biological elements, which may be bacteria such as Rhizobia, fix nitrogen in the soil, certain fungi that increase the availability of minerals, algae, actinomycetes and other plants. These are essential for the use of nutrients and soil oxygenation.

9. Use of artificial irrigation systems (technification).

In flat and sloped lands, one should take under consideration the possibility of installing controlled drip irrigation systems, instead of sprinkler or rain-dependent systems. Avoid gravity irrigation.

10. Avoid burning wastes and/or garbage.

Burning wastes and forest fires destroy the soil cover which helps controlling natural water flows to crops.