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The Components of Soil Fertility

Gardening Tips

If you are using soil in your gardening then, needless to say, a fertile soil is a happy soil. A fertile soil will be able to provide a substantial amount of nutrients to your plants in your garden which ensure the best growth and give out a yield that is most desirable for any grower. There are many factors that can determine the fertility of the soil and understanding them is key to being able to create them. At a quick glance, here are the factors which affect the fertility of the soil:
- The pH of the soil
- Mineral composition
- Structure of the soil
- Cation exchange capacity
- Organic matter present
We’re going to delve in deeper with each, so if you’re interested in knowing how to optimize your garden, then keep on reading!

The pH of the Soil
The pH of the soil is very important in the fertility of your soil. The nutrients that will be present in the soil is affected by the pH of the soil. In general, a pH level of 5.5 to 7 is acceptable for most plants. If you’re not sure how to put it at that level, there are actually a lot of tools to balance the pH of the soil or to either increase or decrease the pH accordingly.

Mineral Composition
Understanding the mineral composition of the soil that you are planning to use is important to know with regards to the ability of the soil to retain nutrients for your plants. The mineral composition of the soil is determined by the following: climate, source rock, and chemical and biological events that took place on that soil. Mineral composition refers to two things: the total amount of mineral present in the soil and their availability for use to your plants (only a small fraction of the mineral present is actually useable by the plant). Using fertilizers is one way to enhance and preserving the minerals present in the soil. This will mean that a proper fertilizing program will have to be done by the grower.

Structure of the Soil
Soils can have different minerals and the minerals can have different particle size. Soil and clay are some examples of what we mean as structures of the soil. Different particle size will usually determine the soil’s capability and capacity to hold water (and nutrients!) and ability to allow air to pass through.

Cation Exchange Capacity
The Cation exchange capacity (CEC) is an indication for the fertility of the soil. Having a high CEC would mean that your soil has a stronger capacity to hold nutrients. In general, soils with clay structures will have a higher CEC than sandy ones which make them more fertile.

Organic Matter Present
Even though that the organic matter present in the soil is only a fraction of the whole composition, it is still quite important to the fertility of the soil. A good amount of organic matter will determine the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil. These two can be mineralized so that the plants can finally use them for their own benefit. Additionally, organic matter in the soil will also make the soil more fertile by improving its structure and increasing its CEC.

Keeping your soil fertile is reliant on good and correct nutrient management. Overusing fertilizer is both costly and dangerous as it can damage the health of the soil. On the other hand, underusing fertilizers will mean that your soil is not up to par with its possible optimal fertility and will gradually decrease the number of nutrients inside it. This will mean that the yields of the future plants that you may decide to grow on the same land will not be the same as it has fewer nutrients ready for uptake. Using fertilizer will heavily rely on your target yield and should be customized accordingly. This will require the grower to monitor the nutrient content of the soil constantly so that adjustments can be made throughout the cycle. To do this, soil and plant tissue analysis can be utilized to follow up on the nutrients currently present in the soil.

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