Learn Soil Management for Crop Production
Good soil conditions are critical to the healthy growth of most plants.
Over eight lessons this course will develop an understanding of physical and chemical properties of soils, the ability to carry out simple tests and determine soil characteristics, and to decide ways of treating a soil to improve its ability to grow plants.
The course is specifically designed for crop production.
There are 7 lessons in this course:
Physical & Chemical Properties of Soils
Soil Testing Methods
Sustainable Soil Management
Soils & Managing Earthworks
Land Degradation & Other Soil Problems
Soil Science & Health
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
Explain the physical and chemical properties of soils suitable for crop production.
Use soil testing methods to assess soils characteristics suitable for crop productioN.
Describe appropriate techniques for sustainable soil management for crop production.
Explain the methods used in managing earthworks in a way which is sensitive to soil condition.
Identify and propose solutions for a number of problems that may occur with soils for crop production.
Describe the relationship between soil characteristics and plant health.
Describe appropriate techniques for soil management in crop production
How to Revive a Degraded Soil
Degraded soil can be brought back to "good health" by using organic methods of growing. One of the main methods of improving the quality of soil is to use mulches extensively. Mulches are layers of material which are spread across the surface of the soil. Through the use of mulches, you can:
- Reduce Erosion: Mulch acts as a protective blanket over the soil surface, preventing soil particles from being removed by wind and water.
- Reduce Weeds: The barrier of mulch makes if difficult for weed seeds to penetrate through to the soil layer. The need for constant hoeing and spraying is thus eliminated, and the odd weed which does emerge usually has very shallow roots and is much easier to pull out by hand.
- Prevent soil from drying out: Mulches shade the soil surface and slow down the rate of evaporation; mulched soils thus require less watering.
- Provide a source of nutrients: Over time, all organic material decomposes, releasing a store of nutrients into the soil. Although not all mulches are organic (e.g. black plastic sheeting, gravel, etc. are often used as mulching material), organic mulches are an extremely useful way of building up the soil's nutrient level.
- Provide a buffer against temperature variations: Exposed soil has little capacity to resist temperature extremes, and plants growing in soil which has not been mulched, often suffer from the effects of very cold or hot weather.
There are a number of other ways you can improve the long term health of problem soils.
Composting - adding composted organic materials is one of the most important principles of organic gardening.
Adding materials to soil to improve structure:
- Add sand to clay soils to improve drainage.
- Add clay or organic material to sandy soil to improve its ability to hold water.
- Add organic matter which will improve water holding capacity (although not to the same degree as the addition of clay will).
- Add sand, organic matter or gypsum to help break up a clay soil, making cultivation easier (although the two will act in different ways).
- Add organic matter to improve the nutritional status of the soil.
- Use soil ameliorants Lime, Gypsum, Sulphates, Clay Breaker.
- Use crop rotations and correct cultivation.
- Choose plant species which will give maximum benefit to your soil e.g. legumes.
WHO BENEFITS FROM DOING THIS COURSE?
Market gardeners, those working on cropping farms who need a broader understanding of soils, hobby farmers, all need to understand their soil and how the ways in which you treat them will not only influence the health of your soil but also the health of the crops you grow in them. This course is a great way to gain that knowledge and peace of mind that you are helping rather than hindering soil health.