With inputs to growing becoming more expensive, finding ways to become more efficient is at the front of every growers mind. By managing and improving soil health, water can be retained in the soil, fertiliser inputs decrease and yields can increase.

Soil carbon is usually measured in a standard soil test. It is a component of soil organic matter, usually around 45 per cent. Soil organic matter makes soils more resilient to environmental change. In sandy soils, organic matter influences cation exchange and water holding capacity. In clay soils, organic matter is beneficial for soil structure and stability. To maintain or increase organic matter, it must be continually added to the soil. If it is not returned then the soils will decrease in carbon. Some ways to increase soil carbon for horticulture include:

  • Conservation farming (reduced or no till)
  • Crop management and cover crops
  • Adding organic materials such as composts and manures

The soil biology is also very critical to overall soil health. Worms are a very simple indicator of healthy soil biology. There are a lot of products on the market to add soil biology, but it is also important to create an ecosystem where the bacteria and fungi can live. As these organisms need organic matter in the soil as a food source, organic matter and biology are linked and both need to be considered to improve soils.

Growcom has produced a short video on how soil health is prioritised on a dryland sugar cane farm, available online here: https://youtu.be/ORnNYtvHA2Y

Keep an eye out for future editions of Fruit & Vegetable News magazine as we bring you more information and resources to help manage and improve your soil health. If you prioritise soil health on your farm, Growcom On-Farm Water & Energy Project Manager Katrina Ziebarth would be very interested to hear about it. She can be contacted on 0411 722 113 or via email kziebarth@growcom.com.au