Soil health is predominately seen as a function of biological activity, it is
influenced by the dynamic interactions that occur between the physical,
chemical and biological components of the soil.
During its conversion from plant and animal residues to humus, soil organic matter has a direct impact on soil health. Fresh organic material provides a food source for macro-organisms such as earthworms, which mix partially decomposed organic matter with minerals as it passes through them, creating channels for air and water movement in the process. Microbes thrive in worm casts converting organic matter to available nutrients and humus. This results in increased soil fertility and yield potential. Humus also provides a long-term source of energy and nutrients for beneficial fungi and bacteria.
The physical properties of a soil are determined by the balance between sand, silt and clay particles, which results in texture and these particles combine with organic matter to form soil aggregates. The size and distribution of these aggregates determines soil structure, which directly affects the movement of air and water through the soil profile, which in turn affects biological activity, root development, crop establishment and tolerance to environmental stress.
The impact soil chemistry has on the development of plant microbe interactions is particularly important. For example, limestone soils tend to be rich in calcium and be alkaline, so restricting the uptake of phosphorus and manganese. This can reduce root mass and limit root exudate production, reducing both microbial activity and response to microbial growth promotion. Soil chemical properties also regulate microbial growth rates directly through nutrient availability and will affect the rate at which microbes release available nutrients.
Healthy Soils – Soil Audit
Examples of some of the information contained with the soil audit report will include:-
A detailed Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure conducted through the soil profile and recorded in detail with photographs. Where possible the soil structure will be assessed to 1m depth.
The ability for the soil to allow water to permeate through the profile is measured and categorised – revealing any issues with soil structure, capping and impermeable horizons in the profile.
Cropping & Cultivations Review
Assessment of current practices with historical use of the land, crop rotations, cultivation regime and in-field drainage. Aerial images will also be used to show key field/soil features.
Soil Health test and Soil Texture
A full soil texture assessment is conducted to determine sand, silt and clay composition, while soil health is assessed using techniques such as the Solvita C02 burst test.
pH & Key Nutrient
The soil pH profile is assessed on 3 horizons – at the soil surface, ~ 150mm depth and at 300mm depth. Soil samples are taken for laboratory assessment of the key macro and micro nutrients.
Key Organisms & Earthworms
The soil population of key organisms (principally earthworms) is assessed to show the numbers of Epigeic, Endogeic and Anecic worms within the top 200mm of the soil profile.
Soil Yield Potential Assessment
Based on the information gathered, Omnia precision software analyses the local field data and information alongside regional information to calculate a theoretical potential yield that should be achievable.
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