A Healthy Soil, Come Rain or Shine

A Healthy Soil, Come Rain or Shine

The National Agro-meteorological Committee (NAC) Advisory on the 2020/21 spring and summer seasons, provides broad guidelines based on the seasonal climate watch produced by the South African Weather Service (SAWS). In this blog post, we focus on their recommendations with regards to soil health, since a healthy soil precedes favourable farming outcomes. 

How to interpret these guidelines 
Remember to consider the local aspects of the region, such as soil types, cultural preferences and farming systems. The prioritisation of the guidelines will differ according to region. 

The basic strategy to follow 

  1. Minimise and diversify risk
  2. Optimise soil water availability
  3. Manage the renewable resources such as rain water and grazing to uphold sound farming objectives.

Long-term mitigation strategies 

  • Implementing techniques to enhance in-field water harvesting
  • Reducing run-off
  • Improving infiltration.

One of the ways of achieving the above is to use reduced or no-tillage methods to capture rainwater in the drier areas. 

The forecast for months to come

Above-normal rainfall is anticipated over most summer rainfall areas towards early to mid-summer (with uncertainty in some areas of KwaZulu-Natal leaning towards below normal rainfall). Temperatures are expected to be above normal; with cooler than normal temperatures over the central regions early to mid-summer.

With this forecast in mind, the following soil health strategies are recommended: 

Choose a suitable soil type

The NAC Advisory suggests that farmers use suitable soil and land use management practices to control wind and water. 

In the predicted conditions, they recommend avoiding marginal soils with shallow and low water holding capacity soils, and rather planting in soils with high water holding capacity or with a shallow water table. When planting commences, the soil profile should hold enough water to support the crop. 

  • Roughening the soil surface enhances rain water penetration and reduces runoff
  • To minimise compaction, reduce the passing of heavy machinery in the field
  • It is also suggested that you add organic material to improve soil structure.

Preparing the land 

  • Consider practising regenerative agricultural techniques such as zero or minimum tillage
  • Cover the soil with organic matter or cover crop to improve soil structure, increase organic material and prevent erosion
  • Keep vegetation cover such as shrubs, grass and small trees
  • Use crop rotation to regenerate the soil
  • Prepare and promote fallow land.

Make soil health a priority 

Get in touch with the Zylem team to find out more about our soil health solutions. Contact us on 033 347 2893 or send your enquiry to admin@zylemsa.co.za.

Read the full guidelines here.

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