As we’ve covered in previous blog posts, soil health plays an essential role in sustainable agriculture. These days, most farmers realise that a healthy soil is key to reducing costs, promoting biodiversity and improving the efficiency of their farm. One method used to promote soil health in a sustainable way is mulching.
What is mulch?
Mulch is a layer of vegetation (dead, decaying or living) that acts as a protective cover over the soil. In nature, mulch is a natural occurrence as environments feed, cover and protect themselves from the elements.
Mulching is an age-old practice, but with the dawn of modern agriculture, the use of this method dwindled. Now, it is once again gaining importance in the context of sustainable agriculture.
The benefits of mulching
- No windrows (long lines of heaped grass material) – Slashing creates windrows, which kill the vegetation below them, promote weeds and reduce viable farmland. In mulching, on the other hand, grass is cut into finer particles and spread evenly over the field, leaving no windrows.
- Controls weeds naturally – Evenly distributed mulch will act as a barrier to sunlight, reducing the growth of weeds.
- Retains moisture – The organic byproducts in mulch create a layer which absorbs water while also limiting evaporation.
- Prevents soil erosion – Mulching prevents soil compaction and erosion, which limits soil run-off from heavy rains and prevents soil from drying out from wind. In fact, various types of mulches have been demonstrated to reduce soil erosion by more than 90% compared to bare agricultural soil.
- Promotes nutrients in the soil – Along with ensuring that nutrients are not washed away in heavy rains, mulching also releases nutrients back into the soil as the organic material slowly decomposes on the top of the soil.
- Encourages earthworms and natural recycling – The mulch layer starts an intensive composting process on the surface, encouraging earthworms to occupy the soil, which contributes to improving soil structure and nutrient cycling.
What makes mulching a sustainable solution?
As mentioned above, mulching has demonstrated efficacy to enhance soil health. Mulching is thus an integral part of sustainable farming directly relating to the goals of sustainable agriculture, which include:
- promoting soil health and biodiversity
- conserving water
- reducing the needs of pesticides and fertilisers
- reducing input costs.
At Zylem, we recognise soil as an important non-renewable natural asset that should be properly managed to ensure sustainable development. Mulching is a sustainable strategy to improve soil fertility and productivity of arable systems, but should be applied in relation to different mulching materials and local environmental conditions. Our consultants can advise how mulching can form part of your sustainable farming strategy. Contact us on 033 347 2893 or send your enquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more about our services and solutions: https://www.zylemsa.co.za/.