All soils are naturally fertile, though the nutrient composition may vary, the fact is, they have the ability to enhance crop yield considerably without the addition of synthetic fertilizers. Naturally fertile soil is called virgin soil, that is, unhampered soil.
However, as planting commences on the soil, the nutrients present in the soil depletes because planting is a process that takes up nutrients in the soil without replacing it unless it is added by the farmer using any of these fertilizer application methods.
Site selection is one of the essential pre-planting operations in agriculture; you cannot just plant on any type of soil and expect an amazing harvest. No, it is not done that way. Crops prefer some soils to others; there are some soils that are suitable for planting some particular type of crops, some crops would thrive well on clay soil but others might not, why? Because the clay soil is not fertile enough for that crop in question, hence, determining the fertility of the soil is the first step to having a good yield.
So how do you know the soil is fertile at your first visit to proposed farmland?
It is possible you know fertile soil physically by mere looking at it; though, the knowledge seems esoteric. Only agronomist knows it. However, by the virtue of your interest in agriculture, directly or indirectly, you are an agronomist. Fertile soil has some features to indicate its potency; one of the widely accepted characteristics of fertile soil is the dark color. Yes, this is very correct but not in all cases.
The dark color of the soil indicates the presence of humus, a decomposed organic compound present in the soil; this is just one of the components of fertile soil. The most important characteristic of fertile soil is the presence of microorganisms in that soil.
Let me now tell you why dark soil does not really show that the soil is fertile.
Dark soil contains humus, humus is a non-living component of the soil; it is a decomposed organic matter that releases nutrients to the soil steadily. The microorganisms are the living components of the soil, they supply the soil “life” to make it survive and perform optimally. The microorganisms provide the soil moisture, bring air into the soil, decompose organic matter to make humus, and help to aggregate the soil to form a good structure, breaks down the large particles of the soil to make it even for good anchorage.
The importance of the presence of microorganisms in the soil cannot be exhausted; the absence of microorganisms in the soil makes the soil useless and unproductive. The simple trick of increasing your yield is to ensure the presence of microorganisms in your soil. Fertile soil is rich in organic nutrients as a result of the numerous activities of the soil microorganisms.
What indicates the activities of microorganisms in the soil?
Microorganisms are copious and they are present in the soil at high density. There is a structure in the soil that shows that the soil is fertile as a result of the presence and activities of microorganisms. It is called worm casts; it is a small structure that erupts on the soil surface as a result of the high presence and activities of microorganisms.
Worm cast is always muddy when fresh but firm when dried; they are usually clustered and dispersed on the soil surface. The more the worm cast on your soil, the higher the nutrient content level because as the activities of microorganisms increases, the worm cast increases, so also the nutrient level of the soil. So when you go for site selection or inspection, look out for this structure; it would save you the cost of fertilization at least for the first year of planting, this is some of the simple tricks farmers use to reduce the cost of their production.
If you find worm casts on our soil, it indicates the high fertility level of the soil. Planting on such soil does not really need manure or fertilizer to enhance good yield.
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