Why is a soil healthy? When is a soil sick?

Dr Maarten Stapper focussed on the health of soils with the Horticulture class at Central Midlands Senior High School in Moora, 9 March 2017.

Firstly, we went to the garden and compost heap. There we wondered how we can see whether a soil is healthy or sick. Looks can deceive! By digging with fingers, we can feel the soil status, crumbly (aggregation = healthy) to dusty, or too hard to penetrate. We discussed the composting process; how a good finished compost looks, feels and smells, and what it does when applied to soils. Then we went to the class room to discuss various aspects of soil status with pictures.

There is a focus on healthy soils, but what is a sick soil? Students came up with a list of soil conditions that lower production: compaction, acidity, salinity, low soil carbon, water repellent, poor infiltration, water logging, and wind and water erosion. Next the importance of soil biological activity to create and maintain soil health was shown and explained.

The lesson made a significant impact on the teachers and students. The students who are aspiring to be our future farmers, learnt something about the new practice of biological farming. One with a focus on restoring the soils to health and productivity, rather than the current problem focussed approach to farming.

Students were encouraged to have a positive outlook to farming with and within the environment.


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