What is a healthy soil?
Soils are unique in each area - a place that is dynamic and constantly changing, leading to an interconnected web of relationships that underpin plant health. Minerals and water interact with a living biological community close to our toes to deliver the processes that support the growth of roots and provide the plants with water and nutrients.
Soils provide the essential link between the components that make up our environment, so protecting the health of soils is critical to environmental sustainability. Soils form these links through:
- Exchanging gases, such as carbon dioxide, with the atmosphere
- Regulating the flow of water and rainfall in the water cycle
- Providing nutrients for plant growth by degrading organic matter and transforming chemical fertilisers
- Storing, degrading and transforming organic materials and contaminants that are applied through animal and human activities or deposited by flood waters and aerial deposition.
A healthy soil is able to sustain, in the long term, its most important functions. A healthy soil will be able to sustain plants and also maintain or enhance environmental benefits. In soils that are healthy places for plants to grow, the interactions between chemistry (pH, nutrients), physics (soil structure and water balance) and biology (earthworms, microbes, plant roots) are optimised for each particular place and environment.
Know your soil
Soils in any location are the unique result of the specific local interactions of climate, geology and hydrology.
Soils form as a result of the physical and chemical alteration (weathering) of parent materials such as rocks and organic matter. Here we can see a healthy soil that has a good depth of darker topsoil on the surface and the subsoil is broken up with lots of cracks that allow good drainage and air to pass through the profile.
As can be seen, this allows the grass plantroots to penetrate to a depth of the fork.
It is important when importing soil to make sure that the correct soil is chosen. Soils differ significantly from area to area and just putting a soil on the surface of another soil will not necessarily mean that it will work. If the pH or texture are very different, the microflora and micro fauna will not be able to operate, and the roots will struggle.
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