Healthy Soils. The foundation to your farming success

Updated: May 15

The health of your soil is vital to ensure your plant growth and health of your plants are in the optimal condition. If your soil is in poor condition, it will have a flow on affect, therefore, your plant growth will be impacted. Soil health describes the state of a soil system. Healthy soil helps make farming and grazing businesses more profitable in the long term. Well managed soil leads to better agricultural productivity, better water quality and a healthier environment.

Therefore, if you manage soil, it is important you look after it. It is a valuable part of your farm business. Soil health is not the same as soil fertility, which refers to the level of nutrient elements in a soil. For example, a soil may have a high level of fertility, but it may be in poor health. When a soil is in poor health, then plant roots cannot grow well and the nutrients in the soil will not be cycling or available for plant growth. Just because a soil is fertile, does not mean it will support a productive and profitable farm enterprise. It also needs to be in good condition. It needs to be healthy.

Long term benefits of liming

The major benefit of liming is increased crop production. This also results in more root and plant fibre returned to the soil, which in turn will benefit soil organic matter levels in the long term. The toxicity issues of aluminium and manganese are minimised or eliminated. Production of legume crops can be greatly improved due to more favourable soil conditions for the nitrogen fixing rhizobium bacteria. Forage quality can also significantly improve.

The application of lime to acid soils will improve the biological, chemical, and physical properties of the soils. Liming will increase soil pH causing a more favourable environment for soil microbiological activity. This improves soil nutrient cycling and turnover of plant available nutrients from soil organic matter. Ultimately, lime can contribute to improved soil health.

Reduced soil acidity will increase the availability of plant nutrients, particularly phosphorus. In strongly acidic soils, phosphorus is retained in less available forms than on slightly acid and neutral soils. Therefore, a major benefit of liming acid soils is the increased utilisation of residual phosphorus by crops. The application of lime can also improve the physical properties of some soils. Notably, soil structure may be improved, and soil crusting is less of an issue. This leads to improved emergence of small, seeded crops such as canola.

Where to from here?

If you think you have reduced crop yields due to acid soils, the place to start is to have problem fields soil sampled to determine soil pH. If a problem is identified, you may want to undertake more intensive field soil sampling and have lime requirement soil tests completed. Then, undertake the process to find lime sources, to determine the cost of lime, the transportation costs and application costs, to decide if application is economically feasible. If the economics look questionable, consider lime application in some test strips first to assess potential benefits.

In any farm business, people are the most important element for success. But the topsoil is a close second. As soil underpins all plant and animal growth, your soil is vital for the success of your farm business. It is a key part of the natural capital that supports a grazing property in the Gulf, a cane farm in the Burdekin, a tropical fruit orchard in the Wet Tropics or hay production in the Northern Territory.


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