Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Short Term Loss? Long Term Gain!

Bioremediation is the oldest, most cost effective, and most natural strategy for improving soil health.  When local farmers refer to "resting" a piece of soil they are often mislead in their understanding of the processes that are at work when a piece of ground is taken out of production and can therefore fail to make the best use of time spent out of production.   

The Problem:
Salt cations accumulate in soil creating an environment where very high pH and very high sodium levels hamper plants ability to absorb needed nutrients.  In addition, the loss of soil structure and organic matter breakdown creates a root environment in which reduced oxygen and low carbon content also reduce plant productivity.

The Process: 
By deep plowing (turning over) "tired" sodium affected soils; oxygen levels are improved, UV light kills soil borne pathogens, and the hard pan (densely packed soil crust) is broken allowing for the quick infiltration of rain and irrigation water to flush the root zone of sodium.  Following that plowing with seeding of barley or wheat stabilizes soil, rebuilds structure, and incorporates sodium into the stem and head of the cover crop.  Cover cropping with clover can also fix a small amount of nitrogen into the soil, the limiting reagent in plant growth early next season.

The Solution:
Well structured, well flushed soils which have had carbon incorporated into them are much more productive the next time they are used.  In this way land that would normally need multiple years of "rest" are rejuvenated in a single wet season and available for use with much greater consistency.  This improves inter annual yield.

A rotation of wheat is planted on a small percentage of AC4Ds trial farm every winter in order to rejuvenate the land