Soil Maintenance
Crop Farming in South Africa

© Louise Brodie
Healthy soil ready for growing young citrus trees.

As the world population is already at an above sustainable level it will become all the more important to protect the major renewable, sustaining natural elements of the earth. The three most important are water, air and our soil. Soil is the earth’s filter for sustaining life on our planet.

Soil filters our very finite freshwater resource and processes the cycle of life and turns it into the nutrients required for life to exist on the earth. Soil is the medium, which sustains vegetation and, therefore, forms the basis of the way in which vegetation filters carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and releases oxygen, creating the clean air we and all living things breathe.

As the earth and its renewable resources are being continuously eroded, it is imperative that we protect and maintain the earth’s precious soil. In order to feed the growing population and to continue farming in a profitable manner, farmers are expected to push yields on their farms to remain viable. Other than their life-giving water supply, it is imperative that their soils are able to maintain ever-increasing production requirements.

The continuous monitoring and testing of soils to ensure that enough nutrients are available for the plants to grow are essential. The higher the crop yields are that farmers need to achieve, the more nutrition the plants need. Areas that were not originally suited for agriculture need to have their soils improved by adding nutrients and organic matter to promote the activity of essential micro-organisms.

Where soils have been disturbed, the area needs to be protected from erosion of the nutrient-rich topsoils that sustain growth, by covering the soil with natural mulching or by planting cover crops. The soil is the base on which, any healthy ecosystem is built.

By Louise Brodie

Compost and the Soil

It adds organic matter as fuel for soil microbes, nutrients for the plant into the soil and it improves soil tilth - the physical condition of soil as a seedbed for planting....more

Fertilizer Mixtures Explained

Fertilizers are materials that are either organic and from natural matter that was once living or a synthetic chemical makeup of macro and micro nutrients. These are applied in granular form or as liquids to the soil....more

Healthy Soil by Conservation Farming

Growing awareness over the importance of a healthy soil, has resulted in, a growing number of farmers making use of conservation farming practices. This approach is built on three pillars, namely minimum tillage, cover crops and crop rotation....more

How to Improve Soil Texture

Soil texture is determined by the combination of sand, silt and clay particles. Sandy soils have large particles, are coarse-textured and retain little water and few nutrients. On the other side of the spectrum are clay soils with small clay particles....more

Microorganisms in Soil

Microorganisms, as the first form of life on earth, made life possible through the production of oxygen and are essential for many other processes....more


The use of mulch in a garden or on a farm can greatly benefit the overall health of the soil and crops. Mulched soils have fewer weeds, are more drought-resistant than bare soil and plants grow better....more

Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers, Compost and Manures

Organic Fertilizers are made up of decomposed material originating from living organisms. Inorganic Fertilizers or chemical fertilizers are a man-made combination of elements and fossil fuels....more

Organic Matter in Soil

Organic matter will break down over time and supply the energy microorganisms need to further break down organic matter, which in the end will become the nutrients needed by plants to grow....more

Soil Health and Plant Health

There is a direct relationship between soil health and plant health, explains Alan Rosenberg in his book Global Health in Crisis - the answer lies in the soil....more

Taking Soil Samples

Taking soil samples of the area to be cultivated and having these analysed is the most important starting point of any horticultural enterprise. This process identifies both the nutrient content present in the soil...more

The Importance of Soil Texture

Soil texture has an effect on soil fertility, influences compaction and crusting of the soil and workability - the ease with which soil can be tilled....more

Tillage, Ploughing and Harrowing

The true meaning of tillage refers to any preparation of the soil that is to be cultivated. Ploughing is the manipulation or turning of the soil to a deeper level....more