Soil life is a subject that is increasingly being discussed in our sector. But what exactly is soil life? Soil life is a collective term for all life in the soil, on a small scale such as bacteria and fungi, but also on a larger scale such as nematodes, mites and worms. Soil life helps us growers to make and keep our soil suitable for the cultivation of our plants.
The health of our soil at our nursery has a major influence on the ultimate growth of our plant material. That is why we are working on it on a daily basis. Soil life is the indispensable aid in converting organic fertilizers and crop residues into useful nutrients for the plant. In addition, a good soil life generally contributes to:
— Degradation and mineralization of plant residues and manure
— Build-up of organic matter that is slowly broken down (humus build-up, humification)
— Building a good soil structure
— Loosen too dense soil by digging corridors
— Mixing organic and inorganic soil particles.
— Limit excessive numbers of disease-causing organisms
We have been using organic fertilizers such as OPF and Biovin for years on our rootstock nursery. These fertilizers have the great advantage that in addition to having a positive effect on the growth and rooting of our plants, they also nourish soil life. Over the past few years, we have noticed that our soil is improving over the years, instead of deteriorating. In addition, we supply organic material to our rootstock cultivation every year. This results in easily workable clay soil, with very good growth properties.
Partly because rootstock cultivation is a perennial crop, since our oldest stoolbeds have been on the same plot for 32 years, it is very important to ensure that the soil matches our cultivation as optimally as possible. We respond to this with, among other things:
— Choice of plot, in the Noordoostpolder we have high-quality land
— Organic nourishment of the soil
— Keeping water management in control
— Sow green manures and house crop residues
— Keep ground pressure to a minimum with machines, in order to prevent compaction
The fact that the quality of our plots increases as a result is of course reflected in the growing season. Besides the fact that this results in super quality rootstocks / fruit plants, this also results in:
— Better water permeability in wetter periods
— Better absorption of water and nutrients in the soil around the root system, so also better absorption of the crop
— More vital crop, less trouble with (soil-related) diseases
— Smooth and powerful mulberry bed, which grows into strong and vital plants.
— Low disease and weed pressure
A fun way to measure the state of soil life on your plot is to participate in the “Soil your undies” challenge. In this challenge, farmers / horticulturists dig their cotton underpants into the ground at a depth of 20 cm. When you dig up the underpants again after 2 months, you can see what percentage of underpants (organic material) is left. This is a good indicator for the activity of the soil life. If the underpants are still usable in 2 months, this is a sign of little soil life.
At Fairplant we also like to take on this challenge. On Thursday, September 16, we buried two white cotton underpants in the orchard at Fruitbedrijf Masteling, and right next to the stoolbeds at our nursery. Are you participating? As tree nurseries and fruit growers we know better than anyone how important soil life is. We would therefore like to see your results.