Soil Conservation: Threats, Benefits and Methods

Al Ardh Alkhadra > Blog > Agriculture > Soil Conservation: Threats, Benefits and Methods

soil conservation

Soil conservation is a crucial factor for many farmers as it is vital not only for reaping high yield but also for being able to do so in the future as well.

The soil in all the regions of the world, even in the arctic ecosystem is essential to the global carbon cycle.

The thawing of the permafrost which is a type of soil in the Arctic that holds about 1.5 trillion tons of carbon and other toxins is releasing into the atmosphere.

With this release, there is an increase in climate change, creating a harmful cycle that will not only affect today’s population but the further generations as well.

Thus, to help fight this change many farmers are using the methods of soil conservation to promote health, fertility, productivity, and resilience in soil.

Thus, it helps to reduce climate change, balances the climate cycle, provides a healthy ecosystem, and ensures healthy agricultural yields.

Let’s discuss the methods and benefits of Soil Conservation in detail.

Soil Conservation and Its Focus

Soil conservation is a set or combination of farming techniques and practices that help to avoid degradation, erosion, and depletion in particular.

These methods target long-term use so that the soil remains fertile and productive.

Thus, with the help of proper and timely action,s with the help of these methods and practices, farmers are able to boost the performance of their fields for years to come.

The major aim of soil conservation is to maintain the biodiversity of the eco-communities to its fertility.

soil conservation

They add organic matter, to release nutrients, improve water filtration, and aeration.

Moreover, ensuring proper conditions for the micro-organisms living in the soil is important for vegetation as they adjust the organic matter for the needs of the plants.

Soil conservation methods or strategies rely on 3 basic steps:

  1. obtaining proper knowledge of the land resource use.
  2. monitoring fields and detecting critical zones
  3. controlling the efficiency of soil conservation techniques after application

Threats to Soil Conservation

The main threat to soil conservation is climate change and traditional farming practices.

These farming practices include the excess use of pesticides, slash-and-burn methods, and land overuse.

The methods of soil conservation aim to reduce these threats.

Let’s discuss them as follows:

Chemical Contamination

The excess use of pesticides contaminates the soil as well as the vegetation and water sources.

In addition, these chemicals are often toxic to beneficial insects like bees as well as fish and bird populations.

According to a recent study, the grassland bird population is declining by 53% since 1970.

soil conservation

Slash and Burn

This type of practice includes burning and clearing forests to make way for farmland.

It kills different plant species and displaces wildlife from their natural habitats. This land can be used only while it is productive for farming.

However, once it loses its fertility, other parts of forests are cleared.

Many farmers repeat this process preventing the soil from recovering to support healthy ecosystems.

Land Overuse

Overusing the land can limit the ability of soil to play its part.

For instance, overcutting of forests and woodlands can outpace the natural regrowth of vegetation, thus increasing the exposure to erosion.

As a result, the land loses its ability to arability and becomes a desert.

Benefits of Soil Conservation

Farmers in particular benefit from different advantages of the methods of soil conservation. The agricultural practice contributes to sustainability in a different way as follows:

Soil Quality and Productivity: Maintaining the natural environment for the micro-organisms in the soil increases fertility and reduces the use of chemical fertilizers.

Moreover, it helps to increase the yields and save costs over time.

Reduces the effects of Erosion: These methods help to reduce soil erosion and depletion.

This helps to avoid expansion or moving to new lands when the previous land becomes infertile.

Promotes water Infiltration: Soil conservation techniques affect the moisture of the soil.

soil conservation

This works by reducing cracks and evaporation as well as raising the infiltration rate.

Aids Air and Water Purification: One of the benefits of soil conservation relates to water supplies and the function of soil as a natural filter to purify water.

It reduces the concentration of pollutants and sediments. In turn, reduces chemical applications to purify the air as well.

Food and Shelter for Wildlife: With growing vegetation, the land is an environment for animals

Soil Conservation Practices

Soil conservation is crucial for environmental sustainability.

It helps to protect the natural resources and watersheds, restore habitat for plants and wildlife. Moreover, it helps to improve water quality and makes soil healthy.

Soil conservation also creates economic opportunities.

This is because, healthy and productive soil helps to meet the increase in demand for agricultural products for the growing population, thus, driving economic growth.

Different methods make sure that the land has the ability to be productive for future use.

Let’s learn about soil conservation practices:

Conservation Tillage

This soil conservation method aims at addressing wind and water erosion by covering the soil with vegetation.

The vegetation can either be crops or their residues and help limit the tilling operations.

Another important factor to consider is the proper time for field operations and depends on the type of soil.

For instance, you can till clay soils after harvesting the crops, while for other types of soil, it is better to plow before seeding.

no-till farming

Additionally, handling wet soil often leads to compaction.

No-till farming assists in the conservation of soil as well as implies no or minimum disturbance and planting into the crop residue.

The main goal is to leave the soil bare, as bare areas are more prone to erosion, and plants keep the space in place with their root systems.

Moreover, vegetation accumulates moisture for the future plantation of crops.

Contour Farming and Strip Cropping

Contour farming or terrace farming is a soil conversation method so that is efficient in slope areas and suggests planting different species along the contours.

Rows up and down the slope promote soil erosion due to water currents while rows along the contour restain them.

terrace farming

On the other hand, strip cropping methods require farmers to combine high-growing crops with low-growing crops for wind protection.

This method works even better when you intensify high-growing crops in the sides where winds blow most frequently.

An extra benefit is an organic matter from the low crops.

Windbreaks and Buffer Strips

This soil conservation method aims to reduce the power of winds and their disruptive effect on the soil.

These are trees or bushes that help to shelter the crops from snow and winds planted in several rows.

Moreover, depending on the number of rows, you can separate windbreaks and shelterbelts.

It also helps to provide a living environment for wildlife and eliminates soil abrasion on crops due to strong winds.

Buffer strips are trees and bushes on the banks of water bodies to prevent sediment and water wash-offs.

The roots of these plants fix the soil to avoid slumping and erosion, canopies protect from excessive sunlight to water inhabitants and falling leaves are a source of organic matter and food to minor aquatic animals.

Crop Rotation

This technique involves changing the type of crop instead of planting the same for every season.

Farmers applying this method reap different benefits. Crop rotation helps to improve the soil structure with diverse root systems, to reduce pests formations, and to add nitrogen to the land or nitrogen-fixing plants.

It is important to note that the choice of crops is specific for each agricultural region.

crop rotation

It also depends on the weather and productivity data. Some plants are efficient and some are not, while you can get all this information on Crop Monitoring.

You can also get daily weather reports, forecasts, including precipitation, temperature ranges, and anticipated risks.

Vegetation indices like NDVI, MSAVIA, and RcCI can help to inspect crop health at each growth stage.

With this set, crop monitoring assists in a comprehensive analysis of the field and crops.

Cover Crops

This technique is another way to avoid bare soils and benefits from planting cover crops, secondary species in-between growing cash crops for different reasons.

These are to produce forage and grazing material for your cattle, provide green manures, and assist in weed control.

cover crops

Moreover, it helps to retain moisture, ensures a natural environment for micro-organisms in the soil, and balances the nitrogen concentration.

Avoid using Synthetic Fertilizers and Pesticides

Chemicals application or using synthetic fertilizers to control weeds and pests are harmful not only to the environment but also to the soil.

This is the reason why many researchers suggest that farmers need to use organic farming practices in particular.

These farming practices are natural and a good way to enhance the fertility of the soil and with the help of animal manure, compost, crop rotation, and other methods, farmers can ensure the fertility and productivity of the land.

Final Thoughts

With unsustainable agricultural practices, soil health is not only in a bad shape but is also affecting the climate all around the world. When farmers do not manage their soil, it results in excess release of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Thus, by restoring soil degradation with the help of soil conservation practices and methods, farmers can help build fertile and productive land for future use.

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