Reenergizing Fatigued Soil

July 3, 2023

There are many management practices that improve soil health and crop productivity. With this huge array of options, it can sometimes be confusing to growers when trying to make the right choice. The best option is education so that you can make an intelligent evaluation and an informed decision.

First, it is important to understand that there are 3 major pieces to soil health. To maximize the soil’s production capability, we need to pay close attention to them all, not just to one or the other, and then try to bring balance to the system.

These 3 pieces specifically are the chemical, physical, and biological balance in the soil. The chemical balance in plain English is called nutrient balance; in other words, we want to right level of calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, boron, etc. The physical is the characteristics of the soil, meaning is the soil compacted, is it clay or sand, etc. The biological is basically how well does biology thrive in this soil.

Each of these influences the other, so when we make applications or corrections, we want to think about how this will influence all three pieces. For example, let’s say that a certain soil needs potassium. Do we just apply any potassium? No. We could apply potassium chloride, but we decide against that because that particular form has a history of affecting the physical characteristics of the soil.

My preferred framework for reenergizing fatigued soil is to pull a soil test first so you know what you’re working with from a chemical / nutritional standpoint. Two important pieces to correct first are calcium to potassium ratio, and carbon to nitrogen ratio, as these both influence biology and the physical characteristics of the soil.

Next, evaluate the physical characteristics. Is the soil tight and compacted? If so, consider using a subsoiler to loosen up the soil. This changes the physical structure of the soil, and also improves the biological component.

Next, get a good cover crop in. A good cover crop works wonders for the soil. It improves the biology in the soil, and adds organic matter which improves the physical characteristics.  After that, we recommend foliar feeding the cover crop while it is yet young, with the Rejuvenate program. Later on, a good cheap option would be to consider some epsom salt and 7-7-7.

Cover crops have so much to offer when done correctly. Terminated at the right stage for your soil, they add tremendous value. The reason for the foliar feeding is to improve the sugar production, which in turn enhances roots and root exudates, which improve biology, soil structure, and improves the availability of the minerals – the chemical balance.

Consider composts or manures. Do they fit? Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. If you need the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, then it could be a good idea, especially if applied before a cover crop and letting the cover crop cycle it first before a vegetable crop.

In summary, when you want to reenergize tired soil, there are many methods. The key is consider how what you are about do will affect these three components of soil, and choose accordingly. Look for win-wins. It will benefit you tremendously.

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Source: Melvin Fisher | Sponsored by Keystone Bio-Ag LLC