Soil Aggregation is Critical — in Several Different ways — to Growing Healthy Crops

November 18, 2016


       Think water is your biggest limiting factor when growing a crop? Think again.

“Soil aggregation is the most important constraint that we have,” said Yamily Zavala, crop and soil health management specialist at Chinook Applied Research Association.


       “In order for a soil to function properly, we have to have all the soil processes — physical, chemical, and biological — function in a way that they can maintain the soil in a good condition. “Aggregation is one of the most important components of the physical process of the soil. We want our soil to have good aggregation.”


       Soil aggregation — the way soil particles bind together — can act as an early warning sign of problems in the soil, said Zavala at a Foothills Forage and Grazing Association tour in mid-October. Things such as soil erosion, compaction, nutrient deficiencies, and root diseases are all signs of “really bad conditions in the soil.”

“If I have physical problems in the soil, that’s going to affect my biology in the soil and my chemicals in the soil, which means I’m not going to have enough nutrients or microbials (groups of bacteria and some fungi) to build soil aggregation,” said Zavala.


       “In order to have good soil health, all of the processes in the soil have to function properly.”

And it isn’t enough to “give a pill to remediate the pain of the soil. We need to see why the pain in the soil is there,” she said.


       “We need to find the cause of the problem. We need to look at the physical, biological, and chemical properties in the soil, and we need to look at all of them in a way that gives us information about what the problem is.”



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