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    Continuous Cropping

    Continuous Cropping

    Continuous cropping of soils leads to degradation of both soil organic matter and hence soil structure.

    From: Environmental and Pollution Science (Third Edition), 2019

    Related terms:

    CerealTillageSoil Organic MatterSoil CarbonCrop RotationFertiliserLivestockManureSoil Organic Carbon

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    Agroforestry: Fertilizer Trees

    G.W. Sileshi, ... O. Jiri, in Encyclopedia of Agriculture and Food Systems, 2014


    Much of the world’s agricultural land is degrading rapidly, and losing its productivity due to soil erosion and nutrient mining associated with continuous cropping without nutrient inputs and soil conservation. An estimated 24% of the world’s land area has been degrading over the past 25 years, directly affecting the livelihoods of 1.5 billion people (Bai et al., 2008). Approximately 19% of the degraded land is cropland (Bai et al., 2008). According to the Global Assessment of Human-induced Soil Degradation, soil erosion affects 83% of the global degraded area (Bai et al., 2008). Soil degradation by erosion alone affects 1966 million hectares worldwide (Lal, 2007). In Africa, the annual average nutrient (NPK) loss is estimated at 9–58 kg ha−1 year−1 in 28 countries and 61–88 kg ha−1 year−1 in the remaining 21 (Chianu et al., 2012). Recent global analyses show that N limitation is particularly widespread in all ecosystems (LeBauer and Treseder, 2008; Liu et al., 2010). The global average N recovery rate is 59%, indicating that nearly 41% of N inputs are lost in ecosystems (Liu et al., 2010). Almost 80% of African countries experience N deficit or N stress problems, which, along with poverty, cause food insecurity and malnutrition (Liu et al., 2010). In total, 29% of the global cropland area experiences P deficits (MacDonald et al., 2011).

    Conventionally in modern agriculture, increased productivity has been achieved mainly through application of synthetic inorganic fertilizers. However, the increasing price of synthetic fertilizers and the inability of poor farmers to gain access to them pose severe constraints on their widespread use. Although organic matter may be an alternative source of nutrients, neither animal manure nor green biomass is usually found in adequate quantities to meet the high application rates (10–40 Mg ha–1 year−1) required to meet the nutrient requirements of crops (Mafongoya et al., 2006). Some authors have therefore argued that improving fertilizer use efficiency by a combination of organic and inorganic nutrients is vital to the long-term sustainability of global agriculture. Within this important goal there is great potential for the more effective utilization of biological N-fixation (BNF), which is virtually without cost. BNF accounts for 60% of N production (Zahran, 1999) and 16% of the current global N input (Liu et al., 2010). However, in Africa and South America, BNF is the single largest N source, accounting for 32–34% of the N input (Liu et al., 2010). In this respect its further use would, at the least, ease the pressure for land through the rehabilitation of degraded areas (Herridge et al., 2008). However, BNF can also play a greater role in sustainable agriculture as it increases N recovery rates in addition to reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. In this article, the authors present a review of options for more efficiently harnessing BNF for improved food security within the important debate about the future of global agriculture. They specifically explore the potential role that N-fixing trees can play in land rehabilitation for food crops and pastures and the improved productivity of saline and impoverished soils. In this context it is interesting that with the advent of high-yielding crop varieties requiring full sunlight, the tendency has been to remove trees including N-fixers from many food and cash cropping systems.

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    Land Application of Organic Residuals: Municipal Biosolids and Animal Manures

    I.L. Pepper, ... C.P. Gerba, in Environmental and Pollution Science (Third Edition), 2019

    23.3.2 Organic Residuals Impact on Soil Physical and Chemical Properties

    Soil organic matter enhances soil structure, through the formation of secondary aggregates (see Chapter 2). This results in increased soil porosity, which facilitate air and water movement through the soil. Continuous cropping of soils leads to degradation of both soil organic matter and hence soil structure. Applications of residuals to soils increase the soil organic content, improving soil structure. Land application improves soil physical properties such as water infiltration and retention, and reduces the soil’s susceptibility to erosion. Chemically, land application of biosolids can be beneficial by increasing soil cation exchange capacity (CEC).

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    Agriculture, Sustainable

    G. Philip Robertson, Richard R. Harwood, in Encyclopedia of Biodiversity (Second Edition), 2013

    Bush-Fallow Rotation Systems

    Perhaps the best documented example of a locally sustainable cropping system is the bush-fallow rotation, also known as swidden and slash and burn agriculture, indigenous to many cultures before the advent of continuous cropping systems several hundred years ago, and still evident in the humid tropics today. In the absence of population change, the bush-fallow system allows a tract of forest or savanna to provide food with few subsidies other than human labor.

    स्रोत : www.sciencedirect.com

    Soil fertility: improving crop yield through nuclear techniques

    Soil fertility is the ability of soil to sustain plant growth and optimize crop yield. This can be enhanced through organic and inorganic fertilizers to the soil. Nuclear techniques provide data that enhances soil fertility and crop production while minimizing the environmental impact.

    Improving soil fertility

    Improving soil fertility

    Soil fertility is the ability of soil to sustain plant growth and optimize crop yield. This can be enhanced through organic and inorganic fertilizers to the soil. Nuclear techniques provide data that enhances soil fertility and crop production while minimizing the environmental impact.

    Advancing food security and environmental sustainability in farming systems requires an integrated soil fertility management approach that maximizes crop production while minimizing the mining of soil nutrient reserves and the degradation of the physical and chemical properties of soil that can lead to land degradation, including soil erosion. Such soil fertility management practices include the use of fertilizers, organic inputs, crop rotation with legumes and the use of improved germplasm, combined with the knowledge on how to adapt these practices to local conditions.

    The Joint FAO/IAEA Division assists Member States in developing and adopting nuclear-based technologies for improving soil fertility practices, thereby supporting the intensification of crop production and the preservation of natural resources.

    Different approaches to efficiently manage soil fertility

    An integrated soil fertility management aims at maximizing the efficiency of the agronomic use of nutrients and improving crop productivity. This can be achieved through the use of grain legumes, which enhance soil fertility through biological nitrogen fixation, and the application of chemical fertilizers.

    Whether grown as pulses for grain, as green manure, as pastures or as the tree components of agro-forestry systems, a key value of leguminous crops lies in their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, which helps reduce the use of commercial nitrogen fertilizer and enhances soil fertility. Nitrogen-fixing legumes are the basis for sustainable farming systems that incorporate integrated nutrient management. Use of nitrogen-15 lends understanding of the dynamics and interactions between various pools in agricultural systems, including nitrogen fixation by legumes and utilization of soil and fertilizer nitrogen by crops, both in sole and mixed cropping systems.

    Soil fertility can be further improved by incorporating cover crops that add organic matter to the soil, which leads to improved soil structure and promotes a healthy, fertile soil; by using green manure or growing legumes to fix nitrogen from the air through the process of biological nitrogen fixation; by micro-dose fertilizer applications, to replenish losses through plant uptake and other processes; and by minimizing losses through leaching below the crop rooting zone by improved water and nutrient application.

    The contribution of nuclear and isotopic techniques

    The isotopes of nitrogen-15 and phosphorous-32 are used to trace the movements of labelled nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers in soils, crops and water, providing quantitative data on the efficiency of use, movement, residual effects and transformation of these fertilizers. Such information is valuable in the design of improved fertilizer application strategies. The nitrogen-15 isotopic technique is also used to quantify the amount of nitrogen fixed from the atmosphere through biological nitrogen fixation by leguminous crops.

    The carbon-13 isotope signature helps quantify crop residue incorporation for soil stabilization and fertility enhancement. This technique can also assess the effects of conservation measures, such as crop residue incorporation on soil moisture and soil quality. This information allows the identification of the origin and relative contribution of different types of crops to soil organic matter.

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    स्रोत : www.iaea.org

    Soil Fertility: 16 Methods to Understand

    Hugh Lovel details the 16 methods needed to understand and obtain optimum soil fertility and health.


    By Hugh Lovel

    Soil fertility and sustainable agriculture practitioners know that most soils today need their health and vitality rebuilt. In times past, nature built healthy, vital soils, and there is value in copying nature in rebuilding soil health. However, we cannot afford to take millions of years to do so as nature did — we need intelligent intervention. Cultivation, grazing, composting, soil conservation, green manuring, soil testing, soil remineralization, fertilizer priorities, fossil humates, and visual soil assessment all play a role in establishing self-regenerative, self-sufficient, fertile soils.

    The biological activities at the basis of self-regenerative soil fertility occur at the surfaces of soil particles where minerals come into contact with water, air, and warmth. It is at these surfaces that biological activities provide nitrogen fixation and silicon release.

    In nature, soil organisms cultivate the soil.


    Nature, with minimal human intervention, developed biologically diverse, richly fertile soils and ecosystems with little by way of inputs other than the accumulation of dust, periodic rainfall, fresh air, and sunlight. Rainforests are fertile ecosystems with rich diversity of microbial, plant, and animal species.

    While rainforests can be quite fertile, the world’s deepest, richest topsoils evolved as grazing lands — prairies, steppes, plains, savannahs, veldt, and meadows that grew grasses, legumes, and herbaceous plants and supported herds of herbivores along with the predators they attracted.

    Andre Leu, Soil Carbon, from the 2007 Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show. (53 minutes, 44 seconds). Listen in as Leu, the director of Regeneration International, teaches how to store and repurpose carbon in your soil.

    In both forests and grasslands,  vegetation draws in carbon. Forests store most of their carbon above the surface of the soil where it cools the earth and helps precipitate rain. Grasslands store more of their carbon in the soil as humus complexes. Forest fires return most of the carbon to the atmosphere, but with grassland fires most of the carbon remains in the soil.

    Nature’s way of building soil fertility involves awesome diversity and intense cooperation. Every ecological niche is filled, every need is satisfied, and everything is gathered, recycled, and conserved. No area is left bare, and no opportunity lost. And nature is patient. If something is missing or deficient it may take eons upon eons for it to accumulate from dust and rainfall or cosmic ray bombardment. Nature can also use our help.


    In nature, soil organisms cultivate the soil — from the smallest protozoa, arthropods, nematodes, mites, and collembolans to beetle grubs, earthworms, ants, and even larger burrowing animals. Plants and their fungal symbiotes spread rocks and soil particles apart by growing into pores, cracks, and crevasses. They secrete substances that etch the surfaces of rocks and soil particles and feed micro-organisms that free up minerals. Inevitably, at some point, animals will consume the plant roots and open up passages where air and water are absorbed by the soil. Some, like earthworms, grind soil particles up in their digestion processes. They also recycle plant matter as manures, building soil fertility and feeding further growth. This softens the soil and builds crumb structure, tilth, and retention of moisture and nutrients, while allowing water, air, and root penetration. Conversely, continuous grazing — to say nothing of human and machinery impact — compresses the soil and reverses these gains.

    Earthworm in soil.

    Mechanical cultivation softens the soil and prepares a clean seedbed for planting. For the most part, cultivation destroys soil life and is highly digestive and oxidative. In an age of machinery and power equipment with excessive cultivation and monocropping as the norm, this provides more and faster nutrient release as it collapses the soil biology. More importantly, it depletes nutrient reserves. This leads to higher and higher fertilizer inputs while biodiversity and soil fertility decline.

    Even back in the 1920s, Rudolf Steiner saw these trends and introduced horn manure [500], horn silica [501], horn clay, and biodynamic compost made with the herbal preparations [502-507] as remedies. But we also need to reverse the trends outlined above. Too much cultivation burns up organic matter, impoverishes soil life, breaks down soil structure, and releases nutrients that then may be lost. Wind and water erosion may also occur, and the result all too often is loss of soil fertility. The biodynamic preparations are no universal remedy for all mistakes. We must farm sensitively and intelligently as well.

    Author and Agronomist Neal Kinsey, Prioritizing Fertilizer Needs, from the 2008 Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show. (1 hour, 17 minutes.) Listen in and Neal teaches a classroom about how to quantify your fertilizer needs and make a plan for your growing operation.

    Various strategies are used for minimizing cultivation damage while still enjoying cultivation’s benefits. Some crops, such as potatoes, require cultivation. But with a mixed operation, crop rotations can take this into account and soil building can still proceed. Strip cropping, composting, and rotations in pasture and hay can help restore diversity so that soil biology recovers. Controlled traffic, where machinery strictly follows predetermined lanes, reduces compaction. No-till and minimum-till planting methods help, especially when used with biological fertilizers and biodynamic preparations to feed the soil food web and take the place of harsh chemicals. Inter-cropping, multi-cropping, and succession cropping increase diversity and reduce machinery impact. Instead of herbicides, managing mixed vegetative cover on roads, access strips, headlands, fence rows, laneways, waterways, and ditches provides biological reservoirs that interact with cultivated areas.

    स्रोत : www.ecofarmingdaily.com

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