Practices on the ground!

Testing the soil

Throughout March and April 2023 in the Practices on the ground! project there has been an action of sampling soil from the area of activity of the project, respectively from Mureș, Cluj, Alba și Bistrița-Năsăud counties. The purpose of this exercise has been to establish the health and quality level of the soils from the area of activity of the project, as well as to match the soils quality to different types of crops for the farmers included in the project. The soil analysis has been done by the Office of Pedologic and Agrochemical studies from Mures County, for 40 samples taken from farms.

The soil analysis was meant to reveal aspects connected to the PH levels, the concentration of mobile phosphorus, the concentration of mobile potassium, the quantity of hummus and the total nitrogen concentration, clay contents. The results regarding the PH-level in the soil have revealed that a majority( 41.5%) of farms have a low acidity of soil , followed by a proportion of 22% of acidic soils, 14.5% alkaline soils, the rest being neutral. Most agricultural plants need a neutral reaction, weak in acid or weak in alkaline.

Results concerning the mobile phosphorus (P) concentration have revealed a very poor state of insurance for the majority of farms (36.5%), followed by farms with soils in a state of poor insurance in a proportion of 29%, a middle state of insurance for 17%, and respectively 14.5% of analysed soils have a good state of insurance.

Results on mobile potassium (K) have shown a middle state of insurance for most soils analysed (56%), followed by 39% of soils to have a good state of insurance, the rest having a poor state of insurance. In the case of soils with a phosphorus and a potassium deficit, the efficient ways of rebuilding reserves in the soil consist of applying the specific fertilizers in the appropriate dosage.

The results show a good towards very good concentration of hummus in approximately 18% of the soils analysed, whilst a middle state of insurance is present in most farms (73%). The rest of the farms had a poor state of insurance regarding hummus (concentrations below 2%). For the health and optimum agricultural productivity of the soil the hummus concentration must be over 4% and the thickness of the hummus horizon should be greater than 50 cm, whilst the depth of the soil profile should be higher than 75 cm. This content can be maintained by adding, yearly, at least 10 tons/hectare of organic matter (compost and/or manure) out of which hummus is formed. Most part of the formed hummus (3/4) gets mineralized, supplying nutrients to plants, whilst ¼ enter the soil reserve contributing to an increase in fertility.

The statistical analysis over the 40 farms analysed has shown that the mobile nitrogen (N) reserve is very poor or poor in 60% of farms. Only 40% of the analysed farms have a normal or good concentration of nitrogen in their soils. Restocking the nitrogen reserve can be done naturally through applying manure, bird excrements or compost on the soil. Another important reserve of nitrogen comes from the leguminous crops, which also have a role in improving the soil state, as well as precipitations, and so it is very important that water from precipitations will be prevented to drain in order to ensure its infiltration into the soil.

Regarding the clay content in the soil we can see high values for most of the analysed farms. Clay soils can be improved in many ways: by digging or ploughing deeply at the same time mixing in a large quantity of organic matter for an even mix; using covering crops which will prepare the land for future crops (egg. Rye, oats, vetch, clover, melilot, fodder radish, mustard, turnip – for the Summer; sorghum, Sudan grass, buckwheat, cowpeas, soy, peas, beans, clover, Alexandria clover, melilot, turnip, fodder radish, mustards – for Fall); adding lime of gypsum in the soil.

In conclusion, the farms must ensure a neutral PH level to their soils, to maintain a good concentration of phosphorus and potassium by applying the appropriate specific fertilizers, to ensure a very good hummus concentration by adding organic matter, to ensure an optimum nitrogen concentration by adding organic matter, including leguminous crops and retaining precipitation water. Applying these measures will not only ensure an optimal agricultural production, but will also contribute to maintaining the health and quality of the soil.

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