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Updated 23 Jun 2018

How to cure your soil after years of nutrient depletion

Taking crops off the land without returning nutrients to the soil is called ‘mining’ the soil. Are you doing enough to keep your land arable? Here’s how you can, cost-effectively.

Farmer’s Weekly, 15 April 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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If you mine your soil for some years, your crops may grow slowly, have a stunted appearance (small plants with thin stems and small leaves), have pale green or yellowish leaves, and produce a poor yield.

If this is the case on your land, spread kraal manure evenly over the surface to provide a ‘booster shot’ of nutrients. To restore the soil to a healthy, productive condition, apply 250 wheelbarrow loads of manure per hectare, or one wheelbarrow load for every 40m² of land (roughly equivalent to an area six big paces wide and six big paces long).

Related: Know your soil

A hectare covers 10 000m², roughly the size of a soccer field. To determine the number of wheelbarrow loads of kraal manure needed, divide the area of your land by 40.

Once the soil is cured, keep it healthy by supplying the nutrients removed by your next crop. Do this before planting. Crops differ in the amount of nutrients they remove from the soil. Moreover, the higher the yield, the more nutrients are removed. Ask your extension officer for advice.

Not enough manure? Here’s a solution

If you have access to large quantities of manure, you can apply up to four times the recommended amounts and postpone the next application by up to four years without much yield loss. If you don’t have enough manure to apply at the recommended rate, you can band place or spot place the manure.

With band placing, a strip of manure is put in a furrow below or to the side of the seed, but never in contact with the seed. With spot placing, a small quantity of manure is positioned in a shallow hole below or to the side of every seed. These methods concentrate the manure, and therefore the nutrients, close to the plants. This enables them to get to the nutrients easily while reducing the quantity of manure needed.

However, the fertility of the rest of the land will not be improved with these methods, so it is necessary to fertilise every planting.

This article was originally published on Farmer’s Weekly.

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