According to the wikipedia Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals: environmental stewardship , farm profitability , and prosperous farming communities . These goals have been defined by a variety of disciplines and may be looked at from the vantage point of the farmer or the consumer .
Aeration: Inserting random breaks in the soil surface to increase oxygen while favoring the growth of nitrogen, sulfur, and iron oxidizing organisms.
Aggregation: Individual soil particles joined into clusters or "aggregates." Formed through soil wetting/drying/freezing/and thawing. Well aggregated soil has increased water entry, air flow, and water holding capacity, prevents surface crusting, and has greater erosion resistance.
Clay: Dense, poorly drained soil that warms up slowly in spring, delaying the start of planting.
Compaction/Hardpan: Unfavorable tightly compressed soil that reduces air supply, limits root development, and inhibits the soil's ability to absorb and hold water.
Cover Crops: Suppress weeds, help break pest cycles and supply food for beneficial insects and honey bees. Plants such as rye, buckwheat, millet, and red clover can maintain or increase soil organic matter when allowed to grow to full potential. Cover crops may provide considerable nitrogen for subsequent crops.
Crop Residue: Important organic matter (along with cover crops and mulch) that should be left to decompose and contribute to valuable top soil while protecting against erosion.
Crusting: Dispersed surface clay particles whose pores become clogged just beneath the surface due to rainfall. After drying, future runoff is increased.
Dispersion: The opposite of aggregation; when soil particles blow away or wash away.
Earthworms: An excellent indicator of well balanced productive soil; conservatively responsible for 12.5 tons of enriched topsoil per year per acre!
Erosion: The wearing away of soil by wind and rain accounts for substantial nutrient and organic matter losses! One cropland acre erodes at 7 tons per year. Erosion is initiated by raindrop impaction on bare soil. Erosion protection is the first step toward sustainable agriculture.
Foliars: Topical plant leaf sprays act as a catalyst to increase food nutrient uptake by 10%-90% vs food applied to the soil. Several different hormones boost growth quickly, and provide a food source; also helps extend growing seasons. Apply before or during key stages of crop development.
Humus: The soil's organic matter that stores the majority of plant nutrients.
Loam: The ideal soil for most plants, containing equal parts sand, silt and clay.
Manure: Raw manure is significantly unstable and likely to run off, whereas composted manure releases nutrients slowly, contains humus, and won't burn plants. Choose hormone/chemical free. Manure supports larger crop yields, more earthworms and softer soil.
Moisture: Microbial populations flourish during cyclic wet periods, followed by drying which diminishes activity.
Organically grown: Plants/vegetables grown without pesticides, poisons, or artificial fertilizers, in soil with added organic matter to increase humus.
Organic Matter: The source of energy and food supply for the soil and microorganisms; contains living and decomposed organisms.
Oxygen: Decomposition of organic matter is accelerated by increased oxygen (ex. aeration); varies based on soil texture.
Sand: Light and porous soil, water drains quickly, leaches out nutrients; and is more susceptible to frost.
Soil: Contains ½ solid particles (10% good humus) ¼ air, ¼ water; should have an earthy smell, be loose and crumbly, and should have earthworms in it.
Synthetics: Artificially derived insecticides/herbicides/fungicides and fertilizers.
Temperature: Organism activity is greatest at a moderate temperature and diminishes in extreme temperatures.
Tilth: Good tilth is a soil that drains well, rapidly takes in water, doesn?t crust or clod, has easy tillage, seeding emergence and deep root penetration.
Top soil: Fertile surface soil efficiently collects and saves water; supports and determines the quality of food through plant life.
Weeds: An indicator of what is missing as well as what is in your soil, weeds hold topsoil and stop erosion. (Ex. Daisies=lime deficiency. Daisies collect or manufacture lime to be stored in their tissues. Upon their death, the limestone is deposited in the topsoil and the daisies disappear.)
® Shari Fredierick all rights reserved