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Y. P. Singh & Solomon Das
Forest Pathology Division
Forest Research Institute
Dehradun-248 006 firstname.lastname@example.org
Soil is a thin layer of material on the Earth's surface in which plants have their roots. It is made up of many things, such as weathered rock and decayed plant and animal matter. Soil is formed over a long period of time. Soil Formation takes place when many things interact, such as air, water, plant life, animal life, rocks, and chemicals. A dynamic natural body on the surface of the earth in which plants grow, composed of mineral and organic materials and living forms. The collection of natural bodies occupying parts of the earth’s surface that support plants and that have properties due to the integrated effect of climate and living matter acting upon parent material, as conditioned by relief, over periods of time. Source: Buckman, H.O
- litter layer; forested areas - top soil; high organic content - eluviation of clay, iron, aluminium sand & silt left behind - illuviation: accumulation of eluviated materials - unconsolidated parent material - solid rock
Organic matter is the partially decomposed remains of soil organisms, animals and plant life It makes up only a small fraction of the soil (normally 2 to 10%) Organic matter retains moisture (humus holds up to 90% of its weight in water), and is able to absorb and store nutrients. Importantly, organic matter is the primary food source for microorganisms and other forms of soil life in dryland agriculture Incorporating large amounts of high-carbon material (i.e. wheat stubble) can deprive plants of soil derived nitrogen in the short term Organic matter contributes to the development of the darker friable topsoil that retains moisture and cycles nutrients for plant growth
Organic matter is divided into two main categories: organic residues, i.e., plant material, manures, etc. in some stage of partial decay, and stable soil humus Stable soil humus, a small percentage of total soil organic matter, is the end product of organic matter decomposition when performed under anaerobic, or oxygen free, conditions, beneath the soil surface. The resulting organic structures can be hundreds of years old and are considered a slow renewable resource. Organic residues formed at shallow depths add little, if any, to the reserves of stable soil humus
All groups of microorganisms are represented in most soils, and because of their presence soil is transformed from an inert mass of mineral and organic residues to a dynamic living system Protozoa Fungi Algae Bacteria
Factors which effects the population of soil microorganisms:
Aeration PH Moisture Temperature Soluble minerals amount of organic material Changes inorganic compounds Appearance of the soil Fertility Degree of aggregation. Moisture holding capacity
Aeration:Microbes consume oxygen from soil air and give out carbon dioxide. In the absence of such gaseous exchange, carbon dioxide accumulates in soil air and becomes toxic to the microbes Moisture:In the presence of excess water, waterlogging, anaerobic condition occur the aerobes become suppressed and inactive Temperature:Temperature is the most important environmental factor influencing the biological processes and the microbial activity. Most of the soil organisms are mesophiles and
pH:Bacteria prefer near neutral to slightly alkaline reaction between pH 6.5 and 8.0; fungi grow in acidic reaction between pH 4.5 and 6.5; actinomycetes prefer slightly alkaline conditions Degree of aggregation: Some organisms may play a beneficial role indirectly be creating better soil physical condition, e.g. by improving soil aggregation. Soil microorganisms cause soil aggregation probably by the gum or polysaccharides produced by them. Azotobacter, Beijerinckia and Rhizobium are examples of gum producing bacteria Amount of organic material: It enhances the population of microorganism, since they depend
Fertility: Numbers and diversity of soil organisms maintains soil fertility and productive quality of soil
Soil health refers to the condition of the soil and its potential to sustain biological functioning, maintain environmental quality, and promote plant and animal health. The resistance of a soil refers to its capacity to retain function during stress or disturbance, whilst its resilience refers to how quickly it recovers after stress or disturbance.
1. Soil organic matter equilibrium maintained The soil is composed of approximately 90-98% minerals and only 2-10% organic matter. Soil organic matter (SOM) consists of all materials found in, or on soil that originate from organic material. It comprises both living and dead organisms in various stages of decomposition and ranges in age from recent inputs to thousands of years old. Of the SOM present in soil, approximately 15% of this is ‘living’ (made up of roots, fauna and micro-organisms). The microbial component of this ‘living’ pool cycles rapidly and is considered essential for organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling, degradation of chemicals and soil stabilisation. 2. Soil fertility is balanced A healthy soil is not only fertile, but productive. Factors which limit plant growth such as weeds, subsoil constraints, disease and climate can limit productivity even where soil fertility is adequate. In understanding the interactions between soil fertility and plant growth, it is necessary to recognise that "the yield of a plant is limited by a deficiency of any one essential element, even though all others are present in adequate amount" 3. Water entry, storage & supply optimised In most agricultural pursuits, production is limited by the capacity of soil to store and supply water to the plant. Soil texture and structure influence the amount fo water able to be extracted from soil by influencing the size of the 'bucket' and the depth to which root growth can extract water. Optimising plant nutrition results in vigorous growth and increases the uptake of available water. Better water use efficiency slows leaching of nutrients and deep drainage which may contribute to groundwater recharge, rising water tables and off-site environmental impacts.
4. Enhanced soil biological function A myriad of organisms live in soil, some of which perform beneficial functions such as organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling, whilst others are associated with plant disease. Some of these organisms are visible to the naked eye (earthworms, mites, insects, etc.), but most are microscopic (fungi, bacteria). 5. Supports productive land uses Inherent soil properties and position in the landscape are factors that determine the capacity of a soil to sustainably support different land uses. Limited opportunities exist to change soil depth, parent material and soil texture which influence soil processes and management. We must consider whether the land is capable of supporting long term ecological and profitable production for example, without degrading soil condition 6. Enhances environmental & community health and well-being Soil supports plant and animal health, as well as provides materials for industry and infrastructure - producing the food, fuel and fibre to nourish, clothe and provide energy to the world. Yet historically, agriculture has accelerated the decline in the soil resource.
Soil fertility is the combined effects of three major interacting components. These are the chemical, physical and biological characteristics of the soil. The physical and chemical characteristics of soil are far better understood than that of the biological component, therefore we know quite a lot about the desired chemical and physical status of soils. It is still difficult to define the desired biological status of soil because they are so dynamic and changes occur in much shorter time periods than physical and chemical changes. Biological fertility, while difficult to define, provides us with great opportunities for land management and monitoring because of its dynamic nature. It is thought that, the biological state of soils may be able to provide early warning of land degradation, therefore enable us to employ more sustainable land management practices
The biological components of soil perform a number of important processes, soil biological fertility : 1.Soil organisms are most abundant in the surface layers of soil, 2.Soil organic matter is necessary for nutrient cycling and soil aggregation, 3.Maximum soil biological diversity depends on the diversity of organic matter and habitats, 4.Nitrogen fixing bacteria form specific associations with legumes under specific conditions , 5.Nitrogen is released during organic matter breakdown, either into soil or into the soil microbial biomass, 6.Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi can increase phosphate uptake into plants in P-deficient soils, 7.Soil amendments can alter the physical and chemical environment of soil organisms, 8.Some crop rotations and tillage practices decrease the suitability of soil for plant pathogens, 9.Production systems based on soil biological fertility can be profitable, 10.Soil biological processes develop slowly, and the time required will differ for different soils, environments and land management practices.
1. Soil erosion should be controlled to minimise loss of soil organisms, 2. Plant organic matter should be retained to maximise nutrient cycling and soil aggregation processes, 3. Some disturbance of soil is necessary to maximise soil biological diversity, 4. Nitrogen fixing bacteria should be selected that match the host, soil characteristics (such as pH) and environmental conditions, 5. Inputs of nitrogen fertiliser should be calculated to complement nitrogen cycling from organic matter 6. Inputs of phosphorus fertiliser should be calculated to complement and enhance the activities of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, 7. Any substance added to soil should be assessed in terms of its effects on soil biological processes and soil biological diversity, 8. Crop rotations and tillage practices should be selected to avoid development of soil conditions that enhance the growth and survival of plant pathogens, 9. The capacity of a management practice to produce a commercial product should be considered in parallel with its capacity to maintain and/or increase soil biological fertility, 10.Sufficient time should be allowed for establishment or restoration of a level of soil biological fertility appropriate for particular soils and land management.
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