Soil and Fertility Management
Soil fertility is most commonly defined in terms of the ability of a soil to supply nutrients to crops. In our view soil fertility is an ecosystem concept integrating the diverse soil functions, including nutrient supply, which promote plant production. Soil fertility is fundamental in determining the productivity of all farming systems.
Organic farming systems, as the only sustainable farming systems legally defined, rely on the management of soil organic matter to enhance the chemical, biological, and physical properties of the soil, in order to optimize crop production.
controls the supply of nutrients to crops, and subsequently to livestock and humans. Furthermore soil processes play a key role in suppressing weeds, pests and diseases. The following figure illustrates conceptually the complexity of the relationships between soil fertility and the different components within and outside the system that may influence it.
Figure 1-Soil Fertility components
One of the fundamental differences between management of organic and conventional systems is the way in which problems are addressed. Conventional agriculture often relies on targeted short-term solutions e.g. application of a soluble fertilizer or herbicide. Organic systems, in contrast, use a strategically different approach, which relies on longer-term solutions (preventative rather than reactive) at the systems level.