Soil conservation is a combination of all methods of management and land use that safeguard the soil against depletion or deterioration by natural or man-induced factors. It most often attempts to ensure that SOIL does not erode and wash into streams and lakes or blow away in the wind, but it also involves the protection of the soil from damage by machinery (compaction) or by detrimental changes to its chemistry (acidification or salinization).
Soil conservation comprises of all the procedures and methods that involve protecting the soil from natural as well as manmade destructions. There are many natural ways in which soil could get eroded or blown away. In the same way, soil could also get contaminated or chemically altered owing to acidification or salinization, or destruction from machinery. The saying, change is the only constant holds true for everything ¦including nature. Everything in our natural world is in a perpetual state of evolution and change. However, when this change is triggered by unnatural methods, that is when an imbalance occurs in the natural process of the planet and it begins to affect our quality of life.
Soil conservation is a very important issue, both in developing nations where a good portion of income is derived from agriculture and in developed nations where mechanized farming and an over-abundant use of chemical fertilizers can sometimes have a detrimental effect on the land. But it is not only for farmers and agriculturists it has a far-reaching effect on the environment and so concerns all of us. There is a growing need to prevent and control soil erosion and soil contamination, and to maintain soil fertility. Implementing various strategies and methods can help in stemming erosion of the soil, in preserving the quality of the soil and in increasing its productive capacity. Good soil conversation leads to enriched lands, better crop yields, good financial returns and a balanced environment.
THE AGRICULTURAL SOIL CONSERVATION
In order to carry out effective soil conservation, you must first consider several aspects of the land in question. Here are some of the things that must be considered
Is there enough vegetative cover over the land or does it need to be developed? What are the proper erosion control methods that can be utilized and how will you implement them?
What is the soil salinity level and how are you going to manage it? What is the soil acidity level and how are you going to control it? What is the soil mineral content and do you need to regularly add mineral supplements?
Is the soil contaminated and, if so, what methods are you going to use to remediate it and to prevent future contamination?
Are there beneficial soil organisms in the soil and are they allowed to thrive? Once you know what kind of soil conservation is needed, you can consider implementing any or all the following methods
Planting dense rows of trees as wind-breaks along the borders of the land, especially on the sides that are exposed to stiff wind. Their roots stabilize the soil and prevent it from being shifted away by the wind.s
Planting crops in rotation. Alternating crops helps avoid depleting the soil nutrients too fast.
Planting cover crops. These stabilize the soil and reduce the effects of soil erosion. They also discourage the spread of weeds and help the soil retain its moisture in the summers.
Plowing along the contour of the land.
Planting crops parallel to the slope of the land.
Going for strip cropping. This involves planting grasses or pulses between regular crops like corn. The corn crop is not particularly effective in preventing soil erosion, but the grasses keep erosion in check. Adding much to the soil surface. This prevents erosion by acting as a barrier and catching run-off water. Adding coir logs as barriers. These are very useful in areas where too much erosion has taken place and act as erosion preventing barriers and a support for new developing vegetation. Aside from coir barriers, sand bag and gravel bag barriers are also used. Growing grass on slopes and in waterways. Grassed waterways prevent too much soil from being washed away.
Making use of natural as well as man-made fertilizers.
Keeping the land fallow in order to rest it.
Managing the levels of salinity. In areas where irrigation is in excess or where the saline water tables are low, the salinity levels can go up and make the land unsuitable for agriculture. This problem can be resolved by the use of humic acid. Managing the soil ph. The soil pH is what determines the amount of nutrients that the plants can absorb from the soil. Soil pH levels can be raised or decreased, as needed, by adding certain chemicals for example, agriculture lime for raising pH level and ammonium phosphate for reducing it.
Encouraging beneficial soil organisms like earthworms and nitrogen fixing bacteria to thrive in the soil. The presence of such organisms enriches the soil.
Using man-made chemical insecticides, pesticides and herbicides in very low amounts. Over use of chemicals can poison the soil and kill of useful organisms, and is generally harmful to the environment.
Regularly add minerals to the soil. Minerals provide much-need nutrients to the soil to be absorbed by the plants. To mineralize the soil, add chemical supplements or try adding crushed rock.