Conservation Agriculture and soil fertility management Part 2


Case study on a degraded soil in the North West Province

Following an introduction to some theoretical principles and practices of Conservation Agriculture  and integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) in Part 1 (November 2018 edition), this article presents a case study of a one-season soil rehabilitation process of a degraded soil on the farm Humanskraal of George Steyn in the Ottosdal area. The soil was degraded due to continuous tillage and excess water run-off, leading to severe sheet, rill and gully erosion. The soil type is an Oakleaf soil form, a fairly common soil for crop production in the region with a depth of about 500-600mm and underlain by weathered rock material. To prepare the soil for crop production, the gullies were closed with a disk during winter.

The Grain SA CA research project team, which included George Steyn, decided to initiate a biological soil rehabilitation process on these degraded fields through the establishment of a ten species cover crop (CC) mix, planted with an Amazon spreader (for the small seeds) and a John Deere no-till planter (for the big seeds). As described in Part 1, the use of crop diversity, in this case a summer CC mixture, enhances and speed-up the biological (ecosystem) processes in the soil. No fertilisers were used because the previous crop was not harvested due to a poor stand and performance.

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