Aeration and Soil Health
Along with correct soil nutrition and soil biology, proper physical structure of the soil is essential for a healthy soil. Only healthy soils will provide the best plant growth and response – especially when the plant is exposed to adverse environmental conditions such as drought, hot and cold extremes (including frost) and floods. An ideal soil consists of about 25% air, 25% water, 45% minerals, 5% organic matter and less than 0.5% soil biota, with soil structure housing all these components.
The physical condition of soil can be described in several ways; soil type (sand, silt, clay), texture, organic matter (OM), slaking, aggregation and compaction are some. A number of these can be changed by human intervention or management, while others can not. An open free draining soil has better plant-available chemistry, including pH, and is more biologically active due to air and water presence. There is a close relationship between the three soil parameters of Nutrient, Physical structure and Key biology, which means by changing soil physical structure the plant available nutrients change and so too will the activity and numbers of soil biology.
Compaction is one soil limiting factor that can be managed with aeration. Aeration can be naturally occurring, or mechanically improvised with the right equipment. It is important to have an open uncompacted soil so it can hold the necessary air and water, is structured so roots can easily penetrate without being impeded and provides the right environment for soil biology to build habitat, diversity and numbers. The best example of this is a soil with many active earthworms burrowing to make air and water pathways and in the process creating worm (vermi) caste to feed the roots as they follow. Earthworms will only do this if they have enough soil bacteria to feed on – and soil bacteria live in and around organic matter in the presence of air and water.
Why Is Soil Compacted
Soil compaction can come about by a number of different causes, with some being clearly manageable and others externally imposed due to certain conditions, but still within the control of the farm manager. Managing for soil health and reduced compaction means that over-stocking/over-grazing must be avoided, machinery access minimized or restricted to designated tracks, only necessary cultivation performed with suitable equipment, perennials and not annual plants encouraged and stock kept off paddocks that are excessively wet. Cumulative effects of seasonal extremes such as drought or flood and pre-existing soil compaction due to certain soil chemistry and physical conditions are typical causes of naturally occurring compaction which can be largely addressed.
How To Assess Compaction
Soil compaction is measured by using a calibrated penetrometer or can be estimated with experience by using an improvised device such as a metal rod or wire. It is important to be able to measure soil compaction because research has shown that soils that resist greater than 300psi will restrict most plant roots’ downward movement, will often slow or prevent soil rehydration and will also have a detrimental chemical and biological effect.
As with normal soil sampling techniques, many points across a paddock should be tested and measured with a calibrated penetrometer to ensure a paddock profile is reasonably accurately mapped. This is needed so that the correct management action can be selected from the options available. Be sure to particularly check around tracks, stock camps, fence lines (existing and old), manure pads, in places of changed vegetation and high spots versus low spots. Note the variations in relation to the different surface indicators (such as weeds or plants with more vigour) by taking as many probes as reasonably able and dissecting the paddock if levels and depths vary considerably.
How To Aeration Addresses Soil Health
As we have said soil health means having soil that promotes storage of water, air, and nutrient and gives pathways for roots to grow deeper to access these reserves. If your soil is compacted the reserves will remain at the top of the soil and be effected by elemental and environmental changes. In order to break up your soil compaction running a RanchWorx Aerator through your soil will give multiple benefits. The first benefit is the breaking up of soil compaction. The weight of the drum style aerator and spiral design of the blades means the maximum amount of weight and force is applied to each blade penetrating the soil. This not only causes a small slit to be cut into the soil but also fractures the soil deeply in every direction from the penetration. This fracture is what sets RanchWorx Aerators apart from their competition. The fracture creates pathways to introduce air, water, and nutrients directly to the soil much deeper than previously able. Creating reserves deep in your soil where they are unaffected by changes in the environment on the surface. This fracture also breaks up the soil making it exponentially easier for roots to grow deeper following the air, water, and nutrients to the reserves. Once your roots have reached this deep zone it creates a stronger forage crop allowing it to become a dominate crop able to withstand changes on the surface and grow healthier, taller, and thicker.