BENEFITS OF SOIL MANAGEMENT
Keep the soil organic matter bucket full
Plants use FREE carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air to make carbon and organic matter. Australian Soil Management (ASM) works with Land Managers and owners to make sure most of this ends up in the soil to increase your productivity and lower your costs.
A full bucket is the amount of organic matter a soil can potentially hold. This amount will vary with factors such as soil clay content, soil depth, bulk density, rainfall, temperature and the skill of the Land Manager. For example, the bucket will be smaller for a sandy soil than for a clay soil.
For the majority of soils in Australia the bucket will be only (say) 20% full. To reap the benefits from Soil Organic Matter we ensure that more organic matter is added than is lost to the point where the bucket is almost full. For example, a soil may hold 100 tonnes of organic matter per hectare at present when it has the capacity to hold 400 tonnes per hectare.
To be successful, we prepare a detailed Soil Management Plan with clear targets and milestones.
ASM provides the management advice, plans and products to reach these targets. Smart soil management will maintain this level of carbon content and balance inputs and losses over the longer term.
The bigger and better your plants grow the more organic matter they have to add to your soils. So plenty of water (rain or irrigation), warmer temperatures and good organic soil fertilizers or conditioners will all help to increase Soil Organic Matter. Any practice that enhances productivity and the return of plant residues (shoots and roots) to the soil opens the input tap and will result in an increase in soil organic matter.
In natural systems, organic matter from plant and animal residues is recycled. However, in most Land Management enterprises, organic matter in the form of plant and animal produce is transported out the gate resulting in a loss of organic matter. To compound the problem, leftover organic matter can be burnt or harvested as additional produce for extra income, for example wheat straw bales. Even when plant and animal residues are recycled, there are additional losses of organic matter as CO2 during decomposition by soil organisms. Processes that accelerate decomposition, such as soil cultivation, increase the losses further; while those that slow down the rate of decomposition, such as minimal soil disturbance, will reduce the losses and help to maintain or increase soil organic matter.
The Soil Management Bank
For Land Managers, adding organic matter to soil is like putting money in the bank. And just like a bank there is a constant flow of money in and out of your account. The trick is to make sure more goes in than comes out. The more organic matter you save the more benefits you will see. The benefits are savings on fertilizers, pesticides and water. You spend less to make more and your profits go up!
Plants take carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and use it as food for growth. This is how CO2 becomes organic matter. Roots secrete some organic matter out into the soil to be used by soil organisms. Animals take in organic matter when they eat plants.
Organic Matter Bank
When plants and animals die soil organisms break down their organic matter. When they do this, soil organisms release CO2 but they also release nutrients for roots and deposit the left over organic matter into the Soil Bank.
The systems works well in nature. However, when plants and animals are sold off and organic matter is not replaced then Land Managers run into problems with their Soil Carbon Bank account.