Within each handful of soil, there exists an intricate microscopic ecosystem. Soil health hinges on a delicate balance of physical, chemical, and biological components.
Physical attributes like soil structure and texture tell us about water penetration. Chemical properties let us know which nutrients are available to feed our crops. Meanwhile, the presence of diverse microbial communities strives to create an equilibrium that keeps your soil alive.
Healthy soil is the literal foundation of any sustainable agriculture operation. As advocates of environmentally friendly agriculture, we want to spread the word about healthy soil and how precision agriculture software will make it easier than ever to track your soil health.
The Basic Principles of Soil Health:
Like any other ecosystem, soil is complicated. Entire fields of science like pedology and edaphology are dedicated to studying and examining its attributes.
We’re going to scratch the surface and look at the most basic indicators of soil health. These indicators will give you an idea of the most accessible ways to diagnose whether or not your soil is thriving.
Physical Attributes of Soil
The two main physical attributes of soil are its structure and texture. The structure is determined by the arrangement of soil particles into aggregates. That arrangement affects water infiltration, root penetration, and air circulation.
An ideally structured soil allows for good drainage, deep root development, and the movement of air and water throughout the soil’s profile. (compaction example extra count)
The interplay of sand, silt, and clay particles determines soil texture. Depending on their proportions, these particles shape soil’s water-holding capacities, drainage rates, and nutrient retention abilities.
When it comes to an ideal soil texture, loam is often referenced as the perfect medium for plants to thrive. Loam is soil that is made up of 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay. While this soil composition isn’t perfect for every crop, it is the most widely effective soil type in agriculture.
Chemical Properties of Soil
There’s a significant amount of chemistry happening in the dirt beneath our feet. Three essential elements, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium serve as the building blocks for plant growth and development.
The availability of these nutrients in the soil directly impacts crop productivity. Healthy soil acts as a type of reservoir for these nutrients. As plants grow, they are released to the roots as needed.
Through soil testing, nutrient deficiencies can be identified. Once the chemical makeup of the soil is clear, it is possible to create targeted amendments and fertilization strategies.
Microbial Life In Soil
Within each handful of healthy soil lives a diverse microscopic community. Each life form is responsible for vital functions that clean the soil, balance nutrients, and sustain the overall ecosystem.
Another major role these tiny organisms play is that of decomposition. They transform waste products into the bioavailable nutrients described above. Soil suitable for plant life is teeming with life.
The physical attributes, chemical properties, and microbial soil life all perform a vital balancing act that feeds our crops. Unfortunately, the world they inhabit is hidden from view.
Besides indicators from failing crops, there are few visual cues to let farmers know their soil’s life has been depleted. This is where technologies like greenhouse management software and other precision agricultural software step in.
What is Precision Agriculture Software?
In the realm of modern agriculture, farmers are turning to data-tracking tools like precision agriculture software to track soil health data. Innovative softwares are changing the way land is cultivated by allowing farmers to make data-driven decisions.
These programs aim to arm agriculture operations with knowledge that limits needless inputs and allows for targeted treatments in problem areas. The real-time data collection gives practitioners the ability to stay ahead of potential issues and increases overall crop production.
The right precision agriculture software allows farmers to easily access past and present data about their soil. Working with either manual data input or various sensors, the software collects information ranging from moisture levels, to available nutrients in the soil.
How does this information help? Being armed with precise soil health data gives growers the following advantages:
Act Before Problems Arise
With real-time data to pull from, farmers can see problems as they develop. This allows for quick interventions. Imagine being able to register information like the moment soil drainage is compromised. Precision agriculture software can stop a calamity before there’s any visual evidence of a problem.
Track crop output in a variety of soil conditions
Every farmer has that one perfect harvest. The season where all growing conditions aligned. With data collection from every previous grow, farmers will have the knowledge needed to recreate ideal growing conditions.
Refine watering, pesticide, and harvest schedules
With data about moisture levels, the presence of pests, and crop output, it is possible to schedule the most effective time for action. If data indicates water uptake peaks at night, then a more effective and less wasteful watering schedule can be implemented. The same can be said for pests and harvesting. The right software will streamline every step of the process.
Determine ideal soil types for various crops
With numerous seasons of data to draw from, it’s possible to narrow down what type of soil plants prefer. While lettuces may love a moist environment for their roots, tomatoes might thrive in well-drained soil. Tracking crop performance in various soil conditions gives growers access to more knowledge about what their particular plants prefer.
Spot-treat problem areas
Treating entire fields or greenhouses for problems identified in secluded areas is wasteful and time-consuming. If there is data that lets growers know which areas need attention, it eliminates the need for mass treatments. The time and resources saved by precision spot treatments are invaluable.
Identify and remediate imbalances in the soil ecosystem
Between harvest and reseeding is the perfect time to consult data about your soil’s health. Precision agriculture software makes it possible to look back at which balance of nutrients provided the best crop outputs. Testing soil before reseeding gives farmers a head start on remediating soil with the exact nutrient balance to feed the next round of crops.
The data-driven approach of precision agriculture software changes the way growers everywhere can track soil health. The culmination of knowledge from previous grows combined with real-time data transforms the way we see our soil.
Precision Agriculture Software and Sustainable Farming
Greenhouse management and field management software are becoming some of the most important tools in sustainable farming practices. The precise insights into past and present conditions of soil and crop health facilitate the implementation of targeted interventions.
Data about grows tells farmers when and where inputs are needed. The overall effect of precision agriculture software is a reduction in environmental impacts and optimized use of resources like water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
Sustainable practices rely on a grower’s ability to limit unnecessary inputs. With the right software, it’s now possible to make informed proactive decisions that require as few resources as possible.
Give Precision Agriculture Software a Try
The impact of soil health on your grow is impossible to overstate, and the impact of soil health on our ecosystems is even more important. It’s paramount that as we turn to sustainable farming technologies, we identify the most useful tools.
RedBud software is one of the leading precision agriculture programs available to track data in your greenhouse. Soil health, plant health, and environmental data are all a few clicks away. Let us know if you’d like to test precision agriculture software on your operation.
Our work with private companies and universities across the United States is changing the landscape of indoor agriculture. Give our free demo a try and see if data-driven farming is right for you.