This is part two of a three part series on the importance of soil health. Part two focuses on the physical components of soil health.
Healthy soil is crucial to achieve a high-yielding corn crop. But what is healthy soil, and how can corn growers improve the health of the soil in their fields?
Soil health is an entire ecosystem that includes the physical aspects, the chemistry and the biology of the soil. Perhaps the easiest of the three to see and understand are the physical aspects of soil.
Studying the Physical Components
Physical properties and processes of soil affect soil fertility by altering water movement through soil, root penetration of soil and waterlogging. Important physical properties that affect fertility include soil structure and texture. Structure is the amount of aggregation and pores in soil and texture is the proportion of clay and sand particles in soil.
The main stressors that impact soils’ physical properties are extreme temperatures, drying and wetting cycles, osmotic potential and high pressure such as from agricultural equipment. Physical processes related to soil physical fertility include aggregation, water infiltration, waterlogging and soil erosion.
Soil structure can degrade or improve very quickly through various agricultural practices. The decline of soil structure will intensify the decline in soil health and fertility. Soil pores become smaller or less numerous, which restricts water, air and nutrient movement.
The good news is that these changes are reversible. Soil structure can be improved by multiple measures, including using cover crops, cultivating discs and minimum tillage practices.
New Solutions for Corn Growers
New seed treatment products are also available to help corn growers enrich the soil surrounding the root system.
Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0 corn seed treatment system from Bayer features a new biological proprietary technology platform called FLEXIBOOST™ that allows for the production and delivery of stabilized compounds into environments that have otherwise been unfavorable to survival. The new component in Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0 seed treatment system, a bacteria, delivers a stabilized enzyme to enhance the microbial activity around the plant root. That can result in increased nutrient cycling for healthier soil, healthier plants and higher yield potential.
Gregory Ginisty, SeedGrowth™ product manager, said Bayer did extensive research into soil health before launching Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0.
“In the past, the emphasis has been on plant health and obtaining maximum yield from the seed, focusing on aspects such as weed control and protection against fungi and insects,” Ginisty says. “Up until now, the environment the seed is growing in has been less of a priority, but this is the next frontier. More products are being launched that focus on improving the environment in which the seed is planted.”
Ginisty says that while much research has gone into the new product, the idea behind it is simple: “If the soil isn’t optimal, you are eating away at yield.”