Soil Health Concept in Agricultural Extension and Soil Science: An Assessment of Topsoil Changes in a Long-Term Vineyard Management Trial in Robertson, South Africa
I. Mathys and A.B. Rozanov
The increasing popular demand for healthy food due to wide-spread food contamination with agricultural chemicals. The organic producers took advantage of the current state of affairs in commercial production and adopted a motto “healthy food from healthy soil”, largely meaning lack of contaminants in the food chain.
The developments in ecotoxicology have found that some species of soil-inhabiting organisms (particularly earthworms) are rather sensitive to soil pollution and may be good indicators of contamination. It was noted, however, that earthworm populations are not only sensitive to industrial and agricultural pollutants, but also to various other changes in soil environment, e.g. salinity, pH, compaction, etc. Subsequently various soil characteristics were included by different authors into a set of parameters to characterize healthy soil habitats.
Furthermore, it was found that a wide range of organisms can react both positively and negatively to changes in soil conditions and eventually the concern for healthy food transformed into a concern for well-being of the whole soil ecosystem.
Optimization of soil health assessment procedures is important, since the very parameters of soil health will depend on the location, agricultural system and the soil itself along with the structure of the soil community within the specific location.
The project is focused on identifying and testing a set of topsoil parameters within a long-term trial in a vineyard near Robertson to understand the changes in soil health status due to the various inter-row management practices and use of cover crops.
MSc Student: Ilse Mathys
Funding: Agricultural Research Council