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Importance of Soil Fertility and Ways to Improve It

Abha Toppo
Abha Toppo
soil fertility

Soil fertility is the inherent capacity of soil to supply plant nutrients in sufficient amount and appropriate proportion & free from toxic substances. Soil productivity is the ability of the soil to produce crop / unit area. Therefore a fertile soil could or could not be productive depending upon crops, marketing condition & many other factors (excessive acidity / alkalinity, presence of toxic substances, poor physical properties or deficiency of water). However every productive soil has to be fertile. Soil productivity generally depends on soil fertility to a great extent.

Types of Soil Fertility:

1. Inherent / Natural Fertility:

Soil in nature contains some nutrients which are called ‘inherent fertility’. Among the plant nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus & potassium is necessary for the normal growth as well as yield of crop. Soil in India contains 0.3 - 0.2% nitrogen, 0.03 -0.3% phosphorus & 0.4 - 0.5% potassium. The natural fertility has a restrictive factor from which the fertility is not decreased.

2. Acquired Fertility:

The fertility developed by use of manures & fertilizers, tillage, irrigation etc. is called ‘acquired fertility’. The acquired fertility also has a limiting factor. It is observed by experiment that the yield does not boost remarkably by use of additional quantity of fertilizers. Thus it is essential to apply fertilizer on the basis of nutrient content of a soil & it is estimated by soil testing.

organic matter

Ways to improve soil fertility

Here are few ways in which you can improve soil fertility and enhance production:

Organic matter

A diverse range of organic matter is the best method to improve soil fertility. First of all manure must be added for nitrogen, which is a vital component of fertile soil. Farm animals manure (cow, pig) is a good option here. You can try to get manure from fit, free range animals and not from factory farmed animals.

Manure obtained from unhealthy & confined animals is more likely to have pathogens that may contaminate your crops. Even with manure from healthy animals, you must wait for at least 3 months before finally applying it to the garden bed or harvesting your vegetables. This will protect against contamination.



Biochar improves soil fertility by acting as a direct nutrient source or by changing the physiochemical properties in the soil. The nutrient content that forms biochar is dependent on the type of feedstock used. Optimum pyrolysis conditions must be employed to guarantee minimal volatilization of important nutrients. A high percentage of nutrients present in biochar ought to be in their bio-available forms. This makes biochar an effectual slow-release nutrient source when applied to soil. However it is not a long-term contributor to soil fertility.

Considerable improvement in crop productivity can be seen with use of biochar to acidic soils as it leads to an increase in the soil pH. Biochar can work as a stable carbon source in the soil & can raise the soil CEC resulting in the preservation of many micro- and macronutrients. The WHC of soil, water infiltration, & soil aeration are managed by macropores of biochar particles. The overall soil enzyme which originates from MO, plants & animals is improved by biochar application.

green manure

Green Manuring

The main function of a green manure crop is to prepare the soil for succeeding crops. Green manures work by drawing the nutrients from soil & storing them in their bodies. These crops are not harvested & taken away from the land as this will take away the nutrients, but are tilled into the soil while they are still green. When turn back into the soil, plants gradually decompose and slowly release all these nutrients to the next crop.

Simultaneously green manure serves as a source of food for several soil microbes and organisms. The abundance of soil fauna is very important for soil health. Their movement & activity helps build a good soil structure & by feeding on the organic matter, they allow for its distribution in soils.

Green manuring is a practice that can be easily applied on large farming plots and small vegetable gardens.


Mulch is a layer of material that is applied to the surface of soil. Reasons for applying mulch are conservation of soil moisture, improving fertility & health of the soil, decreasing weed growth and enhancing the visual appeal of the area.

Mulch is generally, but not exclusively, organic in nature. It can be permanent as well as temporary. It may be applied to bare soil or around existing plants. Mulches of manure or compost will be incorporated naturally into the soil by the activity of worms & other organisms. The procedure is used both in commercial crop production as well as in gardening and if applied correctly, can radically improve soil productivity.

mixed cropping

Mixed cropping

A lesser-known method to improve soil fertility is to sow different crops in the same field in order to avert soil erosion and control the spread of soil-borne plant disease. And doing this with the legumes will have the benefit of putting nitrate to the soil. Always try to use deep rooted vegetables that will enhance soil fertility naturally.

Hope the article was useful to you !!!!

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