ASSUMPTIONS FOR THE IDEA OF SUSTAINABILITY
One of the most important tenets of sustainability is to protect the soil from its degradation due to agro-technical activity.
It poses in front of farms the tasks which aim to ensure sustainability of soil resources, keeping it in good condition and maintaining its proper structure with regard to responsible management of water resources.
It also shows how important it is today to search for carefully planned solutions for agriculture in the facet of progressive reduction of available agriculture land.
Long-term agriculture practice taught us how to wisely manage environmental resources to increase yields and to improve their quality parameters, while protecting the nature around us. It was associated with relentless adaptation of newer and newer and less invasive for nature solutions and investing in a modern machinery.
This strategy of actions allowed us to properly take care of the soil that we cultivate.
In order to maintain a sustainable equilibrium in tis biology and chemistry, as well as in the physical structure, we have based our agricultural practices on three key responsibilities:
- maintaining organic matter in the soil
- preventing erosion
- preventing physical changes in soil structure
Its role is to supplement the nutrients in the soil after the forecrop, protecting the soil against destructive effects of water and wind erosion and limiting growing of weeds. It may also be an important phytosanitary measure, but only in case of some species of agricultural plants. There are three main types of intercrops:
- winter aftercrops
- stubble aftercrops
- undersown aftercrops
THE PRACTICE OF OUR COMPANY
It is based on the use of stubble intercrop which requires prompt acting after harvesting, taking into account weather changes that are beyond our control. After collecting the main yield it is necessary to promptly plough the stubble to prevent water loss and thus to ensure favorable conditions for growing of sown plants. In our case we are taking about oil radish that precedes potatoes grown the following season. Thanks to these treatments the surface of the field remains covered during winter, which makes it easier to collect water from the precipitation at this time of the year.
This is alternate growing of successive plants on the same field in a manner that takes into account their different requirements, their mutual interaction and the nature of habitat. Using this practice we to strictly abide the basic principles of proper crop rotation:
- while planning the crops to take into account the degree of soil fatigue after the previous crop
- while choosing the plants to follow their usefulness for crop rotation
- to carry out the tests for soil quality, nutrient content with regard to water needs
- to adjust the crops to the size of the fields and to the shape and slope of the terrain.
THE PRACTICE OF OUR COMPANY
On our farm we use the following sequence of crops:
POTATOES - WINTER WHEAT - RAPESEED - WINTER WHEAT
This crop cycle brings us many benefits:
- we keep the necessary interval between growing potatoes on the same field
- potatoes are an ideal forecrop before winter cereals
- the soil being aerated after potato harvest does not require any extra ploughing before sowing the cereals
- rapeseed as and oil plant is an ideal forecrop for winter wheat
- we avoid excessive weed invasion
- we prevent the risk of occurence of diseases and pests
The straw plays an important role in maintaining the organic matter in the soil. It is necessary in the process of reconstruction of the humus, also it is a source of macro- and micronutrients such as: nitrogen, phosphor, potassium, calcium and magnesium. While finely fragmented and properly plowed it will decompose in the soil fairly effectively. However, it will need nitrogen and proper moisture for the growth of bacteria that will decompose it. If not plowed it will be used as mulch. Using the straw as natural fertilizer one has always to take into account the needs of grown plants and the fact that the content of nutrients in the straw from different species of plants may be subject to fluctuation due to the climate conditions, fertilizing and agricultural treatments.
THE PRACTICE OF OUR COMPANY
On our long-term practice the most part of the straw has been crushed and then plowed together with applied nitrogen. The remaining part is completely collected from the field and delivered to the neighboring cow breeder. In return we get the manure that we use as a fertilizer on the fields that have no straw on them.
Wind erosion and water is one of the most important factors that cause soil degradation. In Poland we observe a greater share ow water erosion, due to the specificity of the prevailing climate here.
- plowing along the slopes
- introduction of monocultures
- increasing sizes of fields
- giving up intercrops
- improper time for activities
- converting forests to cultivated land
- excessive grazing
- late sowing of winter crops
- removing trees and hedges
TYPES OF WATER EROSION
- surface erosion (leaching of top layers of soil)
- linear erosion (water runoff forming gullies)
- river erosion (soil particles moved away by a river)
- suffusive erosion (leaching of material by ground water)
- solifluction erosion (land slide of top layer during the snow melt).
EFFECTS OF EROSION
Among most severe changes induced by water erosion is the fact of destruction of the top layer with its deeper layers, displacement and loss of soil particles with mineral components in it, as well as pollution and eutrophication of water reservoirs. Intense surface runoffs are also frequently talked about, but this phenomenon also exists as a result of irregular and significantly limited precipitation and increased evaporation.
WAYS TO PREVENT WATER EROSION
- appropriate choice of crops
- mechanical cultivation perpendicularly to the slopes
- increasing the retention capacity of the soil through appropriate solutions in terms of mechanical cultivation and agronomic treatments
- creating drainage systems
- sowing winter crops
- planning agricultural treatments to times when the soil will not get dry
THE PRACTICE OF OUR COMPANY
On our farm we use the following activities to prevent water erosion:
- we sow slopes with perennial grass
- on 30% of our potato field we create holes between the ridges to stop water flow
- we use intercrops
- we create effective drainage system.
The progressive mechanization of agriculture has brought many benefits to farmers and significantly improved the work of those who have fully implemented it, but on the other hand, a long-term cultivation of soil with heavy machinery and equipment has contributed to a gradual degradation of the soil.
Compacting the soil as a result of agricultural activities by machinery resulted in formation of a layer of impervious soil, lacking appropriate filtering, aerating and permeability. All this happens at the depth of the roots, thus resulting in a reduction of yields. These actions are also reflected in the fall of soil fertility, because they accelerate oxidation of the organic substances contained in the soil. Moreover, the compacted soil makes the work of other machines and equipment more difficult.
PREVENTING THE EFFECTS OF MECHANICAL CULTIVATION:
- avoiding agricultural treatments with machinery in periods of excessive soil moisture
- combining agricultural treatments
- reducing weight of machines and tractors
- proper choices of tires and air pressure in them
- using twin tires or caterpillar drives
- using higher working speeds
- following previous tracks
PRACTIVE IN OUR FARM
We are a farm incorporating progress in each area of our agricultural activities. We are trying to upgrade our set of machines to facilitate and improve our field work, but another goal is to minimize the impact of our direct intervention in the soil.
To do this we do the following:
- we check the pressure in the tires to adjust it to the kind of work at hand (higher pressure for transport, lower for cultivation)
- we use wide tires in machines, thus spreading the load over a larger area of soil which reduces compaction
- we try to combine the treatments to limit the amount of driving over
- we do subsoiling in places that require this kind of treatment, which we know having analyzed the morphology of the soil