And the root said: Now I can breath!

You can plow in a grassland. There is a new generation of super plows that build fertile soils increase the performance of pastures on the short term. Promising results of aeration plows show in compacted heavy clay soils.

Plant health is directly related to access of roots to air, water and nutrients, specifically in this order. Lack of air in the soil, means stress if not death. For this reason, roots do not go in to blue areas of the soil (blue color indicates lack of oxygen). Air in the roots is too often forgotten.  When looking at the crop, agronomists and consultants pay more attention to water (irrigation) and nutrients (fertilization) than to  air (aereation). Maybe because the air is for free.CIMG5012

Aereation is approached from two perspectives, each of them with a instrument: The physical  (a plow) and the chemical, (calcium). Analyzing the physical tools, we find many plows in the market, some with specific functions.

  • Moldboard and turning plows have been designed to turn the soil and incorporate crop rests.
  • Rippers have been built to break the hard pan. They do that but they only tackle the symptom as hard pan is the consequence of bad soil management.
  • Mole plows are specific to make underground channels and drain water (and nutrients)

In our agricultural schools we learned that conventional plows aerate, though this effect do not last  long and increase the compaction in the long run. In fact, conventional agricultural systems increase compaction of agricultural soils. The larger the plows, the larger the tractors. The larger the tractors, the larger the loans, the risk, the scale…

The ultimate plow is the not the one that aerate for this season and makes you dependent for the rest of ages.  The ultimate plow is the one that build fertile soils. How? by enhancing the natural process of forming structure: (1) leading roots to to their jog and go deeper and (2) allow gentle aeration but limiting the oxidation of the humus in formation to allow accumulation of organic soil matter.

Bringing air in the soil with minimal soil disturbance is a challenge for farmers. In 1960’s Australian, P.A. Yeomans developed a plow specific to restore grassland. The Yeomans plow  brings air in the root system without disturbing the grassland. This plow has been used for 4 decades years in thousands of hectares, continuously improved and the results in regenerating grassland are just spectacular. It is designed in such a way that light machinery can pull it. (see video)

In Germany, the company Evers developed a similar plow (see photo).  A few weeks Rockin soils visited an innovative Dutch company leading the technique of soil aeration of Dutch pastures in heavy clay soils. The use of this type of plow in Europe is not widespread. First results in the province of Friesland are promising.  and new tests are coming this year.

Rockin soils participates actively in these trials, to exchange experiences from farmers in Europe and outside and get the best of this tool of fertility in our pastures. From Australia we know that we can bring roots down to 60 cm in 3 year time in poor soils. The question is: can we do it here in the rich soils here?