Soil structure

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Soil structure refers to the arrangement of soil particles into aggregates, or peds. These aggregates vary in size and shape, and can be classified into different types.

  • Crumb structure is characterised by small, granular aggregates that are easily broken apart. This type of structure is often found in well-drained soils that are high in organic matter.
  • Blocky structure is characterised by larger, block-shaped aggregates that are more resistant to breakdown. This type of structure is often found in clayey soils.
  • Platey structure is characterised by thin, plate-like aggregates that are easily separated. This type of structure is often found in sandy soils.

Soil structure is important for a number of reasons. It helps to:

  • Aerate the soil, which allows for better root growth and water infiltration.
  • Hold water and nutrients, making them available to plants.
  • Reduce erosion, by preventing the soil from being washed or blown away.
  • Provide a habitat for soil organisms, which help to break down organic matter and cycle nutrients.

Soil structure can be influenced by a number of factors, including:

  • The type of soil. Clayey soils tend to have better structure than sandy soils.
  • The amount of organic matter. Organic matter helps to bind soil particles together, improving structure.
  • The amount of tillage. Tillage can break down soil structure, so it is important to till lightly or not at all.
  • The climate. Dry climates tend to have poorer structure than wet climates.

There are a number of things that can be done to improve soil structure, including:

  • Adding organic matter. This can be done by adding compost, manure, or other organic materials to the soil.
  • Reducing tillage. Tillage can break down soil structure, so it is important to till lightly or not at all.
  • Cover cropping. Cover crops help to improve soil structure by providing organic matter and binding soil particles together.
  • Planting trees. Trees help to improve soil structure by providing shade and reducing erosion.

Soil structure is an important component of soil health. By understanding the factors that influence soil structure and taking steps to improve it, we can help to ensure that our soils remain healthy and productive for generations to come.

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