Why Soil Matters

| Our Focus on Agriculture
Soil sustains life.

And, healthy soil is the foundation of the world's food system.

Healthy soils produce healthy crops and pastures, that in turn provide nutrition and daily sustenance for people everywhere.

Maintaining healthy soils however demands understanding, knowledge, care and effort from farmers and growers everywhere, because farming and agriculture, of itself, is neither an exact nor benign practice. Our soils are not endlessly accommodating, benevolent, generous, good-natured and giving – they are a living, dynamic ecosystem that requires understanding and management if they are to survive and keep
performing well.

If soil is not nurtured, or if it is exploited for crop production without goodness and organic matter being restored to it, nutrient cycles become interrupted and soil fertility declines. We risk compromising, or even destroying the balance in the agricultural ecosystem if care and attention to the soil is withheld. By definition alone, farming disturbs the natural soil processes, including that of the important cycle of release and uptake of nutrients.

It is often said that agriculture is the only essential industry on earth. This then is all the more reason to understand the important role that we can all play in underwriting the management and care of our precious soil through modern farming practice and restorative agricultural processes.

At RLF we recognise that in today's modern agricultural industry, crops and pastures obtain nutrients from both natural (i.e. organic matter and naturally occurring minerals) and external sources (fertilisers and land management practices). And we recognise that the ability of these two sources to blend and function harmoniously is pivotal to the success and longevity of soil health and sustainability.

It is this balance that upholds agricultural business and enterprise.
  • This is the basis of our focus on agriculture.
  • This is the basis of our approach to engineering and manufacturing liquid fertiliser products that support sustainable and restorative practices for the soil, that in turn support greater crop health and yield.
Organic Matter and Natural Minerals

Organic matter is the lifeblood of fertile, productive soil. Put simply, without it, food, animal feed, fibre and fuel production is not sustainable.

Organic matter is defined as any living or dead plant or animal material. It includes living plant root systems, plant litter and leaves, animal manures from grazing stock, plant and animal remains at varying stages of decomposition, along with micro-organisms and their excretions. This fascinating and complex natural process (aided by earthworms and other higher organisms) decompose these materials, the end result of which is humus. This process of decomposition releases nutrients, which can then be taken up by growing plant roots. Humus stores plant nutrients, provides a beneficial habitat for soil organisms, holds moisture and improves soil structure.

Organic matter is crucial, and even in small amounts it is very important.

Nutrient exchange between organic matter, water and soil are essential to soil fertility and need to be maintained for sustainable production purposes.
Fertilisers and Land Management Practices

Land use and on-farm practices can also affect soil organic matter.

Farming systems have traditionally mined the soil for nutrients and reduced soil organic matter through repetitive harvesting of crops. The overuse of granular fertilisers (often believing that 'more is better') and inadequate efforts to replenish nutrients and restore soil quality have also contributed. Sadly, this decline will continue until management practices are improved, or until an extended or enforced period of fallow allows a gradual recovery through natural ecological processes. Often, only diversified cropping systems or well-managed mixed crop-livestock systems are able to maintain a balance between the process of nutrient and organic matter supply and removal. And this does not always fit well with the need to produce certain crop types and meet specific crop targets to fulfil the demands of supply and increasing food need.

Farmers and growers can take many actions to maintain, improve and rebuild their soils – especially those soils that have been under cultivation for a long time.

These actions are broadly achieved through the maximisation, retention and recycling of organic matter and plant nutrients, and by minimising the loss of these soil components to leaching, run-off and erosion. Farmers and growers may :
  • grow perennial grasses and pasture in an effort to capitalise on the product of
    quick turnaround plants
  • grow cereal crops that leave significant amounts of organic matter in their dead
    roots and stubbles following harvest
  • grow green manure crops to provide protective cover until they are ploughed
    back into the soil
  • spread animal manures
  • keep cultivation to a minimum and allow the exposed humus added access to
    air and faster decomposition
  • concentrate organic matter by making more effective use of what already exists
None of these things however are 'quick fixes', rather systematic programs and practices that can bring with them difficulties of their own with respect to the incorporation of organic matter.
Rebuilding soil quality and health through appropriate farming practices may take several years, and especially in dry land areas where limited moisture reduces the soil's capacity to recover through biological activity. The challenge therefore is to identify on-farm practices that can intervene to help promote the formation of healthy soil organic matter and microbial activity, whilst still meeting the goals of greater productivity and profitability for farmers and growers.

RLF's specialised products play an important role in these events.

RLF's proven products of Integrated Fertiliser Management, (through seed priming and foliar fertilising as integrated steps into an adjusted local practice routine) are known to :

  • increase early vigour
  • promote stronger plant growth with early tillers that are more viable
  • give tolerance to drought and water logging
  • improve the performance of granular fertiliser
  • generate greater phosphorous activation and improved uptake from the soil
  • improve nitrogen efficiency in the plant
  • promote better resistance to disease
  • provide the plant with greater tolerance to environmental impact or extremes
  • augment the plant's stress handling abilities
  • buffer pesticides and fungicides
  • improve plant metabolism

These outcomes are all achieved when a plant develops a large root mass with healthy rhizosphere that stimulates microbial activity. The plant exudate that results, then enables the conversion of soil based organic matter into inorganic 'plant available' nutrient.

We are confident that with very minimal disruption to current on-farm practices, with minimal, or no effect to the farm budget, 'by thinking outside of the box' with respect to fertiliser routines, and by embracing modern-day fertiliser strategies with their genesis in plant physiology, very real results and benefits will follow, not only for our soils but for the cropping enterprises of our farmer and grower customers.
  • Soil is the basis of our earth's agricultural ecosystems.
  • Soil gives us our food.
  • Soil generates the livelihoods of millions of our customer worldwide.
  • Soil is not an infinite resource.
Soil in Pictures