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Soil physical factor
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SANF- SOIL PHYSICAL FACTORS

Agriculture has been one of the primary occupations in India since centuries. The history of Indian agriculture goes back to the Neolithic Age, gaining more importance during the Indus Valley Civilisation, and finally is among top two farm producers in the world. Agriculture is the largest provider of livelihood in rural India. Over the years, agricultural practices have improved greatly, thanks to the various technological developments.

Agriculture plays a vital role in the Indian economy. This sector provides approximately 52% of the total number of jobs in India, and over 70% of the rural household depends on it. As per 2018, the agricultural sector contributes 17-18% to the total GDP of the country. India is the seventh largest agricultural exporter worldwide and the sixth largest net exporter. In 2016, agriculture and allied sectors like animal husbandry, forestry and fisheries accounted for 15.4% of the GDP. India ranks first in the world with the highest net cropped area followed by the US and China. The agricultural sector has occupied almost 43% of India’s geographical area.

The economic contribution of agriculture to India's GDP is steadily declining with the country's broad-based economic growth. Major problems ranging from lack of support for farmers to shortage of labour, high costs of cultivation, excessive usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides plague the agro-industry in India. Natural calamities like unseasonal rains, drought, floods and pest attacks, like the recent locust attack, destroy a lot of crops which lead to huge losses for the farmers. As a result, the farmers either choose to leave farming and go to cities in search of jobs, or commit suicides.

Keeping the current state of farmers in mind, SANF promotes the idea of integrated farming, intercropping and agroforestry. These practices help the farmers in cultivating short duration crops alongside the Melia Dubia trees, thus promising them profits in less time. SANF also helps in practicing livestock farming along with these crops, thereby, increasing profits.

SOIL PHYSICAL FACTOR

Soil plays the most important role in farming. It is the original source of nutrients required to grow crops. A healthy soil will always yield crops filled with the required essential nutrients. Soil also helps in storing water for the plants and acts as a foundation for plants by supporting their roots and keeping the plant upright for growth. It also maintains adequate aeration for plants, providing oxygen for microbes, insects and plant roots.

The Physical Factors of Soil Include:

  • Colour

Soil colour indicates about the on-going activities that are taking place in the soil and the type of minerals that are present in the soil. For example, the red colour of the soil is due to the abundance of iron oxide under well-drained conditions. Similarly, dark colour is generally due the accumulation of the highly decayed organic matter. Yellow colour is due to hydrated iron oxides and hydroxides; black colour is due to the presence of manganese oxides; mottling and gleying are associated with poor drainage and/or high-water table. Abundant pale-yellow mottles coupled with very low pH are indicative of possible acid sulphate soils. Colours of soil are indicative of the water and drainage conditions in the soil and hence help in determining the suitability of the soil for farming.

  • Texture

Soil texture describes the mineral composition of a soil. Texture can be considered to be a fixed characteristic and provides a useful guide to a soil’s potential. Fine-textured soils such as clays, clay loam, silts and fine sands have good water-holding properties, whereas coarse textured soils have low water-holding capacity but good drainage. Soils with high clay content have good general nutrient retention, whereas nutrients are readily lost from sandy soils, especially those with a high coarse sand fraction. The texture of a soil often determines the amount of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that should be used. The expression ‘heavy’ for clay and ‘light’ for sandy soils is derived from the difference in working properties rather than the actual weight of the soil. The texture of a soil also influences the soil structure and soil cultivations.

Soil texture could be estimated by the following methods:

  1. Feel method: In this method, the soil is moistened with water and rubbed between the thumb and fingers. The way the wet soil “slicks out” gives a good idea of the clay content. The sand particles are gritty, the silt has a floury or talcum - powder falls when dry and is only moderately plastic and sticky when wet. Accuracy of this method depends largely on experience.
  1. Ball and ribbon method: Take a handful of soil and wet it so that it begins to stick together without sticking to the hand. A ball of about 3 cm diameter is made and put down. If it falls apart it is sand. If it sticks together roll the ball into a sausage shape 6-7 cm long. If it does not remain in this form it is loamy sand. If it remains in this shape, continue to roll until it reaches 15-16 cm long. If it does not remain in this form, it is a sandy loam. If it remains in this shape, try to bend the sausage into a half circle and if it doesn't, it is a loam. If it does, bend the sausage to form a full circle and if it doesn't it is a heavy loam. If it does with slight cracks in the sausage, it is light clay. If it does without any cracks, it is clay.
  1. Ball throwing method: The texture of the soil can be inferred by the way a ball of soil acts when it is thrown at a hard surface such as a wall or a tree. Throw a ball of soil to a tree or wall 3 m away. If the soil is good only for splatter shots when either wet or dry, it has a coarse texture (loamy sand). If there is a “shotgun” pattern when dry and it holds its shape against medium range target when wet, it has a moderately coarse texture (sandy loam). If the ball shatters on impact when dry and clings together when moist but does not stick to the target it has a medium texture (loam, sandy clay loam, silty clay loam). If the ball holds its shape for long - range shots when wet and sticks to the target but is fairly easy to remove it has a moderately fine texture (clay loam). If the ball sticks well to the target when wet and becomes a very hard missile when dry, it has a fine texture (clay).
  • Structure

Soil structure is the arrangement of soil particles into small clumps, called peds or aggregates. Soil particles (sand, silt, clay and even organic matter) bind together to form peds. Depending on the composition and on the conditions in which the peds formed (getting wet and drying out, or freezing, foot traffic, farming, etc.), the ped gets a specific shape. They could be granular (like gardening soil), blocky, columnar, platy, massive (like modeling clay) or single-grained (like beach sand). Structure modifies the effect of texture in regard to moisture and air relationships, availability of nutrients, action of microorganisms and root growth.

Structure is defined in terms of grade, class and type of aggregates.

  1. Grade: Grade of structure is the degree of aggregation and expresses the differential between cohesion within aggregates and adhesion between aggregates. These properties vary with the moisture content of the soil and it should be determined when the moisture content is normal - not when unusually dry or unusually wet.
  1. Class: The class describes the average size of individual aggregates in the soil.
  1. Type: It describes their form or shape. The various class divisions are: very fine or very thin, fine or thin, medium, coarse or thick and very coarse or very thick.
  • Consistence

It is the resistance of a soil to deformation or rupture and is determined by the cohesive and adhesive properties of the soil mass. This is a term used to designate the manifestation of the cohesive and adhesive properties of soil at various moisture contents. Consistence also gives an indication of the soil texture.

Consistency is described for three moisture levels:

  1. Wet soil: non sticky, slightly sticky, sticky, very sticky; non plastic, slightly plastic, plastic and very plastic.
  1. Moist soil: loose, very friable, friable, firm, very firm, extremely firm.
  1. Dry soil: loose, soft, slightly hard, hard, very hard, extremely hard.
  • Porosity

Porosity or pore space refers to the volume of soil voids that can be filled by water and/or air. Loose, porous soils have lower bulk densities and greater porosities than tightly packed soils. Porosity varies depending on particle size and aggregation. It is greater in clayey and organic soils than in sandy soils. A large number of small particles in a volume of soil produces a large number of soil pores. Fewer large particles can occupy the same volume of soil so there are fewer pores and less porosity.

  • Bulk Density

Bulk density is defined as the dry weight of soil per unit volume of soil. It considers both the solids and the pore space. Bulk density of the surface soil is lowest in the spring immediately after soils have thawed and before field operations have begun. If soils are wetter than field capacity, bulk density may increase. However, if soils are dry, bulk density is not affected much. Root growth, in general, starts to be restricted when the bulk density reaches 1.55 to 1.6 g/cm3 and is prohibited at about 1.8 g/cm3. Tillage can increase bulk density if it breaks down aggregates and allows soil separates to pack more tightly. Adding organic material decreases bulk density because organic material has a lower bulk density.

  • Soil Permeability

It is the ability of the soil to transmit water and air. An impermeable soil is good for aquaculture as the water loss through seepage or infiltration is low. As the soil layers or horizons vary in their characteristics, the permeability also differs from one layer to another. Pore size, texture, structure and the presence of impervious layers such as clay pan determines the permeability of a soil. Clayey soils with platy structures have very low permeability. Permeability is measured in terms of permeability rate or coefficient of permeability (cm per hour, cm per day, cm per sec.).

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