Soil Management: Principles of Soil Management

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Tropical environments provide unique conditions for the high yields of numerous crops, only if the right combinations of management, inputs and other factors influencing outputs per unit area and unit time are utilised (Pretty and Sanders, 1985). Soil management is one of the principal components of the above in the worldwide race between food production and population growth. Hence, it is not new and probably exists in tandem with the commencement of agriculture as recorded in writing dating back to 2500 B.C.

For many years, the main purposes of soil management are to maintain and improve soil fertility and synchronise soil productivity with and without enhancement, with crop requirements for high sustainable growth and yields. Therefore, we create soil conditions which are conducive to crop productivity (Kalpage, 1979) such as

  • good anchorage for crops,
  • ensure sufficient soil volume for rooting activity, and
  • supply adequate essential nutrients and water throughout each and every crop cycle.

These basic principles have served us well as shown by the present agricultural production which is in surplus worldwide although food distribution can be a problem.

Food surpluses have brought along not only low prices and cheap food policies which often favour politics (Johnston, 1995) but also concern for environmental pollution, soil degradation and non-sustainable agriculture. With increasing population and decreasing amount of land per capita, these threats can be real if our soils are ineptly managed. Thus, the present principles of soil management should encompass efforts to prevent such detrimental occurrences rather than a simple shift in paradigm to primarily tackle them. This is because the existence of mankind depends on an adequate supply of food and agricultural venture is a business concern.

We shall show that our present knowledge of plantation tree crops and soils has allow us to manage them in a sustainable manner and to do so in an environmentally acceptable way. This is probably central to our success in continuous cultivation of plantation tree crops on the same land at profitable level for many years.