How can you increase crop yields, reduce erosion and improve the soil? By putting a layer of mulch on the soil around your plants. Most mulch is made from plant residues left behind after harvesting. Today we are talking about how mulch can benefit you, your crops, and your soil. Advantages of mulch
Consider the advantages of using a mulch. A layer of mulch protects against soil erosion. When water drops hit soil particles the particles break into even smaller pieces. These pieces stick together and form a hard crust when the soil dries. This crust makes it difficult for water to soak into the ground. It is also hard for young plants to push through the soil crust.
A layer of mulch acts as a barrier which prevents rain from hitting the soil directly. This reduces the impact of the water drops on the soil and slows the water down before it hits the soil. This way the water has a chance to soak into the soil gradually. Water that soaks into the soil does not cause erosion because the water does not wash away the soil. On hillsides in Fiji, farmers reduced erosion by spreading palm fronds on the ground around the plants in their gardens.
Mulch also helps to keep moisture in the soil. In dry regions this is especially important. Mulch reflects a lot of the sun that otherwise beats down on the soil. This keeps the soil cooler so there is less evaporation.
More water in the soil means more water for the plants. For example, by using mulch, some Jamaican farmers were able to grow tomatoes and cucumbers where only drought tolerant crops grew before.
A layer of mulch placed between the rows and around the plants reduces weeds. Fewer weeds mean more water and soil nutrients for your crop. It also means that you will spend less time weeding. A final and important advantage of using mulch is that it adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes. More organic matter means that the soil will hold water better. It also adds more nutrients to the soil.
The advantages of mulch are greater than the disadvantages. When you think of the extra work involved in applying mulch, remember that it also saves you time, improves your soil, and increases your yields.
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