Land is one of the production functions in agriculture in general because the majority of agricultural activities are on land. In agricultural business, land has the main function of providing nutrients for plants, a place for growing and holding roots, as well as a place for storing water for plants. Soil comes from weathered source rock. The weathering process takes a very long time. The level of soil fertility depends on the age of weathering and the source rock material itself as well as the influence of other factors. In the world of farming, fertile and marginal soils are known.

Fertile soil is land that has a large bearing capacity for plant growth and productivity. Almost without limiting factors. Meanwhile, marginal land has a limiting factor for cultivation so that these factors need to be eliminated or subsidized on the soil for optimal crop production. In other words, the management of soil fertility is an absolute measure that must be taken in maintaining plant productivity.

There is one spectacular breakthrough that has been made in an effort to meet the world’s food needs, which is known as the “green revolution”. This strategy is able to sharply increase world food production and overcome concerns over the food crisis through an intensive input pattern (high input technology), which is characterized by the use of agrochemicals, both artificial fertilizers and pesticides, and the use of superior seeds that are known to have high yields.

Degradation of soil function

However, in recent times there has been exploitation / depletion of nutrients on a high scale, resulting in degradation of soil / land functions.

Degradation of land functions is followed by problems in crop productivity, which are caused by a decrease in the carrying capacity of the soil and the amount of costs that must be incurred, is actually a classic problem.

One of the efforts to increase the production of cultivated plants can be done through intensification activities. The land area has not increased but production has increased. This effort is pursued by optimizing production factors such as adding agro-input to agricultural land through fertilization, good irrigation and controlling pests and plant diseases.

Farm business analysis that calculates the costs incurred shows an increasing trend from year to year, which is sometimes not balanced with production / yield due to incorrect answers to phenomena that occur in the production process.

In certain cases, we have encountered plants that have been fertilized with various types of inorganic fertilizers in an amount above the plant’s needs, but plant growth is not optimal. One of the causes is the impact of using inorganic fertilizers for a certain period of time which causes imbalance in nutrient status and deficiency of other nutrients.

Farmers add nutrients to the soil only inorganic. They began to abandon organic fertilizers because they were less effective and efficient, because of the small and slow nutrient content available to plants. Gradually, due to eroded time, farmers began to abandon the use of organic fertilizers, causing new problems to emerge. One of them is the problem where the soil becomes compact / dense, hard, and lumpy. The chemical reactions that occur when inorganic fertilizers are absorbed by plants have also left residues that are toxic to plants – as a result these residues bind with nutrients so they are not available to plants. Don’t be surprised, when fertilizer is added, plant growth remains stagnant.

So what to do? Add organic fertilizer to the soil. Don’t just rely on inorganic fertilizers. In terms of nutrient supply, organic fertilizers are inferior to inorganic fertilizers, however, there is an additional side, which inorganic fertilizers do not have and cannot be substituted.

In other cases we are often presented with a condition on crop cultivation land, where when it rains, the land is immediately flooded and once the rain subsides, the water recedes without a trace. This is very common around us where rice farming activities in the rainy season still need water supply from a water pump machine just because it has not rained for a week and the condition of the rice fields is dry. This scene is also what is happening around us today. Sad indeed. The question is, where did the rainwater, which was like a flood, just disappeared?

Clouds that experience a condensation process will turn into water droplets and fall to the earth which we call rain. Some rainwater is absorbed by the soil through the infiltration process and some flows above the soil surface which is called run off.

So, in agricultural activities, we need to make more rainwater absorbed by the soil through the infiltration process. What strategies need to be done so that infiltration becomes high? One of them is by increasing the levels of soil organic matter. Soils that are rich in humus or often called soil organic matter in the top soil usually have good soil structure and porosity.

In these pores, there is air which is needed by plants and soil microbes for the respiration process. These microbes break down plant residues into compost / soil organic matter. Organic material is able to bind water more than its mass. Let us examine the following phenomena with a little bit of analogy. For example, we often provide snacks called jelly at home. Jelly is made from a type of plant called seaweed. One sachet of gelatin powder weighs about 6.5 grams. When processed / cooked into food, 1000 ml of water is added. The results are really amazing, right?

6.5 grams of agar powder can bind 1000 ml of water. The answer is right, how do you tie water in the soil to become water available to plants for a long duration? Increase the organic matter in the soil in the form of compost and manure.

Organic matter, besides functioning as a nutrient supplier to the soil, also has a function that other materials cannot replace in order to increase the soil bearing capacity of agricultural enterprises. This is because organic matter is known to have an important role in improving soil properties.

If we do not return to “the use of environmentally friendly fertilizers”, it is not impossible, in the future, many Class I lands that were previously very suitable for agricultural cultivation will turn into marginal lands which require high production costs for cultivation activities which lead to reduced income of farmers due to errors in the management of the sustainable function of land / land. Degradation of land functions occurs unstoppable. Therefore, we all need to care for the sustainability of the function of the land so that the sustainability of agricultural cultivation can be maintained. Let’s be a little wiser in exploiting natural resources, including the carrying capacity of the land, because natural resources are not inherited from our ancestors but loans from our children and grandchildren.

Restoring Soil Fertility with Organic Materials