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Poor or damaged soils impact crop growth and yield, but soil conditioners can change that.

Soil can be considered as an ecosystem in itself, with a wide range of organisms and agents that can use it and that can be used to change and improve it. Whether the relationship between soil and these agents is chemical, structural, physical or microbial in nature, the interactions are complex and important in determining the properties of the soil and its interaction with fauna and flora.

Soil Conditioners

Products, known as soil conditioners, can be added to soil to improve its physical qualities, for example, by providing nutrition for plants. Soil conditioners can be used to improve poor soils, or to rebuild soils that have been damaged by improper management and/or adverse climate conditions.

Over the years, a wide range of materials have been described as soil conditioners due to their ability to improve soil quality. These include substances such as bone meal, peat, compost, manure, coir and straw. Additionally, many soil conditioners are available in the form of "certified organic products". The addition of organic material can improve the water retention of sandy soils, thus stimulating microbial activity, and indirectly increasing nutrient levels to improve plant growth.

Reduced organic carbon content of soil leads to a reduction in the food available for living organisms and therefore lower biodiversity. This can lead to increased use of chemical fertilisers and ultimately to environmental deterioration, due to the contamination of underground water layers and reduced carbon content.

Overuse of synthetic fertilisers (nitrates, phosphates, chlorides, etc.) can have a negative impact on soil condition. They can have a toxic effect on earthworms, insects, fungi and bacteria and cause excessive growth of aquatic plants.

Some conditioners, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, ammonium and sodium are used to increase the cation exchange capacity of soil. This helps plants to grow by providing the required nutrition. Minerals may also be used to adjust the pH of either acidic or alkaline soils, thus increasing their suitability for certain crops.

Across the agriculture industry, soil conditioners can be applied to land to:

  • Cultivate arid areas
  • Save on water use and/or improve irrigation
  • Improve crop establishment
  • Achieve sustainable cultivation
  • Reduce the use of chemical fertilisers
  • Stabilise and renew soil nutrients
  • Regenerate depleted soils
  • Increase productivity
  • Stimulate root growth
  • Increase biodiversity
  • Reduce stress in rapidly changing conditions
  • Protect against pathogens
  • Improve drainage

SGS Services

From preliminary and detailed gap analysis of existing data and further requirements, SGS’s agriculture experts can help clients to define their soil conditioner strategy, plan treatment and monitor progress. Our data analysis includes methodology, efficacy, physico-chemical properties, e-fate, ecotoxicology, fate and behaviour, residues, and toxicology.

To ensure operations meet national and international requirements, we can conduct risk assessments for the environment and for human health, as well as efficacy and crop safety trials. With a complete data set we can then support clients through dossier preparation, as well as the progress of registration and certification.

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For further information, please contact:

Dr. Sue Mcmillan-Staff BSC., PHD., C. CHEM. M.R.S.C
Contract Field Research Manager
SGS United Kingdom Limited
The Meadows, Alkerton Oaks Business Park Upton Estate,
Stratford Road Banbury OX15 6EP
t: +44 1295 671933