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Step 2 – What are the properties and capabilities of my soils?

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Back to Soil health checklistmanaging for healthy soil

The inherent properties of your soils (i.e. soil qualities) determine the productivity of your land. It is important to have a good understanding of these as they will determine strengths as well as weaknesses. Achieving soil health is about strengths and protecting the weaknesses.

The inherent properties of your soils include:

  • Soil texture (the percentage of your soil (remember to think about the surface soil and subsoil separately) that is sand, silt or clay)
  • Type of clay
  • Structure (porosity, permeability, colour, water holding capacity, etc)
  • A base level of organic matter
  • The layers of the soil profile thickness and individual properties
Your soil type (i.e. Sodosol, Calcarosol or some other) can be determined from this information.
For most intents and purposes, these are fixed. But, understanding them gives an understanding of behaviour and lot of clues about management, depending on what you put on them, and what you grow in them. Some questions that you may be asking yourself about your soils are:
  • Why do my soils disperse whenever it rains?
  • Why doesn't the water go into the soil after rain or irrigation, but sits on the top?
  • Why can't the seedlings emerge easily?
  • The plant roots are stunted or deformed, why?
  • How do I stop my soil blowing away?
To understand why these things are happening, you need to know what you are working with. Understanding the structure of your soil, throughout the soil profile, is key to knowing how you can manage to improve the health of your soil.

Knowledge of soil types and their individual properties, will give the basis for much of their behaviour. There are various surveys across Victorian within VRO (see
Soil and Land Survey Directory).
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