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On this page: The Purposes of Cultivation



Cultivation of your land is equally important whether you are growing a crop (such as vines, olives or almonds), or simply leaving your land bare.


If you have trees, vines or any other plants on your land, it is essential to their health that the ground is regularly cultivated. The process of disturbing the soil not only buries weeds (adding valuable organic matter to the soil), but also breaks up compacted earth, allowing air and water to reach plant roots and the soils natural bacteria.


If you are not intending to grow a crop, then then the process of cultivation ensures that weed populations do not establish, therefore greatly reducing the risk of fire in the summer months. Also you will find a routinely cultivated field much tidier and pleasing to the eye than one which has been neglected for several months.






1. Weed Control


For agriculture in general, the most useful purpose of cultivation is to control weeds. Weeds compete with growing crops for both moisture and nutrients. This competition can be very severe and harmful to the intended crop if not controlled. Cultivation has long been the most common method for eliminating or controlling weeds, and remains today a preferred method if the use of costly chemical sprays is to be avoided. Weed control is the main factor guiding the timing and style of cultivation - many of the other purposes of cultivation will be accomplished during the weed control operations.



2. Water Distribution


In an arid region like ours, another important purpose is to prepare earth structures for the distribution and absorption of water. Surface structures such as ridges and furrows are useful to guide water to where it is needed, although if water is applied by artificial irrigation, such structures are not as important. The loosening and stirring of the soil also breaks up naturally occurring “pans” – areas of compacted soil below the surface which is impenetrable by water. This allows all water (whether occurring naturally or via irrigation) to reach plant roots and be retained in the sub-soils.



3. Plant Establishment & Growth


Seeds will not germinate readily if thrown on top of bare ground; the soil usually requires some preparation. Seed will be used most efficiently if planted in a soil with open structure of small granules and planted to a depth at which the soil remains moist. Similarly loose, open soil structures are preferred for established plants, allowing air and water to reach plant roots and beneficial soil micro-organisms.



4. Effective Use of Fertilizers and Manures


Some fertilizer materials are used more efficiently if drilled into or mixed with the soil. This is particularly true of phosphates used to promote the growth of trees and other crops. Phosphates may be "fixed" in the surface soil and may be less readily available if applied to the surface than if mixed with the soil. Ammonia is also sometimes applied to soils as a source of nitrogen. In dry climates, the soil must be loosened to a depth of several inches for this operation to be effective.



5. Mixing of Soil


While some soil-forming materials are moved from place to place by water or by wind and there is limited soil stirring by organisms such as rodents, worms and insects, nature has provided no method for extensive stirring or cultivating of soils during their development. The mechanical stirring of soil benefits the growth of beneficial micro-organisms within the soil - over time this can improve it's ability to establish and grow a crop. In addition regular cutivation will help to bury any stone and bring soil to the surface.