Farmers advised to protect soil health

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Farmers need to understand climate change and how it affects soils to better manage soil health.
Andy Wetherill, Agro-Business Specialist from the Delaware State University, made this statement when he spoke with OBSERVER media about the recent two-day session on soil health management that was hosted by Delaware State University and the Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development (GARD) center.
The session discussed the issue of soil health management with various farmers and other stakeholders in the industry.
With Antigua and Barbuda experiencing an increased period of drought, it has become difficult for farmers to continue to employ techniques that use a lot of water to maintain soil health.
According to Wetherill, farmers should seek to improve the water holding capacity of their soil through having foliage on top of their soil to help. 
“One of the best thing that farmers could do is to ensure that they have as much bio-mass on their soil” he said, before adding, “whether you have cover cropping or whether you incorporate organic matter into the soil or into the plowing, what you will find is that if you have a lot of bio-mass, it tends to increase the water holding capacity of the soil.”
He also said, “if you do not have a lot of cover crops, the soil tends to lose water quickly through evaporation as well as through leeching. That means the soil is not capable of holding water and there is a pressure to use a lot more water.”
Wetherill said that although the seminar focused on commercial farmers, small home gardeners can also benefit from simple soil health management techniques to protect their gardens by adding manure and compost.
He said that, “for industrial purposes, we generally advocate the use of drip irrigation as it simply uses a lot less water, but for the average gardeners if they put some compost and manure into their soil and if they cover areas [of their gardens] with grass, that tend to actually conserve moisture.”

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