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Crops need air, sun, water, and soil to thrive. When it comes to soil, however, quality usually trumps quantity. Rich and fertile land boasts a healthy mixture of phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen, along with water, air, and soil microorganisms that break down organic matter. Soil is an incredibly complex substance. It has physical and chemical properties that allow it to sustain living organisms—not just plant roots and earthworms, but hundreds of thousands of different insects, wormlike creatures and microorganisms. When these organisms are in balance, soil cycles nutrients efficiently, stores water and drains the excess, and maintains an environment in which plants can thrive. Plant nutrition is only one of more than fifty factors which directly affect both crop yield and quality. The availability of required nutrients, together with the degree of interaction between these nutrients and the soil, play a vital role in crop development. A deficiency in any one required nutrient or, a soil condition that limits or prevents a metabolic function from occurring can limit plant growth. A soil nutrient management plan should include analyzing soil deficiencies to determine the type, application rate, application interval, and the placement of any nutrients required to optimize short and long term productivity. Soil nutrient management involves not only the physical properties and mineral structure of the soil, but also the balance between soil pathogens and beneficial microbes. Beneficial microbes increase nutrient availability, reduce disease, reduce nutrient losses, and help degrade toxic compounds.

Soil Fertility Improvement and Integrated Nutrient Management – A Global Perspective provides a basic introduction to the biological, chemical, and physical properties affecting soil fertility and plant nutrition. The advances in the field of soil fertility are described in this book along with information regarding nutrient management.