Mulching: an effective way to increase soil moisture

The Word Mulches is derived from the German word “molsch” means soft to decay, which are generally refer to the use of crop residues, leaves, straws, as retain on the ground as soil cover known as mulch.

Mulching: an effective way to increase soil moisture“Mulching is the method of covering of soil which make soil more favorable for the growth of the plant and its nourishment”

What are the benefits of mulching?

  • Moisture retain in the soil is the one of the best characteristics of the mulches.
  • Organic mulches participate in the soil organic matter and also contribute in lower the soil temperature.
  • Mulches can be very effectively used where’s the fertility of the soil is poor.
  • Mulches minimize the winter injury and it is effectively used for weed control.
  • Mulches minimize the evaporation losses from soil surface.
  • With the help of mulching it is easy to weed control because it suppresses weed
  • Increase the soil health.

What is mulch made out of?

Different type of materials is used for mulching purposes e.g. kitchen scraps, hay, straw, leaves, grass clippings, shredded bark, sugar bagasse, animal manure, sawdust, shells, whole bark nuggets wool etc.

Types of mulches

Basically, there are two types of mulches

  • Organic Mulches
  • Inorganic Mulches

Organic mulching:

Organic mulches contain the following material e.g. Wood chips, Nuggets, Bark, Straw, Shredded leaves, Grass Clippings, Cocoa chips, Composted animal manure.

  1. Wood Chips, Nuggets, or Bark

Both softwood and hardwood bark, nuggets and chips are the waste product of paper industries and timber that are dried and arged. Application of hard wood give best result in around trees, shrubs, and in perennial beds.

Whereas around the large trees and shrubs softwood should be used for mulching. Softwood is typically made from pine tree it has tendency to be take longer for decomposition then the other organic mulches and acidic in nature.

This Fresh Material is neither dried nor decayed or aged so, this material only used for walkways, it leeches huge amount of nitrogen from soil part. Application of timber and paper industry raw material around the trees and shrubs as a mulch can enhance the soil moisture and reduce the evaporation from the soil.

  1. Straw

Straw are the crop residues, it is the part of previous crop residues of the crops like barley, wheat, oat, rice straw etc. Are used for mulching their crops and orchards as well as vegetables, lawns.

Straw mulches save the grass seeds washing away, prevents from feeding of birds and rodents, it decays and contribute to enhance the soil organic matter, conserve the moisture that is needed by the seed for their better germination.

Inorganic mulching:

  1. Rock or Gravel

Decorative rock mulches can make flower or landscape beds look very clean and appealing. When applied thick enough or used with plastic or fabric, they successfully suppress weeds.

In fact, rocks can absorb and reflect heat from the sun, causing the area to become too hot and dry for many plants. Rock mulch is best used for areas with no plants or drought resistant plants. It is also very heavy to apply and hard to work with and plant in once it has been laid.

2.      Plastic Mulch

Good quality landscape fabric effectively suppresses weeds while also allowing air, water and nutrients to penetrate the soil. It is usually covered with organic or inorganic mulches to make it look more appealing. Cheap landscape fabric can rip easily or breakdown quickly; therefore, it may cost you extra money in replacement or other weed control methods.

3.      Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is usually made from ground, recycled tires. Using recycled materials is always a plus. Rubber mulch can effectively suppress weeds and does help retain soil moisture, in some cases.

It is also available in different colors for an interesting look. Rubber mulch is thought to be good for playgrounds because it is soft and rubbery.

Advantages of Mulches:

  1. Protect from frost
    Mulch protects plants against frost and extreme temperatures in winter. The plants are very sensitive to cold, so when the frost starts a good mulch can prevent the roots from freezing and dying.
  2. Reduces evaporation
    Padding reduces evaporation of water in summer. It retains the humidity of the soil accumulated during the spring rains that help to hydrate the plant. In this way we will not need to water them so much.
  3. Avoid weeds
    Avoid the proliferation of weeds, since it prevents the passage of light.
  4. It serves as fertilizer
    If organic materials are used, they nourish the soil little by little while they decompose.
  5. Protects from erosion
    Protects the soil from erosion by rain and wind while maintaining the soil structure.
  6. Less probability of rotting of aerial fruits

When not being in contact with soil moisture

  1. Roots develop more laterally and superficially

            On land taking advantage of all the space they have in the soil

  1. Roots are more numerous 

By the micro climate generated under the padding

  1. More effectiveness and safety

In the use of fungicides, fertilizers or other products either natural or chemicals, but that is placed on the ground. This is in case of PLASTIC padding

  1. Saving water

Less water evaporation so we don’t need to water more regularly

  1. Provides organic matter

When the material of the mulch is integrated into the soil. In the case of leaf mulch, straw.

Disadvantages of mulching:

1.Cost of mulching

Depend on the method you use can be costly.

2.You need to know the correct use:

Of the padding according to the purpose you want to achieve

3.Attraction of some types of pests

According to the type of padding. The one that attracted the most was dry twigs and straw. The mulching of dry leaves, can facilitate the presence of spiders and mites.

4.Disappearance of beneficial plants

Such as trebol, especially in the case of plastic mulch.

In the case of straw mulch:

  • It cannot be stacked, nor can it be known in the case of drip irrigation, when some of the irrigation outlets do not work
  • In the pumpkins and zucchini, the hot humidity creates under the propitious plastic padding powdery mildew.

In some types of mulch, such as that of straw, when it is fresh, it can germinate its seeds and become weeds.

The mulch of herbs, leaves, or straw can attract rodents. In the case of dry leaf mulch, the wind can cause great loss of the material, when this is not well settled.

Approaches to conserve soil moisture and increase crop yield:

Pakistan is an agricultural country and should have especially good approaches to conserve the water. we already suffering scarcity of water. We should never use water in inefficient way, each and every drop of water have a significance but large amount of water is wasted by un-appropriate use and negligence.

Mulching is used for weed management, Soil and water conserving technique through soil solarization. Deterioration of soil is controlled by mulching which control the runoff by enhancing the infiltration of water and reduce the soil erosion caused by water. Mulches reduce the weed influx by preventing the penetration of light which prevent the growth of the weed seeds.

Evidence shows that mulching proves beneficiary though addition in soil moisture by reducing the evaporation losses, reduction in erosion of soil, maintain the temperature of soil etc. it has been reported that mulches boost up the yield by 50-55% over no mulching under rainfed condition.

Authors: Faryal Ahmed*, M. Shahid Ibni Zamir, Muhammad Sajjad, Suneela yaseen

(Department of Agronomy and Botany University of Agriculture, Faisalabad

By Faryal Ahmed