In organic systems, soil fertility, crop nutrient status, and groundcover management are closely linked. As specified under the National Organic Program (NOP), “Organic producers must rely upon animal manures, compost (organic matter of animal and/or plant origin that has been decomposed by microorganisms), and cover crops to supply some, if not all, of the required nutrients for healthy crops.”

Naturally derived soil amendments have variable nutrient levels depending upon the sources from which they were derived. Therefore, nutrient availability from composts and cover crops will be specific for the soil type and crop demand in each orchard. Besides supplying nutrients, soil amendments can increase soil organic matter, balance pH levels, increase microbial activity, improve soil structure and tilth, improve drainage in clayey soils, improve water-holding capacity in sandy or gravelly soils, and help to suppress some root diseases.

The soil can be further improved by through tillage and cultivation practices that maintain or improve the physical, chemical, and biological condition of soil, and minimize erosion.

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Intermountain Tree Fruit Production Guide