Soil Fatigue

Soil fatigue in general describes all general growth constraints of cultivated plants after repeated cultivation on the same piece of land. In particular it characterizes the phenomenon that yields decrease gradually despite fertilization and other soil preparation efforts.

In particular soil fatigue occurs after long lasting cultivation of one crop at the same location. In general soil fatigue is limited to one plant family and appears in vegetable production as well as in horticulture and fruit growing. All other plants thrive whereas the desired plant which formerly grew well on that plot, hardly develops.
The reasons are manifold and not completely understood. Different processes between plants and soil are considered:

  1. Specific deprivation of nutrients (e.g. depletion of special micronutrients)
  2. Accumulation of pests in the soil
  3. Metabolic excretions of roots, which inhibit growth or attract vermin
  4. Decline of soil living species and as a result changes of soil quality
  5. Change of pH-value in soil

In general soil fatigue can be avoided by continuous crop rotation in proper order. Furthermore the regular application of organic fertilizers can antagonize the occurrence of soil fatigue.
In conventional horticulture with intensive soil usage that makes proper continuous crop rotation impossible, the fatigued soil can be either be disposed or reactivated by hot steam.

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