Mulching is a method of conserving soil moisture. It is a very important intercultural operation for rabi and rainfed crops. It is done by making a covering on the soil surface which actually reduces the evaporation of soil water. Mulches are the materials used for mulching.
- To conserve soil moisture.
- To reduce excess evaporation loss of soil moisture.
- To ensure economic use of irrigation water.
- It keeps the soil moist during the dry season.
- It suppresses weed growth and population.
- Keeps the soil cool during dry and hot season.
- Use of mulches like water hyacinth or straw adds significant amount of organic matter to the soil after decomposition.
- Natural mulching aerates the soil which helps better respiration of plant roots.
- Mulching becomes essential for some crops to prevent contact of product with soil as for example fruits of straw berry plants if come in direct contact with the soil then the fruits will rot. So, mulching becomes essential for strawberry.
Types of mulch
- Natural mulch (water hyacinth, straw, leaves etc.)
- Artificial mulch (polythene, paper etc.)
Types of mulching
- Natural mulching
- Artificial mulching
Natural mulching: It is a method of breaking the surface of dry soil and generally done by stirring the soil surface with the help of some implements like niri, khurpi etc. Weeding in dry condition with the help of niri or khurpi results in natural mulching. When the soil becomes drier, water vapour moves upward towards the soil surface through capillary tubes and escapes into the atmosphere. Natural mulching breaks the soil crust and thereby, opening of capillary tubes gets broken and blocked which results in prevention of upward movement of water vapour. Hence, upward movement of capillary water is restricted and soil moisture is conserved.
Artificial mulching: This includes application of plant leaves, straw, water hyacinth, polythene, sawdust etc. so as to provide a covering on the surface soil which can check the evaporation of soil moisture. Mulch crops may also be grown to conserve soil moisture in bare ground by their thick and multilayered foliage, trailing habit and sometimes, self-seeding nature, for instance cow pea, Alylosia.