Land evaluation assesses the performance of land based on a more or less systematic analysis of the physical land conditions and on the impact these have on present and alternative land use systems. Land evaluation is a tool or a technique to compare the various use potentials and benefits that can be obtained from the land, taking into consideration the current and expected social and economic contexts. Land evaluation in its simplest form selects the best land for a specific purpose and answers questions like:
- What are the properties of the land and which type of use offers the best sustainable production and/or benefits?
- What is the present land use and what alternative uses are physically possible and socially and economically relevant?
- What will happen if present practices remain unchanged? And how can the present practices be improved?
- What inputs are needed to achieve the desired sustainable production and minimize the adverse effects and risks?
- What are the adverse physical, economical or social effects and risks and what are the benefits of a given land use system or practice?
The evaluation process does not in itself determine the land use or land use changes, but provides data on the basis of which land use decisions and options can be taken. In other words, land evaluation helps individual land owners, regional development agencies to make rational choices between land use alternatives.
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During the last few decades, there has been an increase in the competition for land use for agricultural development, urban development, and other non-agricultural related development needs. This increased competition and increased population have led to an increased demand for land. There is, therefore, an increased need for the proper allocation of these land resources so as to as much as possible meet the needs and objectives of landowners.
Land evaluation and testing is, therefore, the use of data analytical techniques, processes and or procedures to determine the characteristics of a piece of land including the;
- Soil type
- Climatic conditions affecting the soil
- Qualitative and quantitative properties
Land evaluation, in essence, is concerned with the assessment of land performance when it is been planned to be used for specific purposes.
Aims of Land Evaluation and Testing
Land evaluation and testing take into consideration a lot of factors such as the consequences, both beneficial and adverse of the land in question as well as the enterprise to be carried out on the land:
- Type of soil and the best crops to be cultivated on it.
- Determine the level of availability of nutrients and or the need.
- To predict the yield potential of the land.
- Best management practices to carry out on the land.
Soil evaluation and testing are usually carried out as part of a program that consists of four major phases. These stages include:
For soil to be properly tested and evaluated, samples of the soil to be evaluated has to be taken. These samples are meant to be representative of the whole soil that is meant to be tested. Soil samples are taken before and after harvesting of crops and in the case of permanent crops, samples are taken and analyzed every four to five years. Samples can be taken with the aid of a probe or shovel and the procedures are as follows:
- Use the shovel to dig a pit
- Vertically cut the soil along the walls of the pit
- Pull out the shovel in a way that the soil would not slip
- Take samples on different parts of the land so as to get a better representation of the land.
Sample analysis In Land Evaluation
There are various soil analysis and testing methods available. Routine soil tests carried out include the following:
- pH test: this test is used to get the acidity or alkalinity of the soil as certain crops thrive in certain acidic or alkaline level
- Lime test: this is used to determine the lime content of the soil. Lime lowers or increases the acidic level of the soil.
- Nitrate Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium: these tests are used to get the specific nutrient level of the soil
- Organic matter: this test is carried out to determine the organic matter content of the soil.
Interpretation of Data to Farmers
This involves the interpretation of the results of the soil test to farmers in order to provide perspective.
Management Recommendation for soil
At this point in the evaluation, recommendations are provided by the experts as to how to best manage the soil, types of crops to cultivate on the land, etc.
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