Agriculture plays a significant role in supporting Italy’s economy. For this to be the case, they need to have the right type of soil to facilitate the growing of crops and the rearing of animals.
However, there are lots of different types of soil across the whole of Italy. Some of this soil is incredibly rich and some are much poorer.
In this article, we will look at where you can find the richest and the poorest soil in Italy.
What Types Of Soil Does Italy Have?
There are multiple types of soil that are present in different parts of the country. Depending on where you are in the country, the type of soil you are working with will vary greatly.
In the area of the Dolomite mountains in the north of Italy, the soil is very acidic. The texture of the soil in this area is very friable.
This is a great type of soil if you want to be able to grow plants with strong roots, and root vegetables, and need an ideal amount of drainage in the ground without modifying the land.
In Bologna and Tuscany, the soil that you will find is clay loams. This type of soil is almost completely unworkable.
The soil that is created with high levels of clay particles is sticky and difficult to break apart or dig into. The drainage of this soil is also not good which can result in pooling and even cause roots to rot.
Because the soil is sticky and clingy, it contains high levels of minerals and nutrients.
Finally, the soil along the coastlines of the country is dry, calcareous, and crusty. This type of soil is abundant in the mineral calcium.
The low rates of rainfall in these areas are what makes the soil so rich in calcium. This type of soil is often used in vineyards as they directly affect the quality of the wine in a positive way.
What Is Rich Soil?
Soil is much more complex than we often realize. More than just dirt, it is made up of organic matter, minerals, living organisms, gas, and water.
Soil that is classed as rich should contain between 3% – 6% organic matter. The soil tends to have a dark color and crumbly consistency. Rich soil will also be able to hold equal amounts of gas and water.
Many lawns and landscapes are able to flourish using soil that contains between 2% – 3% provided that it is well irrigated. However, the percentage of organic matter should never exceed 6% to be considered a rich soil.
What Is Poor Soil?
Poor soil essentially refers to a soil that has very low fertility and is not particularly suitable for growing crops.
If you were to try and grow crops on land that has poor soil quality, you will find that your plants do not yield many fruits or vegetables. This is because the plants are unable to get the nutrients that they need from the soil.
Other characteristics of poor soil include high levels of salt and are lacking in organic matter in particular. Soil that can be classified as poor is also likely to have unbalanced nutrient levels.
The pH levels of the soil will generally fall outside the optimal range of 6.2 to 6.8. There are some plants that are able to tolerate and flourish in poor-quality soils.
However, the majority of crops that are ideally grown in Italy are unlikely to thrive in such conditions.
Where Is The Richest Soil In Italy?
If you are looking for the richest soil in Italy, you need to head to the Plain region. This part of the country is covered with well-cultivated soil that is perfect for orchards and growing crops.
In this area, it is common to grow wheat, grapes, sugar beets, onions, tomatoes, cherries, plums, and flax.
The soil in this region is naturally rich in nutrients, organic matter, and minerals. This means that very little maintenance is needed in order to grow plentiful crops. If you are looking to grow crops as a source of income, this can significantly reduce the costs of your agricultural endeavor.
If you are looking to grow crops for your own personal consumption, the natural richness of the soil helps to reduce your workload. This makes it easier for you to cultivate your own crops alongside your everyday lifestyle.
Where Is The Poorest Soil In Italy?
The poorest soil in Italy is the clay loams that can be found in Bologna and Tuscany. While it might be easy to assume that calcareous crusts along the coastline would be the poorest soil, they are actually a great option for vineyards used to grow grapes for wine (see more about growing grapes here).
The clay loam soil is extremely difficult to grow crops in without an extensive amount of additional work and preparation being done to the ground.
It is difficult to dig soil that has high levels of clay in it as it is so sticky and dense. It is these characteristics that can cause damage to the machinery that you use to churn your field or plot.
There are a few types of plants that will naturally thrive in clay soil, however, these are often not crops and not plants that commonly grow in Italy.
Through extensive irrigation and mineral treatments, it is possible to make this soil somewhat usable. However, this can be time and cost inefficient.
How To Improve Poor Soil
If you find yourself having to deal with poor soil where you want to be able to grow some crops or other plants, there are a few ways in which you can improve your soil. The type of improvement that needs to be made depends on the type of soil that you are working with.
The best way to begin improving your soil is to test its pH levels. This will help you to know what the soil needs in order to make it more fertile for your plants. If your soil is too acidic, you will need to add something to make it more alkaline.
Commonly this can be done using things such as shells, bone meal, calcium carbonate or dolomite lime, and wood ash.
If you find that your soil is too alkaline, you will need to increase the levels of acidity. This can be done by adding sulfur, iron sulfate, sphagnum peat moss, or acidic fertilizer.
All of these things can help to bring your soil into a more optimal pH range. The range that you are aiming for when you test your soil is between 6.2 and 6.8.
Soil that has a pH level outside of this range is unlikely to yield healthy, bountiful crops.
It is also important to add nutrients to soil that is lacking in them. This can be done by adding fertilizer to your soil or adding compost to the soil and mixing it.
Italy has a broad range of soils spread out across the country. Some of the soil types are predisposed to supporting healthy crops while others are less so. If you find yourself in an area with poor soil in Italy, there are things you can do to improve it.