What is Organic Matter and Why it is Important

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 11:53 PM

What is soil organic matter?

Soil organic matter is carbon-rich material that includes plant, animal, and microbial residue in various stages of decomposition. Live soil organisms and plant roots are part of the carbon pool in soil but are not considered soil organic matter until they die and begin to decay. The quantity and composition of soil organic matter vary significantly among major ecosystems. Soil in arid, semiarid, and hot, humid regions commonly has less organic matter than soil in other environments. The total content of organic matter ranges from less than 0.5 to more than 8 percent in the surface layer of rangeland soils.

Soil organic matter includes three main components; light fraction, physically protected, and chemically stable. Light fraction is more biologically active than the other two and includes relatively fresh plant fragments. Physically protected organic matter is locked within aggregates of mineral particles, where it is protected from microbial decomposition. Chemically stable organic matter gives soil its dark color and is generally the largest pool of organic matter in soil. Physically protected organic matter may also be chemically stable.
Why is organic matter important?

Soil organic matter enhances soil functions and environmental quality because it:

• binds soil particles together into stable aggregates, thus improving porosity, infiltration, and root penetration and reducing runoff and erosion;
• enhances soil fertility and plant productivity by improving the ability of the soil to store and supply nutrients, water, and air;
• provides habitat and food for soil organisms;
• sequesters carbon from the atmosphere;
• reduces mineral crust formation and runoff; and
• reduces the negative water quality and environmental effects of pesticides, heavy metals, and other pollutants by actively trapping or transforming them.

Attempt to use organic matter in your soil. Try it out. It will help the garden produce a better plant. If you have ever used organic matter feel free to post a comment about your experiencing.


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