|K-State Research and Extension Horticulture Newsletter||
Did you know organic matter strongly affects soil properties even though it is found in low percentages? “Building Better Soil for Better Crops” states that most agricultural soil contains between 1% and 6% organic matter and is composed of three parts thought of as the living, the dead, and the very dead. The living (microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria and macroorganisms such as insects and earthworms) portion is about 15% of soils’ total organic matter and strongly influences the dead and very dead portions of organic matter and the overall soil properties. Micro- and macroorganisms help bind soil particles together which helps soil aggregates and improves water infiltration, percolation, soil aeration, and soil structure. The dead portion of organic matter is made up of recently-dead micro- and macroorganisms, crop residues, and dead plant roots. Dead organic matter is easily decomposed by living organisms, cycling some of the nutrients that plants need. The dead portion in organic matter also plays a role in improving soil aggregation. The last portion that makes up organic matter is the very dead portion, also known as humus. I know what you’re thinking, but this humus is not the kind you snack on with pita chips. Humus is a stable source of well-decomposed organic material that is not readily available to plants. “Building Better Soils for Better Crops” states that the average age of humus is over 1,000 years old and stores important nutrients for plants that can be released slowly over time. If you want to learn more about enhancing the organic matter in your own soil, turn in to next week’s blog. To learn more about soil organic matter and biochar as a soil amendment follow this link, https://bit.ly/2MP3K48, to the “Building Better Soils for Better Crops” chapter called Organic Matter: What It Is and Why It's So Important. (Chandler Day)
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Ward Upham runs the Horticulture Response Center in the Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources at Kansas State University. Other contributors include K-State Extension Specialists.