Before baling up last year’s corn stalks, you might want to consider what beneficial organic matter you could be removing from your fields. Soil organic matter is composed of animal, plant and microbes in various stages of decomposition, which can come from previous crop's residues, manure or cover crops, according to Rafiq Islam, Ohio State University soil scientist.
Soil organic matter (OM) plays a key role in soil health by:
- Providing food, energy and enzymes for soil microbes. Microbes are essential to help break down carbon, which then allows plants to take up nutrients more affectively.
- Adding nutrients to the soil to boost crops throughout the growing season as the organic matter breaks down.
- Regulating soil ecological functions, which helps improve cation exchange capacity and manage pH balance.
- Improving your soil’s moisture retention and structure. This will keep water in the soil in dry years and help with drainage in wet.
It all adds up to better soil health, which leads to stronger plants and higher yields. Wondering what you can do to boost your soil's organic matter? Here's how to calculate how much OM is in your fields, which will help you decide what you might need to do next.