4 Reasons Why You Should Increase Soil's Organic Matter

February 5, 2016 04:00 PM
4 Reasons Why You Should Increase Soil's Organic Matter

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Adding nutrients to the soil to boost crops throughout the growing season as the organic matter breaks down.  
  3. Regulating soil ecological functions, which helps improve cation exchange capacity and manage pH balance.
  4. 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. 

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Spell Check

Curlew, IA
2/7/2016 10:01 PM

  Some one should tell Poet this, They are telling the farmers taking off the stalks will make there yields better, and there isn't any Fertilizer in it. But want to sell the biproducts back to the farmers for fertilizer. There getting Schanyed

Ed George
Lincoln, NE
2/19/2016 11:30 PM

  My background includes a Master of Science Agronomy degree from University of Nebraska Lincoln 1977 and back then research showed there was a need for 1.1-1.2 pounds of nitrogen for every one bushel of corn produced. Corn genetics, water conservation with no-tillage practices, and the increased organic matter of soils on my family corn fields from 2.3 in the 1970's has increased to 3.5+. We have reduced nitrogen from 170+ pounds to 120 pounds producing excellent irrigated corn yields. My brother takes annual soil tests, uses irrigation scheduling, no-tillage 115 day hybrids, center pivot irrigation and is saving fuel, labor, nitrogen and other fertilizers making a profit even with low corn profits. Today .8 pounds of nitrogen can produce one bushel of corn. We are finding for every one percent of organic matter equates to 25 pounds of nitrogen and organic matter conserves water and reduces soil erosion on our 2-3% sloping fields.


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