Understanding and measuring organic matter in soil
Rogers, Christopher W.
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Soil organic matter (SOM) content is often linked to soil health. Producers are encouraged to increase SOM to improve soil functions, such as water-holding capacity, improvement of soil structure and infiltration, nutrient exchange, nutrient supply from decomposition, and carbon sequestration. While it is commonly included in basic soil tests, increased attention to soil health and biology has encouraged interest in more advanced understanding of SOM. Past concepts of SOM structure, composition, location in the soil, and interaction with microbes, minerals, and chemical compounds have recently been challenged. Likewise, laboratory methods to study SOM have evolved. As new producer-oriented soil tests emerge, those who rely on these tests should understand their potential and limitations. This publication will describe current conceptual models for SOM and emerging tools to monitor changes in SOM structure, composition, and function.