Organic Matter

Last updated: August 8, 2018

What Does Organic Matter Mean?

Organic matter is matter that contains a large amount of carbon-based compounds. The largest component of organic matter is dead matter. In soils, dead matter makes up roughly 85% of the organic matter. Organic matter includes dead matter, living microbes, and living parts of plants (e.g., roots).

Organic matter can be exceedingly beneficial for its nutrient value when incorporated into the soil used by plants.


Maximum Yield Explains Organic Matter

One prime example of organic matter is compost.

Organic matter is created through the process of decomposition. For example, when a plant dies, its compounds are broken down by fungi and other organisms in the soil. This process will eventually change the chemical composition of the soil. Decomposition has several different stages, and can take a varied amount of time. However, decomposition will only occur if the conditions are suitable.

Compounds like sugars, starches, and proteins are relatively easy to break down, and do not take as much time. Fungi and bacteria in the soil can break down these compounds making the energy they provide readily available. However, some compounds like cellulose can take much longer to be broken down, on the order of 10 to 1,000 years.


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