Why Is Organic Matter Important to Row Crop Farms and Pastures?
All living organisms, including plants, animals and microorganisms, contain organic components. After a living organism dies, it decomposes and its organic components break down through a natural reactive process. The resulting organic matter moves through the environment by the natural means of water absorption and flow, animal consumption and excretion, sedimentation, and other processes. Organic matter acts much like a fertilizer, but it does not necessarily provide the required nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth and fruiting. Organic matter causes nutrients to stay near the top of the soil, and it enriches the soil because minerals and metal ions bind to it. Organic matter substantially improves the cation exchange capacity of the soil, which is a measure of soil fertility and a soil’s nutrient retention capacity. Most southern row crop farms and pastures have an organic matter content and cation exchange capacity substantially less than optimal, which can be remedied only by the addition of organic matter.