Organic matter content in soil is necessary to grow healthy food because organic matter is where minerals and nutrients exist. Healthy plants depend on healthy soil and healthy soil depends on organic matter. The easiest way to add organic matter to soil is through compost. There are several reasons why organic matter is important in soil.
Soil is made up of minerals, air, water and organic matter. Organic matter consists of decaying plant and animal material. It is called humus when fully decomposed. Organic matter in soil is the source of the nutrients that feed plants. It releases nutrients slowly to the growing root systems. Slow release of nutrients to plants helps create strong, steady growth patterns.
Organic matter in soil is rich in microorganisms and it is the microorganisms that create nutrients. Nutrients in the soil then become available as nutrients in food. According to the University of California at Davis, tomatoes grown in soil rich in organic matter have nearly double the amount of flavinoids. Flavinoids are a part of the process that makes antioxidants, which are a cancer preventative.
Increased Carbon Content
Organic matter in soil increases its carbon content, which comes from materials such as dry leaves and decayed paper. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service states that carbon in soil "increases the likelihood of hearty plants." Vegetables grown in soil with high organic matter content are more disease resistant. Certain types of fungi found in organic matter kill harmful parasitic worms.
Organic matter content in soil improves its structure, which is its ability to hold water and sustain plant life.The organic matter content helps particles bind together to create structure. Soil with poor structure, such as sand, cannot hold water. Soil with minimal organic content, such as clay, cannot sustain plant life because roots cannot spread. Organic matter is most easily added to home garden soil by the regular and frequent application of compost.
"Soil organic matter can be compared to a bank account for plant nutrients," according to the USDA's report on sustainable soil management. Sustainable soil ensures ongoing soil fertility to continue growing healthy food. Organic matter that is put into the soil creates a reserve of nutrients that are released to plants in response to the plant's needs.