Office Of Organic Matter

The restoration of an impoverished soil to a

productive state usually is a simple matter so far as method is

concerned. It may be a difficult problem for the individual owner on

account of expense or time involved, but he has only a few factors in

his problem. Assuming that there is good drainage, and that the lime

requirement has been met, the most important consideration is organic

matter. A profitable agriculture is dependent upon a high percentage of

humus in the soil. Average yields of crops are low in this country

chiefly because the humus-content has been greatly reduced by bad

farming methods.

Nature uses organic matter in the following ways:

1. To give good physical condition to the soil. The practical

farmer appreciates the importance of this quality in a soil. Clayey

soils are composed of fine particles that adhere to each other.

They are compact, excluding air and failing to absorb the water

that should be held in them. The excess of water finally is lost

by evaporation, and the sticky mass becomes dry and hard. The

incorporation of organic matter with clay or silt changes the

character of such land, breaking up the mass, and giving it the

porous condition so essential to productiveness. Improved physical

condition is likewise given to a sandy soil, the humus binding the

particles together.

2. To make the soil retentive of moisture. Yields of crops are

limited more by lack of a constant and adequate supply of moisture

throughout the growing season than by any other one factor. Decayed

organic matter has great capacity for holding moisture, and in some

measure should supply the water needed during periods of light


3. To serve, directly and indirectly, as a solvent of the inert

plant-food in the soil that is known as the "natural strength" of

the land. Its acids do this work directly, and by its presence it

makes possible the work of the friendly bacteria that are man's

chief allies in maintaining soil fertility.

4. To furnish plant-food directly to growing plants. Even when it

has been produced from the soil supplies alone, there is great gain

because the growing crop must have immediately available supplies.

Many of the plants used in providing humus for the soil are better

foragers for fertility than other plants that follow, sending their

roots deeper into the subsoil or using more inert forms of


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