Concept

Soil organic matter

Summary
Soil organic matter (SOM) is the organic matter component of soil, consisting of plant and animal detritus at various stages of decomposition, cells and tissues of soil microbes, and substances that soil microbes synthesize. SOM provides numerous benefits to the physical and chemical properties of soil and its capacity to provide regulatory ecosystem services. SOM is especially critical for soil functions and quality. The benefits of SOM result from a number of complex, interactive, edaphic factors; a non-exhaustive list of these benefits to soil function includes improvement of soil structure, aggregation, water retention, soil biodiversity, absorption and retention of pollutants, buffering capacity, and the cycling and storage of plant nutrients. SOM increases soil fertility by providing cation exchange sites and being a reserve of plant nutrients, especially nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and sulfur (S), along with micronutrients, which the mineralization of SOM slowly releases. As
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