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Environment

Dirt, soil, and organic matter

July 4, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 27

The cover story “Regenerating Degraded Dirt” (C&EN, March 7, page 40) was very interesting and informative. In some cases, the article may have been about dirt, but in large part, it was about soil.

The one thing farmers all over the world can do is increase the organic matter going into their soil. The soil, agriculture, food production, and population of Earth all benefit from this addition no matter the form of the organic matter.

Plant and animal matter and mixtures of the two, both composted and uncomposted, can be added to soil whether or not a farmer’s farm becomes organic. Cover and green manure crops, when incorporated into soil without harvesting, also increase soil’s organic matter content. The exception is that involving human waste and uncomposted organic animal matter may lead to the spread of disease and is not recommended.

This is true organic matter, but it is also dream organic matter. In reality, working with undecomposed organic matter increases all agricultural, farm, food, and gardening workloads, primarily in getting and keeping organic matter in and on the field. Properly composted organic matter, with or without worms, overcomes many of these obstacles.

Initial benefits from increased organic matter in soil come from increases in ­water-holding capacity, cation-exchange capacity, and soil looseness, all of which will lead to increased agricultural production.

Al Conklin
Wilmington, Ohio

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Comments
Philip Rakita (July 8, 2016 7:11 AM)
Al Conklin is an internationally recognized expert in soil chemistry. He is a Full Professor at Wilmington College (40 years) teaching in the Chemistry and Agriculture departments, specifically Organic Chemistry, Chemistry and the Environment, Foundations of Soil Science, Advanced Soils and Soil Fertility, and Organic Farming. Most recently he published the second edition of "Introduction to Soil Chemistry". He continues his international involvement with agriculture and soil chemistry in his role as Founder and Director of the International Undergraduate Research Symposium (IURS).

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