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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Rangeland Soil Quality: Organic Matter (Rangeland Sheet 6)

Authors
item Tugel, Arlene - USDA-NRCS
item Herrick, Jeffrey
item Shaver, P - USDA-NRCS
item Pellant, M - USDI-BLM

Submitted to: Soil Quality Information Sheets
Publication Type: Government Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: May 1, 2001
Publication Date: May 1, 2001
Citation: HERRICK, J.E., TUGEL, A.J., SHAVER, P.L., PELLANT, M. RANGELAND SOIL QUALITY: ORGANIC MATTER. SOIL QUALITY INFORMATION SHEET. 2001. RANGELAND SHEET 6.

Interpretive Summary: Interpretive summary not required for government publications.

Technical Abstract: Soil organic matter is carbon-rich material that includes plant, animal, and microbial residue in various stages of decomposition. Live soil organisms and plant roots are part of the carbon pool in soil but are not considered soil organic matter until they die and begin to decay. Soil organic matter enhances soil functions and environmental quality because it binds soil particles together into stable aggregates, thus improving porosity, infiltration, and root penetration and reducing runoff and erosion; enhances soil fertility and plant productivity by improving the ability of the soil to store and supply nutrients, water, and air; provides habitat and food for soil organisms; sequesters carbon from the atmosphere; reduces mineral crust formation and runoff; and, reduces the negative water quality and environmental effects of pesticides, heavy metals, and other pollutants by actively trapping or transforming them. The amount of organic matter in the soil is a balance between additions of plant and animal materials and losses through decomposition and erosion. The following strategies can help to maintain the optimum content of organic matter in rangeland soils: increase or maintain plant production, promote the growth of species with high root production, promote a mix of species with different rooting depths and patterns, promote the incorporation of above-ground plant material in moist plant communities with large amounts of standing plant material (e.g., areas of tall prairie grasses), protect the soil from erosion by maintaining or increasing, the plant cover and reducing the amount of bare soil, properly manage grazing, fire, and vehicle use and thus promote the desired plant community and protect the soil from erosion.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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