Organic Matter: Key for sustainable agriculture

The growth in human population has had an important impact on soil and the services and resources it can provide. The consequences of human activities on soil resources resulted in the loss of biodiversity, accelerated erosion, desertification, compaction, nutrient depletion, and loss of soil organic matter (SOM), which is primarily made up of carbon (58%). Considerable losses of soil carbon occurred around the world due to land use and changes in land cover, for instance trough deforestation, crop-grass rotations, peatlands drainage, etc., resulting in a cumulative loss of 133 Gt of carbon.

What are the benefits of Organic Matter?

Healthy soils are crucial for sustainable food production and organic matter plays a vital role in achieving this. Organic matter can be considered one of the most essential components for promoting healthy soils and a stable high amount of it presents many benefits for an agricultural soil. These benefits can be categorised into physical, chemical, and biological.

Physical benefits include enhancing aggregate stability, improving water infiltration and soil aeration (reducing runoff), improving water holding capacity, etc.

Chemical benefits include increasing the soil’s cation exchange capacity (CEC), improving the ability of soil to resist pH change, also known as buffering capacity, accelerating the decomposition of soil minerals over time, making the nutrients in the minerals available for plant uptake, etc.

Biological benefits include providing food for the living organisms in the soil, enhancing soil microbial biodiversity and activity, which can help in the suppression of diseases and pests, enhancing pore space through the actions of soil microorganisms, increasing infiltration, and reducing runoff.

How to measure the effect of regenerative farming practices on soil organic matter?

Considering all the benefits organic matter has on soil health and crop production, increasing organic matter is an important management practice to address by the producer to improve a farm’s profitability and sustainability. As SOM is key in sustaining food production and the total global food demand is expected to increase by 35% to 56% by 2050, it is essential that we learn how to practice a more "nature-inclusive" agriculture. The type of farming will determine if the soil stores or emits carbon. Regenerative agriculture, for instance, is an integrated approach that focuses (among other things) on minimizing soil disturbance, enhancing biodiversity, use of cover crops, incorporation of crop rotation, and storing carbon in the form of SOM to help mitigate the effects of climate change. These practices have the potential to increase crop yields as well as lead to a more efficient use of the farmers’ resources in the long term, while also mitigating climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere. To understand the potential of the soil to store carbon as a successful climate mitigation approach, it is indispensable to estimate and monitor soil organic carbon accurately. This requires consistent sampling over time, which enables the creation of long-term records for each field.

With the AgroCares’ soil testing solutions, the farmer or advisor can monitor macro nutrients, including SOM. In less than 10 minutes, they not only receive a soil test but also a recommendation on how to increase organic matter in the soil. Similarly, carbon stocks in t/ha can also be measured and monitored for the entire farm.

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