WW-07402 Revised 2002
Organic Matter Management main page
Publications to help you get more from your soil
Look back at the list of practices on page 2. Do you have some ideas for organic matter management changes? What would work for you?
What is it worth to change to practices that enhance soil organic matter? Organic matter is one of the most important assets on a farm, yet it is difficult to attach a dollar value to it. Decreased fertilizer bills are measurable, but organic matter management touches on many aspects of the farm system that are not as easy to measure. Here is a checklist of costs and benefits to consider as you think about changing practices to improve soil organic matter.
Have appropriate expectations as you consider changing organic matter management practices. Donít expect rapid increases in total organic matter. Although an increase from two to three percent sounds small, it is a hefty fifty percent increase in organic matter, and will not happen quickly. But measurable increases in total organic matter can happen in the long term. Accept the upper limits of your soil and climate. For example, most sandy soils cannot hold more than two percent organic matter, but that two percent is valuable and important to protect.
As you monitor changes in organic matter, it may be less important to track total organic matter and more important to track evidence of improved active organic matter. Look for better soil structure, less crusting, or less susceptibility to drought. You may also see measurable improvements in pest problems or crop nutrient status. These changes may appear within two to three years of switching to new practices.
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