Improve biological properties of soil

Improving soil physical and chemical properties is important for both conventional and organic production, but improving biological properties is particularly important for organic production. Producers describe soil biological health in terms of "earthy smell," "soil crumbliness," and "greasy feel." Soil scientists measure soil biological health in terms of microbial biomass, microbial communities, and rate of organic matter decomposition.

Organic production relies on nutrients released through the decomposition of plant and animal residues. Decomposition is a biological process involving a variety of soil organisms, including beetles and other insects, worms, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, and algae. You can evaluate your soils for healthy biological properties by monitoring the following characteristics.

♦ Plant and animal residues added to

Earthworms improve soil tilth by creating aggregates and forming passageways through the soil. Photo courtesy of USDA ARS.

Earthworms improve soil tilth by creating aggregates and forming passageways through the soil. Photo courtesy of USDA ARS.

Biological Properties Soil

the soil are readily broken down and decomposed so that plant nutrients become available.

  • A good soil structure, provided by stable organic compounds, remains following the decomposition of plant and animal materials.
  • Soil is well-aggregated; that is, it is composed of soft clumps held together with fungal threads and bacterial gel.
  • Legumes form healthy nodules and fix abundant nitrogen, especially in nitrogen-depleted soils.
  • Plants have a relatively high resistance to soil-borne diseases.
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