Organic matter serves as a reservoir of nutrients and water in the soil which aids in the water flow in the soil, surface crusting and reducing soil compaction. Most of the time we are all confused between organic matter and organic materials. We often tend to perceive anything organic such as leaves, newspapers or anything which contains carbon atoms as organic matter. But in actually fact, both of them are vastly different.
Organic material by definition is actually anything that was alive and now in or on the soil. For it to become organic matter, it must be decomposed into humus. What then is humus? Humus is an organic material which has been converted by microorganisms present in the soil to resist state of decomposition. Unlike organic material, organic matter are stable in soil and do not decompose further. It is normally resistant towards further decomposition. The rate only increases if the surrounding environment is ideal for decomposition.
In gardening, not only are fertilizers essential for plant growth, but organic matter does play a huge role too with multiple benefits. Organic matter contains an acid that enables plant roots to be more permeable towards water, hence improving uptake of water and nutrients. It also aids minerals to dissolve more easily within the soil which can then be used by the plant. Structurally wise, it reduces soil crusting, especially in fine-textured soils, and encourages root development of the plant. In the ecology terms, it also prevents soil erosion and prevents soil compaction, both of which can cause damage to plant’s roots, and hence the other plant ultimately. Organic matter also serves as food for soil organisms such as bacteria and worms like composting worms. It is simple to produce your own organic matter but remember, both organic matter and materials are two different products all together.