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Unraveling the Mystery of Soil: Manure’s Contribution

Have you ever wondered why forests can establish and thrive without being fertilized? Or, why grasslands, pastures, or roadside vegetation – including weeds – seem to flourish without the addition of nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium?
 
Researchers that study the small picture of various aspects of soil got together to look at the big picture which resulted in some innovative insights about the role of manure and crop production on soil organic matter, and the beginning of what they envision will be a universal “Theory of Soil.”
 
Exploring the physics, microbiology, and considering the genes of soil microbes, researchers looked at soil pores, no wider than a human hair, using x-ray imaging and round a more porous and interconnected structure in carbon-rich soils, which resulted in better opportunities for the circulation of water, air, and nutrients. Some of their research explored row crop soils compared to grassland soils after an extended fallow period for both soil groups.
 
The carbon-to-nitrogen cycle assumes that soil microbes will utilize nitrogen to break down carbon. In the “healthy soils” – soils with more porous structure – relatively low nitrogen levels resulted in the microbes being unable to utilize the carbon to the same degree. This resulted in the carbon being excreted as a polymer “glue” that, over time, helped create the more interconnected pores and porous soil structure.
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