In This Chapter

Soil Organic Matter

Authored by: Jeffrey A. Baldock , Kris Broos

Handbook of Soil Sciences Properties and Processes

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  November  2011

Print ISBN: 9781439803059
eBook ISBN: 9781439803066
Adobe ISBN:


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Research pertaining to the organic fraction of soils can be traced back in excess of 200 years. Achard (1786) isolated a dark amorphous precipitate upon acidification of an alkaline extract from peat. The effect of organic matter on soil N fertility (von Liebig, 1840), studies on the use of animal manures for maintaining soil fertility (Lawes, 1861), and the influence of soil and tree species on the development of humus form (Muller, 1887) all demonstrated the importance of organic matter in soil processes. The advancement of organic chemical methodologies and confirmation of the presence of various chemical structures in soil organic matter (SOM) lead to the development of theories that SOM was composed of a heterogeneous mixture of dominantly colloidal organic substances containing acidic functional groups and N. More recently, the polyphenol theory was proposed in which quinone structures of lignin and microbial origin polymerize in the presence of N-containing groups (amino acids, peptides, and proteins) to produce nitrogenous polymers (Flaig et al., 1975).

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