Soil Organic Matter

Zero Sum

Life is zero-sum. Sounds pretty glum, but I don’t think it is. The fact is that living in this universe comes with a set of rules to play by, such as that the same amount of matter and energy as it always has. We now know that energy and mass remain constant in closed systems, but they are constantly changing form. Similarly, earth has the same amount of elemental atoms that it always has. Take carbon. Although carbon can come in many shapes and sizes, the amount of carbon molecules remains the same.


In farming and ranching, the name of the game is to transfer as much energy and as many elemental atoms into living organisms as possible. Take carbon from lifeless carbon dioxide and enter it into the stream of life through photosynthesis. Use soil microbes to extract minerals from lifeless rock where it becomes part of their living bodies. We have enormous amounts of untapped resources at our disposal. We’re playing with one hand tied behind our back. Utilize the power of nature to tap into the FREE resources at your disposal, to increase your pool of life.

Labile vs recalcitrant: We can summarize the concept of two organic matter pools with a business analogy: the labile C largely serves as ready cash flow to pay the workers (feed the soil food web) while humus can be seen as the (carbon) capital of the system (accumulated organic matter), which builds important chemical and physical aspects of the soil. (Brady and Weil, 2017)


Ch 2. What Is Organic Matter and Why Is It So Important