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        Organic Matter in Soil, Observational Study

We are quickly becoming aware of the importance of organic matter in the constitution of soil and it's benefits to crops. University of Minnesota description of the importance of organic matter in soil. This observational study was an accidental discovery which quickly and simply illustrates the importance of organic matter in soil. Note the drastic difference in the sorghum color and height on the left vs. the sorghum on the right side in the first row of photos.

Sorghum with high organic matter Sorghum with low organic matter
Sorghum with high organic matter Sorghum with low organic matter

Study parameters: 20 years ago this was field was rotated between corn and beans. It was seeded in clover and orchard grass and baled for hay since. It has not been fertilized in at least 20 years. The strip of sorghum in the photos was drilled this spring as a barrier for road dust from the adjacent gravel road. The purpose was to shield a vegetable crop business from the excessive dust pollution problem. A 4 ft wide strip was tilled the length of the vegetable gardens, sorghum was drilled in a 4 ft wide strip. The entire strip was drilled from the same bag of seed at the same time. The only variable was the soil organic matter percentage. The increased organic matter on the left side was the result of simply mowing this section for the past 4 years and leaving the grass clippings on the ground. The right hand section was continuously baled for hay 3 times per year.

Perimeter trap crops strip Sorghum transition
Soil prepared for perimeter crop strips Sorghum transition of soil at arrow

The last two photos show the sorghum in August. Note there is 18" difference in the height of the sorghum plus the sorghum with organic matter is a much darker healthier green, the leaves are more vibrant and healthy. A PDF copy of last years hay field soil test. The arrow in the photo above shows the striking transition line where the hay field was mowed on a weekly basis for the past 4 years.

This was an accidental study with no quantifiable date, but a picture is worth a thousand words.

Sorghum in August with high organic matter Sorghum in August with low organic matter
Sorghum in August with high organic matter Sorghum in August with low organic matter


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