Organic matter

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Organic matter (or organic material) is matter that has come from a recently living organism.

It is capable of decay, or the product of decay; or is composed of organic compounds. There is not one definition of organic matter only. It varies upon the subject it is being used for.

Soil organic matter[change | change source]

Soil is composed of minerals and organic matter, as well as living organisms. The organic matter in soil comes from plants and animals. In a forest, for example, leaf litter and woody material falls to the forest floor. This is sometimes called organic material.[1] When it decays to the point it is no longer recognizable it is called soil organic matter. When the organic matter has broken down into a stable humic substances that resist further decomposition it is called humus. [2]

Vitalism[change | change source]

The equation of "organic" with living organisms comes from the now-abandoned idea of vitalism that attributed a special force to life that alone could create organic substances. This idea was first questioned after the abiotic synthesis of urea by Friedrich Wöhler in 1828.

Footnotes[change | change source]

  1. http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/organics/index.htm
  2. Thus soil organic matter comprises all of the organic matter in the soil exclusive of the undecayed material (http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/glossary.html).

Other pages[change | change source]