WSU Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center

Organic & Integrated Tree Fruit Production

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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1024. Boyle, M., W. Frankenberger, L. Stolzy. 1989. The influence of organic matter on soil aggregation and water infiltration.. J. Production Agric. 2:290-299.
Describes a conceptual model for soil aggregate formation and stability. Soil organic matter contributes to improvement of soil structure in a number of ways. It enhances microbial action which produces more polysaccharides. Aggregation is the product of such forces as mechanical binding by roots and fungal hyphae, temporary adhesive properties by products of microbial synthesis and decay, and persistent cementing action by resistent humus components. Organic materials that decompose quickly (low C:N) had a rapid but ephemeral effect on soil structure. Plant materials that are more resistant to decomposition are slower but more persistent in changing structure. Soil polysaccharides are more complex and diverse than those derived from plants and microbes. Long-term pastures are ideal for aggregation. Good distribution of OM in soil is achieved from the fine roots of grasses, which can translocate as much as 50% of their photosynthate below ground. Green manuring rarely increases aggregate formation, but may inhibit its destruction. Cereals are similar to perennials in increasing % water stable aggregates formed during vegetative growth, but perennials are superior in maintaining the structure after the growing season. A grass-legume mixture is most effective at maintaining soil aggregation, while cereals and root crops are least effective.

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