A typical agricultural soil has 1% to 6% organic matter. It consists of three distinctly different parts which are:
1) living organisms
2) fresh residues
3) well-decomposed residues.
These three parts of soil organic matter have been described as the living, the dead, and the very dead. Seems easy enough, right?
Here is some more in depth on the basics.The "LIVING" part of soil organic matter includes a wide variety of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, insects, earthworms and the roots. The living portion typically represents about 15% of the total soil organic matter. Microorganisms, earthworms, and insects feed on plant residues and manures for energy and nutrition, and in the process, they incorporate and mix organic matter into the mineral soil.
The fresh residues, or “dead” organic matter, consist of recently deceased microorganisms, insects, earthworms, old plant roots, crop residues, and recently added manures. This part of soil organic matter is the active, or easily decomposed, fraction. This active fraction of soil organic matter is the main supply of food for various organisms, microorganisms, insects, and earthworms living in the soil. As organic materials are decomposed by the “living,” they release many of the nutrients needed by plants. Organic chemical compounds produced during the decomposition of fresh residues also help to bind soil particles together and give the soil good structure.
The “very dead,” is called humus. It is stable and complex. The average age of humus in soils is usually more than 1,000 years. The already well-decomposed humus is not a food for organisms, but it’s very small size and chemical properties make it an important part of the soil. Humus holds on to some essential nutrients, storing them for slow release to plants. Humus also can surround certain potentially harmful chemicals and prevent them from causing damage to plants. Good amounts of soil humus can both reduce drainage and compaction problems that occur in some soils. They also improve water retention in sandy soils.
Humics, fulvics and charcoal are part of the very dead. There are many sources of these compounds. They are from wildfires as well as human activity from civilizations and times 1000s of years ago. Because humics are colloidal, they have a large surface area. Some say that 1 ounce of humics can contain as much as 5 acres of surface area equivalent. This is how we say that a smaller amount of humics or fulvics can go a long way into improving your nutrient holding capacity.
We have liquid carbon in our 4-15-12 seed starter and 9-4-9 plant foods. Typical use rates on those two products are 1-2 quarts per acre per application. We have dry carbon in our humic booster product. Recommended levels on that product are 25 lbs. per acre per application. Multiple applications can be made for any of the 3 products over a years’ time. In summary, it takes decades to effectively turn soil residue into soil organic matter. One way to bring some of the benefits to your property in 2020 is to use “the very dead.” These three G.R.O. products are just that.