Applied Soil Ecology

Before you can apply the concepts of soil ecology you need to understand each part of the process in building new healthy soil.  This process includes three major elements: decomposition, mineralization, and soil respiration.  All of these concepts are closely related in the process of building new soils, but they play their own role in the process. Let’s break down each element:

Decomposition

The breakdown of complex materials into simpler and smaller materials. The complex material can be organic or biological in nature, or inorganic - for example paper. Heat, sunlight, water, chemicals, or biological metabolism can cause decomposition.Biological decomposition is performed by the decomposer organisms. These can be bacteria, fungi, collembolan, mites, insects, and earthworms to name a few.

Mineralization

Is the biochemical process by which organic substances are converted to inorganic substances as a result of microbial decomposition.  Net mineralization is the total amount of a substance converted minus the growth demand or the amount of the resulting mineralized inorganic substance immobilize by the organisms during growth. This is a process that is uniquely microbial. 

Respiration

A metabolic process in an individual cell, tissue or organism resulting in the release of chemical energy derived from organic nutrients. Cells release energy that was stored in carbohydrates or fat, use oxygen (aerobic respiration), transfers electrons, generates ATP to drive cell metabolism, and releases water and CO2. Water and CO2 are waste products from the reactions. The key to understanding respiration is that it involves the transfer of electrons. Does anybody remember the Kreb's Cycle? This is really about how organisms convert potential energy in organic substances -such as food- into chemical constituents that are useful to produce energy.  Respiration more specifically involves the movement of electrons removed during oxidation to a terminal acceptor.  Aerobic respiration means the terminal acceptor is oxygen, with anaerobic respiration the acceptor can be sulphate or nitrate.

Why are decomposition, mineralization, and soil respiration important?

If you understand each of the concepts, then you can start to paint a picture of what is actually happening in your soil.  Decomposition, mineralization, and soil respiration are the processes that occur in creating healthy sustainable soil that is rich in nutrients. These nutrients are passed on to the crops and livestock that graze on the land. As a farmer or rancher you have the ability to decrease inputs, increase nutrient content in foods and livestock, increase productivity, and increase profitability by creating a healthy soil environment for all these processes to occur.   

Before you can apply the concepts of soil ecology you need to understand each part of the process in building new healthy soil.  This process includes three major elements: decomposition, mineralization, and soil respiration.  All of these concepts are closely related in the process of building new soils, but they play their own role in the process. Let’s break down each element:

 

Decomposition

The breakdown of complex materials into simpler and smaller materials. 

The complex material can be organic or biological in nature, or inorganic - for example paper.

Heat, sunlight, water, chemicals, or biological metabolism can cause decomposition.

Biological decomposition is performed by the decomposer organisms. These can be bacteria, fungi, collembolan, mites, insects, and earthworms to name a few.

 

Mineralization

Is the biochemical process by which organic substances are converted to inorganic substances as a result of microbial decomposition.  Net mineralization is the total amount of a substance converted minus the growth demand or the amount of the resulting mineralized inorganic substance immobilize by the organisms during growth. This is a process that is uniquely microbial.

 

Respiration

A metabolic process in an individual cell, tissue or organism resulting in the release of chemical energy derived from organic nutrients. Cells release energy that was stored in carbohydrates or fat, use oxygen (aerobic respiration), transfers electrons, generates ATP to drive cell metabolism, and releases water and CO2. Water and CO2 are waste products from the reactions. The key to understanding respiration is that it involves the transfer of electrons. Does anybody remember the Kreb's Cycle? This is really about how organisms convert potential energy in organic substances -such as food- into chemical constituents that are useful to produce energy.  Respiration more specifically involves the movement of electrons removed during oxidation to a terminal acceptor.  Aerobic respiration means the terminal acceptor is oxygen, with anaerobic respiration the acceptor can be sulphate or nitrate.

 

Why are decomposition, mineralization, and soil respiration important?

If you understand what each of the concepts, then you can start to paint a picture of what is actually happening below the ground in your soil.  Decomposition, mineralization, and soil respiration are the processes that occur to create healthy sustainable soil.  If the soil is able to have all these processes occur it will be rich in nutrients and in turn passing those nutrients on to the crops grown and livestock that graze on the land will be full of nutrients too. As a farmer or rancher you have the ability to decrease inputs, increase nutrient content in foods and livestock, increase productivity, and increase profitability by creating a healthy soil environment for all these processes to occur.   

Before you can apply the concepts of soil ecology you need to understand each part of the process in building new healthy soil.  This process includes three major elements: decomposition, mineralization, and soil respiration.  All of these concepts are closely related in the process of building new soils, but they play their own role in the process. Let’s break down each element:

 

Decomposition

The breakdown of complex materials into simpler and smaller materials. 

The complex material can be organic or biological in nature, or inorganic - for example paper.

Heat, sunlight, water, chemicals, or biological metabolism can cause decomposition.

Biological decomposition is performed by the decomposer organisms. These can be bacteria, fungi, collembolan, mites, insects, and earthworms to name a few.

 

Mineralization

Is the biochemical process by which organic substances are converted to inorganic substances as a result of microbial decomposition.  Net mineralization is the total amount of a substance converted minus the growth demand or the amount of the resulting mineralized inorganic substance immobilize by the organisms during growth. This is a process that is uniquely microbial.

 

Respiration

A metabolic process in an individual cell, tissue or organism resulting in the release of chemical energy derived from organic nutrients. Cells release energy that was stored in carbohydrates or fat, use oxygen (aerobic respiration), transfers electrons, generates ATP to drive cell metabolism, and releases water and CO2. Water and CO2 are waste products from the reactions. The key to understanding respiration is that it involves the transfer of electrons. Does anybody remember the Kreb's Cycle? This is really about how organisms convert potential energy in organic substances -such as food- into chemical constituents that are useful to produce energy.  Respiration more specifically involves the movement of electrons removed during oxidation to a terminal acceptor.  Aerobic respiration means the terminal acceptor is oxygen, with anaerobic respiration the acceptor can be sulphate or nitrate.

 

Why are decomposition, mineralization, and soil respiration important?

If you understand what each of the concepts, then you can start to paint a picture of what is actually happening below the ground in your soil.  Decomposition, mineralization, and soil respiration are the processes that occur to create healthy sustainable soil.  If the soil is able to have all these processes occur it will be rich in nutrients and in turn passing those nutrients on to the crops grown and livestock that graze on the land will be full of nutrients too. As a farmer or rancher you have the ability to decrease inputs, increase nutrient content in foods and livestock, increase productivity, and increase profitability by creating a healthy soil environment for all these processes to occur.   

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