Nutrient Cycling

Soil microorganisms constitute a large dynamic source and sink of nutrients in all ecosystems and play a major role in plant litter decomposition and nutrient cycling (Smith and Paul, 1990; Collins et al., 1992; Cambardella and Elliott, 1992). Microbes break down complex compounds in organic residue to simpler, smaller compounds, as well as recalcitrant compounds. This recycling into compounds of various complexity provides substrate for other microbes, further sustaining the diversity of soil microbes. Organic matter, in various forms of decay, improves soil physical properties, increases water-holding capacity, increases nutrient availability, and acts as a cementing agent for holding soil particles together. Organic matter can be maintained by incorporation of crop residues, crop rotation, and addition of animal and green manures when possible. Addition of organic matter aids in ensuring a productive soil and stimulates plant growth by providing food for microorganisms.

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