Soil Conditions-Organic Content

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The organic content of soil greatly influences the plant, animal and microorganism populations in that soil. Decomposing organic material provides many necessary nutrients to soil inhabitants. Without fresh additions of organic matter from time to time, the soil becomes deficient in some nutrients and soil populations decrease. The amount of organic material can be determined by ignition. Organic material is made of carbon compounds, which when heated to high temperatures are converted to carbon dioxide and water. In the ignition process, a dry solid sample is heated to a high temperature. The organic matter in the soil is given off as gases. This results in a change in weight which allows for calculation of the organic content of the sample.

Oven-dry the sample to remove water (see soil moisture). Weigh a crucible and lid, evaporating dish and cover, or other covered container. Place approximately 10 grams of soil sample in the container, cover it and weigh the sample, container and cover. Place the container on a metal stand and heat it with a propane torch. Allow the fumes to escape, but not the soil particles. Heat the sample strongly after most of the gases have escaped; continue heating until there are no visible fumes. Cool the container, lid, and sample. Reweigh and calculate the percent of organic material.

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