Soil organic matter as catalyst of crop resource capture

Core Ideas:

The positive effect of soil organic matter (SOM) on crop yield has historically been attributed to the ability of SOM to supply crops with nitrogen and water. Here, we posit that to benefit crops SOM does not need to increase the supply of a growth-limiting resource; it only needs to facilitate root access to extant resource stocks. We highlight evidence for the ability of SOM to alleviate negative impacts of inadequate aeration (mainly waterlogging) and compaction on roots. By exploring the proposition that SOM catalyzes resource uptake by permitting root development, future research may constrain crop yield improvements expected from SOM management.

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