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Rights: University of Waikato
Published 30 July 2013

Professor Louis Schipper from the University of Waikato talks about the importance of soil structure, soil chemistry and soil organic matter.

Points of interest:

  • What are two of the roles of soil structure?
  • What are two of the roles of soil organic matter?



There are several different properties that are really important to soil. The first probably is the physical structure of that soil. It’s got to have pores in it that allow water to be able to transport away from the soil surface. Otherwise you just have rain running over the surface, and you’d end up with erosion. It’s got to be able to hold onto water for plants to be able to use that water. Also, structure is important for allowing air to move in and out of soil. The microbes and the insects and the plant roots also need oxygen.

Soils also need to be able to hold onto nutrients. If they don’t hold onto nutrients like nitrogen or phosphorous, it will leach away, and the plants won’t be able to access those nutrients.

One of the other properties in soil that’s important is the amount of soil organic matter that you have. And that organic matter helps with soil structure – it helps hold on to nutrients and it also supplies the base of the food web in soil. So there are many microorganisms and invertebrates living in soil that are dependent on organic matter in that soil, so you need a healthy amount of organic matter in soil for it to have a productive state.

Professor Louis Schipper, University of Waikato
NRCS NSSC, United States Dept. of Agriculture
Ross Grey
Associate Professor Buz Kloot
Dr Kristine A. Nichols