Erosion can be controlled by four main means, that is, improving soil structure, covering soil with plants, covering soil with mulch, and using special structures. Soil structure is related to the soil tilth, or physical condition of a soil, with respect to ease of tillage or workability as shown by the fitness of a soil as a seedbed and the ease of root penetration. Other terms relating to soil structure improvement are soil aggregation and the formation of aggregates. Aggregates form when a cementing substance is present in a soil. The most important cementing substances in soil are soil polysaccharides and soil polyuronides produced as by-products from microorganisms during decomposition of organic matter. Other less important cementing substances in soil include clays, Ca, and Fe. Formation of aggregates results in improved water infiltration with reduction in erosion. Decomposition of organic matter in soils can be shown as an equation: . . . Plant and animal remains + O2 + soil microorganisms → CO2 + H2O + elements + humus + synthates + energy . . . The decomposition process has the following features: . . . 1. Oxygen is required; thus soil aeration is important. Anytime a soil is stirred or mixed by cultivation, spading, plowing, some organic matter decomposition occurs. 2. Readily available decomposable organic material is required for the microbes to work on. Green organic material, such as grass clippings, is an excellent substrate. 3. Many different types of soil microorganisms are involved in this process. Decomposition is more rapid in soils at pH 7 (neutral). 4. A product of organic decomposition is humus. Humus has many desirable features that improve a soil for plant growth. 5. Plant or animal remains are not effective in soil aggregation until they begin to decompose. 6. The more rapid the decomposition, the greater effect of soil aggregation. . . . Microbial synthates consist of polymers called “polysaccharides” and “polyuronides.” A polymer is a long-chain compound made up of single monomer units hooked together acting as a unit. The term “poly” means “many” and “saccharide” means “sugar.”
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