Organic matter: what it is, characteristics, classification and examples

organic material

organic matter

You have probably heard in the field of agriculture and gardening that many of the plants need a lot of organic material to be able to grow in good conditions. Organic matter is that which is chemically composed around carbon and its fundamental atoms. It constitutes the first layer of the soil and is composed of remains of decomposing living beings and residues that provide the necessary nutrients to the plants to be able to live.

In this article we are going to tell you about the characteristics, types and importance of organic matter.

Key features

soil nutrients

soil nutrients

It is the first layer that makes up the soil and depending on the amount of organic matter it has, a soil can be richer or less. In terms of fertility, we are talking about the amount of organic matter according to the ability to develop plants that are more demanding in terms of nutrients. The most fertile soils are those that have a greater presence of organic matter and can make certain plants that need a large amount of nutrients develop.

Fresh organic matter It is composed of plant remains and household waste. Soil organic matter is the product of various life cycles of organisms, whose bodies release waste and substances. These substances form a variety of substances when decomposed, which are rich in nutrients and very useful for autotrophic organisms such as plants.

We generally see that organic matter is made up of different molecules:

  • Proteins: proteins are linear chains of amino acids that join together to form macromolecules. All these macromolecules have physicochemical properties by which the plant can perform its vital functions.
  • Lipids: The various types of fats are created to help perform metabolic functions. They are accumulations of carbohydrates that make up hydrophobic and dense molecules.
  • Sugars: only in carbohydrates or saccharides that generate fairly basic geological forms of energy.

Types of organic matter

soil characteristics

soil characteristics

If we classify organic matter based on its constitution, we can see that they form different types of soils. We are going to analyze what are the different types that exist:

  • Fresh organic matter: It is composed of the remains of plants and domestic waste which are recent. Being recent, they still have a high sugar content and a high amount of energy.
  • Partially decomposed organic matter: the state of decomposition occurs as time passes and the remains continue to be exposed to environmental agents. This partially decomposed matter has an important organic and nutrient content for the soil, making it possible to form a fertilizer or a good quality compost.
  • Decomposed organic matter: It is one that has been decomposed for a long time and does not have too many nutrients but it helps to support the absorption of water in the soils.

Each type fulfills an important function in the soil. Next, we are going to analyze which ones the importance it has.

Importance of organic matter

organic matter in the soil

organic matter in the soil

The presence of decomposing organic matter in the soil has been found to be very important. Not only can it be used as a fertilizer to provide usable nutrients and materials for plants, fungi, or other plant organisms, but it can also change the physical and chemical properties of the soil. The soil allows it to retain more water and prevents its degradation by acting as a pH buffer and prevents severe temperature fluctuations in it.

On the other hand, it is necessary for heterotrophic organisms, such as humans themselves, to be able to maintain our metabolism, because we cannot synthesize the substances we need like plants. Therefore, all Heterotrophic organisms feed on organic matter from other animals and plants. It can be said that organic matter is the basis of the nutrients in the food chain since primary producers use it as a fertilizer to obtain the nutrients.


When we talk about organic matter, we realize that we think of the typical wet earth loaded with humidity and remains of organisms. However, there are different examples of this. These are the examples of organic compounds:

  • The silk that the caterpillars of certain butterflies create by weaving protein substances.
  • Benzene and other hydrocarbons such as oil, its derivatives and natural gas, among others.
  • Structural sugars as is cellulose in plants. We know that cellulose is used as a material to be able to form starches or to form fruits during the reproductive season.
  • The tree wood It is also an organic compound formed by a kind of resin that is generated throughout the life of the plant. The wood is made up of various sheets of cellulose with lignin.
  • The animal bones Dead and human beings can also become part of the soil nutrients as organic compounds.
  • Defecations of animals whether they are carnivores, herbivores or omnivores. These times they end up decomposing and providing nutrients to the soil.

Inorganic matter and differences

Inorganic matter is not the product of life’s own chemical reaction, but obeys the logic of ionic attraction and electromagnetic gravity. This does not mean that they are completely unknown to living beings, because many are present in their bodies or are used as food substrates.

Organic matter is formed by processes related to biology, while inorganic matter is formed by electromagnetic processes, called ionic bonds or metallic bonds.

Let’s see what are the main differences between organic matter and inorganic matter:

  • The first is generated by living beings, while the second is formed by natural reactions in which no living being intervenes.
  • Inorganic matter has various elements of different kinds, while organic matter is only chemically composed around carbon atoms.
  • The inorganic depends on the electromagnetic or ionic fraction for its decomposition, while organic is totally biodegradable. This means that it can be decomposed by the action of living beings or biological mechanisms by simple deterioration, reducing all its basic elements.
  • Inorganic is non-combustible and non-volatile, while the main fuels currently known have an organic origin, such as oil.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about organic matter and its characteristics.

Organic matter: what it is, characteristics, classification and examples

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