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Soil Organic Matter (Aggregate Stability)

Hardware cloth and two glass jars are all you need for this demonstration.

photo of hardware cloth, scissors, and ruler -- the supplies needed for experiment

Cut the hardware cloth so that it will support a soil clod at the top of a jar filled with water.

photo of 2 glass jars with soil clods supported by hardware cloth at the top

Choose two soils which you suspect will have different organic matter contents (garden versus lawn, no-till crop field versus conventional tilled crop field). Observe the different stability of the soil material.

photo of 2 soil clods, of differing organic matter, in 2 glass jars filled with water

A soil clod high in organic matter will stick together. The water will be clearer (left). A soil clod low in organic matter will slake rapidly. The water will soon be cloudy (right).

picture of jars holding soil clods that are dispersing -- one is high in organic matter (clearer water) and the other is low in organic matter (cloudy water)