Mineralisation and Humification
As a result of physical weathering, the rocks are broken down into smaller particles. But this is not the true soil, and plants cannot grow well in the disintegrated rock material alone. The weathered material, however, undergoes further changes, that you would study in this section. You might have noticed that during weathering, mostly physical and chemical factors are involved, whereas for the further development of soil, that is mineralisation and humification, mainly the biological agents are involved.
During the early stages of soil formation, organic matter in the soil is not very high, as the vegetation and the soil fauna are not much developed. In such soils, algae, lichens, mosses, and other small form of plants grow and contribute organic matter through their death and decay. In due course of time, various types of plants, animals and microorganisms colonise such soils. They also contribute organic matter to the soil, in the form of wastes or their dead remains. This organic debris then breaks down into simpler products. This breakdown process, also known as decoinposition is brought about by different kinds of micro organisms such as bacteiia, fungi, and actinomycetes. They break the organic substances into various compounds such as polysaccharides, proteins, fats, lignins, waxes, resins and their derivatives. These compounds are further broken down into simple products such as carbon dioxide, water and minerals. This latter process is called mineralisation. The residual, incompletely decomposed organic matter left after mineralisation is called humus and the process of its formation as humification. Humus is an amorphous, colloidal and dark substance that is the source of energy and nutrients for most soil microorganisms. Humus is important, as it gives the soil a loose texture ensuring better aeration. Being colloidal in nature, it has a great capacity for imbibing and retaining water and nutrients. Humus, greatly improves the soil fertility.