USDA ARS Online Magazine Vol. 50, No. 9

Glomalin is the new star in the world of soil research, turning entrenched ideas topsy turvy. Before the discovery of Gomalin in 1996, by Scientist, Sara Wright, it was assumed that the humic acid, the organic matter produced by plant decay, was the primary carbon-containing constituent in soil. Now it’s obvious that is not so. Whereas humic acid has about 8% carbon, glomalin has anywhere from 30 to 40%. Glomalin acts as a resinous binder, adhering various constituents together that comprise soil, including silt and sand. Comprised of nearly 10% iron the substance keeps carbon bound up in the soil via units of glycoproteins, or so goes the conjecture at this point. Sustainability advocates find this potential of the soil to be used as a natural off-loading element for emissions interesting and highly promising and are already dedicating research dollars. Some things are known about the substance. It appears to last in the soil for about five decades, it comprises almost 30% of the carbon intrinsic to soil and it seems to be especially abundant in certain tropical soils. A fungi is the only known producer. Glomalin has also been proven to have both strength and stability, making it manageable. In a world where carbon may get a dollar value, a high-glomalin soil could be worth as much alone as full of crops.

Key Takeaways:

  • Silt, sand and clay are all constituents of the organic matter we commonly call dirt, or soil.
  • There is a further organic constituent, permeating the soil and binding together the silt, sand and clay. This is called Glomalin.
  • Glomalin, which protects carbon in the soil, being itself 30 to 40 carbon, was discovered in 1996.

“It is increasingly being included in studies of carbon storage and soil quality.”

Read more: https://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2002/sep/soil

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