When organic material is applied to the soil, the decomposing microbes multiply quickly. For growth, they need nutrients, especially nitrogen, like plants do. If the applied plant material does not contain sufficient nitrogen, the micro-organisms will take it from the soil. This process is called nitrogen immobilisation, as the nitrogen is fixed temporarily in the microbes and released only after some time. During this time, the microbes compete with the plants for nitrogen and the crop may suffer from malnutrition.