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Introduction to Soils

The most important natural resource around the earth!

What is soil?
Defined as: Mineral & Organic material that supports plant growth on the earths surface Mixture of particles of rock, organic materials, living forms, air, water

What soil resources help in supporting life?


Oxygen: needed for adequate root growth Temperature: soil absorbs heat from the sun loses heat to atmosphere (plant growth and seed germination) Water: plant growth Carbon: organic matter Nutrients: minerals

Briefly explain the process of soil origin.


All soil originated as rocks. Powerful forces act on the rocks to break them down into smaller fragments. Water penetrates the cracks in the rock and when it freezes the water acts as a wedge to split the rock.

Soil origin cont.


Rivers, glaciers, landslides and avalanches cause rock particles to grind against each other wearing them down. Chemicals mix with water to further break the rocks down. Plants began to grow in the weathered rocks and as they die, they add organic matter to the soil which attracts soil microorganisms.
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Soil origin cont.


When this happens, the soil is capable of supporting plant life and can then truly be called soil.

What does the term weathering mean?


Weathering is the processes that occur to break down rock into soil. This process includes water freezing, thawing, landslides, wind and chemical action.

What is parent material?


Rock material that has undergone some weathering and change, but not enough to be called true soil, as it is not capable of sustaining plant life.

List the 5 factors responsible for soil development.


1. Parent material 2. Climate 3. Variation in the earths surface (topography) 4. Plant & animal life 5. Time

Components of Soil
Mineral Matter: about 45% of soil (partially decomposed rock material (sand, silt, clay) Organic Matter: about 5% of soil (partially decomposed plant & animal matter) Air: about 25% of soil (constant fluctuation as soil is dry and wet) Water: about 25% of soil

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Water in the soil


Infiltration: process of water soaking into the soil Percolation: water movement downward Permeable: quality soil allows for both infiltration and percolation then it is said to be permeable

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Living Organisms in the soil


Forms of life:
Earthworms Insects Bacteria Fungi Other organisms

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Bacteria & Fungi Jobs


Break down organic matter and release nutrients

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Earthworm & other soil organism jobs


Improve soil tilth
Ease at which soil can be worked Create openings in soil as they tunnel Enhances drainage and improves air exchange

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Plants use soil


A. Anchorage roots B. Water absorbed through roots C. Oxygen all living organisms need oxygen
-plants release oxygen during photosynthesis and consume oxygen during respiration -good soil aeration needed for below ground plant parts to get oxygen
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Plants use soil cont.


D. Nutrients of the 16 essential nutrients for plant growth 13 are obtained from the soil
-root hairs absorb the nutrients dissolved in soil water

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Soil uses in agriculture


Cropland Grazing land Forest Water structures

Agriculture depends on soil to grow food, fiber, and ornamental plants.


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Nonagricultural uses of soil


Recreation: playgrounds, sports fields, jogging paths, golf courses, parks, campgrounds Foundations: buildings have to have solid base Waste Disposal Building materials

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