Why is soil important? Soil is the growing medium for our food Without it we could not survive Soil purifies our waste Soil is home to plants and animals It may take up to 100 years to form one inch of topsoil We are losing so much soil to erosion each year that the lost soil if loaded into dump trucks parked back to back would extend to the moon and back. An earthworm can work a ton of soil a year
What makes up soil?
Soil is made up of mineral grains.
Water is held between the grains in the pore spaces.
25% of the soil is air. Oxygen is essential
Organic matter is both coarse and fine.
Bacteria- A thimble of soil can contain 2 billion bacteria, 30 million fungi fragments and 100,000 single cell plants and animals.
Animals making burrows in the soil help bring air and water into the soil
Generally, Inner Coastal Plain soils are fertile(they can support hearty natural growth of a wide variety of plants)
The upper layers of the Inner Coastal Plain soils are brownish and remain moist between rains
Outer Coastal Plain soils are very sandy, infertile, and chemically acidic.
OCP soils capture water well, but it quickly percolates into the lower layers.
OCP soils have a light color
Blueberries and cranberries are well suited to growing in “infertile” soil of the OCP.
Inner and Outer Coastal Plain
D Humus gives the topsoil a rich brown color Leaching takes minerals carried by water to the subsoil Topsoil Subsoil Weathered Bedrock Bedrock
In a mature soil profile, there are three distinct layers(horizons) of the soil. The undisturbed rock below the soil is called the bedrock. The Ao-horizon consists of the highly decayed organic material referred to as the peat and humus. Humus gives soil horizon A a rich brown color.We see no such brown layer in the Pine Barrens.
In the A horizon, water percolates downward and carries minerals as it goes. This is called “leaching.” Leaching carries minerals down into the lower soil horizons.
The B-Horizon is called the subsoil. This horizon is where the leached minerals from horizon A end up. These leached minerals may color the subsoil. For example, the presence of iron my color the subsoil red. Horizon B-Zone of Accumulation of leached minerals
The C-horizon is called the zone of weathered bedrock. When you have a residual soil, one formed over the original bedrock, the C-horizon resembles the bedrock, but it is weathered. In a residual soil, the bedrock is below the C-horizon. Remember that the Coastal Plain does not have bedrock under the soil profile, but it has layers of sand, clay and gravel. That is because of the sea level changes over time and the rivers that flowed over it.
Sandy particles are the only particles which may be large enough to be seen with the naked eye. Predominantly sandy soil has a gritty feel (coarse-textured) when rubbed between the fingers. Silt particles are smaller than sand particles. Predominantly silty soils feel powdery (like flour) and do not hold together well when wet, though they are more cohesive than sandy soils. Clayey soil has the smallest soil particles, and many small pore spaces. Soils with a high number of clay particles have a very high water holding capacity and are very fine-textured, making them feel smooth and sticky (like soap) when wet. Loam is the best soil texture for growing things. It is a mixture that has useful amounts of clay and silt in a base of sand. Soil texture refers to grain size
Soil texture graph
Soil Fractions The top sieve is gravel- set aside The second and third sieves are sand The fourth sieve is silt The bottom pan is clay
Coarse-textured soils have a high sand content. They consist of large particles with uneven surfaces and because of this, have large pore spaces These traits make such soils loose and easy to work; however, the large spaces do not retain water or nutrients. Water infiltrates sandy soil and percolates (moves through it) quickly and easily. As a result, sandy soils are generally dry and infertile. The dryness of sandy soil contributes to a shortage of nutrients because of less vegetative growth and, therefore, less organic matter is produced.
Medium-textured soils known as loams , have properties in between those of coarse and fine texture. Silty loams to sandy-clay loams have a good capacity to retain water without becoming waterlogged. They are easy to work and form good clumping mixtures during cultivation. Loams contain a good supply of nutrients, necessary for the organisms living in the soil. Loam or silty soils have a texture which is most suitable for the greatest variety of living organisms.
Fine-textured soils range from silty clay to heavy clay. Heavy clays are like soft plastic when wet and are hard when dry. This makes them difficult to work. Clays are often waterlogged and poorly aerated, as well as being cool. Clay soils absorb and release water (to plants) very slowly. Air movement within the soil is also very slow. These conditions mean that clay soils take longer to warm than coarser soils. A lot of water in the spaces can mean little air is available for living organisms to carry out cellular respiration and certain biochemical actions.
Fertile soil contains nutrients. There are major nutrients and micro nutrients. Major nutrients make up the bulk of the nutrients in your soil. The most important major nutrients are : Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus . Other major nutrients are : Calcium, Magnesium and Sulfur . Micronutrients are: Manganese, Iron, Copper, Zinc, and Boron. Nutrients need to be balanced and available to the plant's roots. Organic matter is key to helping maintain this balance. Fertile soil contains nutrients
Ion exchange in soil
Application of lime helps to neutralize acidic soil. The calcium and magnesium ions in lime will bump some of the hydrogen ions off the clay particles. The hydrogen is then leached downward by water and the soil becomes less acidic .