Soil Notes


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  • Figure 3.25
    Natural capital: the size, shape, and degree of clumping of soil particles determine the number and volume of spaces for air and water within a soil. Soils with more pore spaces (left) contain more air and are more permeable to water than soils with fewer pores (right).
  • Figure 3.23
    Natural capital: soil formation and generalized soil profile. Horizons, or layers, vary in number, composition, and thickness, depending on the type of soil. (Used by permission of Macmillan Publishing Company from Derek Elsom, Earth, New York: Macmillan, 1992. Copyright © 1992 by Marshall Editions Developments Limited)
  • Figure 3.24
    Natural capital: soil profiles of the principal soil types typically found in five types of terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Figure 3.24
    Natural capital: soil profiles of the principal soil types typically found in five types of terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Figure 3.24
    Natural capital: soil profiles of the principal soil types typically found in five types of terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Figure 3.24
    Natural capital: soil profiles of the principal soil types typically found in five types of terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Figure 13.7
    Natural capital degradation: Industrialized agriculture uses about 17% of all commercial energy in the United States and food travels an average 2,400 kilometers (1,300 miles) from farm to plate. The resulting pollution degrades the air and water and contributes to global warming. QUESTION: What might happen to your lifestyle if the price of oil rises sharply? (Data from David Pimentel and Worldwatch Institute)
  • Figure 13.13
    Natural capital degradation: salinization and waterlogging of soil on irrigated land without adequate drainage can decrease crop yields.
  • Figure 13.15
    Solutions: methods for preventing and cleaning up soil salinization. QUESTION: Which two of these solutions do you think are the most important?
  • Figure 13.18
    Natural capital degradation: major harmful environmental effects of food production. According to a 2002 study by the United Nations, nearly 30% of the world’s cropland has been degraded to some degree by soil erosion, salt buildup, and chemical pollution, and 17% has been seriously degraded. QUESTION: Which item in each of these categories do you think is the most harmful?
  • Figure 13.19
    Trade-offs: projected advantages and disadvantages of genetically modified crops and foods. QUESTION: Which two advantages and and which two disadvantages do you think are the most important?
  • Figure 13.21
    Trade-offs: advantages and disadvantages of animal feedlots. QUESTION: Which single advantage and which single disadvantage do you think are the most important?
  • Figure 13.24
    Trade-offs: advantages and disadvantages of aquaculture. QUESTION: Which two advantages and which two disadvantages do you think are the most important?
  • Figure 13.25
    Solutions: ways to make aquaculture more sustainable and reduce its harmful environmental effects. QUESTION: Which two of these solutions do you think are the most important?
  • Soil Notes

    1. 1. General Soil Information Soil Notes
    2. 2. Definition Soil – relatively thin surface layer of the Earth’s crust consisting of mineral and organic matter that is affected by agents such as weather, wind, water, and organisms.
    3. 3. Composition – 4 Distinct Parts Mineral particles (45% of “typical” soil) Organic matter (about 5%) Water (about 25%) Air (about 25%)
    4. 4. Importance Organisms, mainly microorganisms, inhabit the soil & depend on it for shelter, food & water. Plants anchor themselves into the soil, and get their nutrients and water. Terrestrial plants could not survive without soil, therefore, humans could not exist without soil either.
    5. 5. SOIL: A RENEWABLE RESOURCE Soil is a slowly renewed resource that provides most of the nutrients needed for plant growth and also helps purify water. Soil formation begins when bedrock is broken down by physical, chemical and biological processes called weathering. Mature soils, or soils that have developed over a long time are arranged in a series of horizontal layers called soil horizons.
    6. 6. Parent Material The rock that has slowly broken down into smaller particles by biological, chemical, and physical weathering. To form 2.5 cm (1 in.) it may take from 200-1000 years. Soil Formation
    7. 7. Physical Weathering Ex. erosion (wind, water, ice, etc.)
    8. 8. Chemical Weathering A plant’s roots or animal cells undergo cell respiration and the CO2 produced diffuses into soil, reacts with H2O & forms carbonic acid (H2CO3). This eats parts of the rock away.
    9. 9. Renewable or Not? Decomposition produces new soil But, in the tropical rainforests, all of the nutrients are caught in the trees and when cut down & burned the soil cannot get the nutrients back.
    10. 10. Texture The percentages (by weight) of different sized particles of sand, silt and clay that it contains. Soil Properties:
    11. 11. Texture (Cont.) >2mm in diameter = gravel/stones (not actually considered soil because it doesn’t have direct value to plants. 0.05 to 2mm = sand (the largest soil particles) can be seen easily with the eye. 0.002 to 0.05mm = silt – about the size of flour and barely visible with the eye. <.002mm = clay (has the greatest surface value) – only seen under and electronic microscope.
    12. 12. Texture To tell the difference in soil, take the soil, moisten it, and rub it between your fingers and thumb. Gritty -has a lot of sand Sticky- high clay content and you should be able to roll it into a clump Silt- smooth, like flour.
    13. 13. Structure How soil particles are organized and clumped together. (Sand, silt, clay)
    14. 14. Friability How easily the soil can be crumbled.
    15. 15. Porosity A measure of the volume of soil and the average distances between the spaces.
    16. 16. Permeability The rate at which water and air moves from upper to lower soil layers. It is distances between those spaces.
    17. 17. Some Soil Properties Soils vary in the size of the particles they contain, the amount of space between these particles, and how rapidly water flows through them. Figure 3-25Figure 3-25
    18. 18. Fig. 3-25, p. 70 0.05–2 mm diameter High permeability Low permeability WaterWater Clay less than 0.002 mm Diameter Silt 0.002–0.05 mm diameter Sand
    19. 19. Shrink-Swell Potential Some soils, like clays, swell when H2O gets in them, then they dry and crack. This is bad for house foundations, etc.
    20. 20. pH The pH of most soils ranges from 4.0 to 8.0. But, the soil of the Pygmy Forest in California is extremely acidic (2.8-3.9) and in Death Valley, California, it is very basic (10.5). Plants are affected by pH because of the solubility of nutrient minerals.
    21. 21. Slope Steep slopes often have little or no soil on them because of gravity. Runoff from precipitation tends to erode the slope also. Moderate slopes and valleys may encourage the formation of deep soils.
    22. 22. Depth Some soils are very shallow (like in some places in San Antonio). It can be only two inches of soil and then you hit rock. Other areas can have soil 36 inches deep or more.
    23. 23. Color Dark soil is rich with lots of organic matter. Light soil (like sand) is not so rich with very little organic matter.
    24. 24. Soil Horizons
    25. 25. Organic Layer (O-horizon) The uppermost layer; it is rich in organic material. Plant litter accumulates in the O- horizon and gradually decays. In desert soils the O-horizon is completely absent, but in certain organically rich soils it may be the dominant layer.
    26. 26. Topsoil (A-horizon) It is dark and rich in accumulated organic matter and humus. It has a granular texture and is somewhat nutrient-poor due to the loss of many nutrient minerals to deeper layers and by leaching.
    27. 27. Subsoil (B-horizon) The light-colored subsoil beneath the A- horizon; it is often a zone of illuviation where nutrient minerals have leached out of the topsoil and litter accumulate. It is typically rich in iron and aluminum compounds and clay.
    28. 28. Parent Material (C-horizon) This contains weathered pieces of rock and borders the unweathered solid parent material. Most roots do not go down this deep and it is often saturated with groundwater.
    29. 29. Fig. 3-23, p. 68 Fern Mature soil Honey fungus Root system Oak tree Bacteria Lords and ladies Fungus Actinomycetes Nematode Pseudoscorpion Mite Regolith Young soil Immature soil Bedrock Rock fragments Moss and lichen Organic debris builds upGrasses and small shrubs Mole Dog violet Wood sorrel Earthworm Millipede O horizon Leaf litter A horizon Topsoil B horizon Subsoil C horizon Parent material Springtail Red Earth Mite
    30. 30. Layers in Mature Soils Infiltration: the downward movement of water through soil. Leaching: dissolving of minerals and organic matter in upper layers carrying them to lower layers. The soil type determines the degree of infiltration and leaching.
    31. 31. Fig. 3-24a, p. 69 Mosaic of closely packed pebbles, boulders Weak humus- mineral mixture Dry, brown to reddish-brown with variable accumulations of clay, calcium and carbonate, and soluble salts Alkaline, dark, and rich in humus Clay, calcium compounds Desert Soil (hot, dry climate) Grassland Soil semiarid climate)
    32. 32. Fig. 3-24b, p. 69 Tropical Rain Forest Soil (humid, tropical climate) Acidic light-colored humus Iron and aluminum compounds mixed with clay
    33. 33. Fig. 3-24b, p. 69 Deciduous Forest Soil (humid, mild climate) Forest litter leaf mold Humus-mineral mixture Light, grayish- brown, silt loam Dark brown firm clay
    34. 34. Fig. 3-24b, p. 69 Coniferous Forest Soil (humid, cold climate) Light-colored and acidic Acid litter and humus Humus and iron and aluminum compounds
    35. 35. Case Study: Industrialized Food Production in the United States Industrialized agriculture uses about 17% of all commercial energy in the U.S. and food travels an average 2,400 kilometers from farm to plate. Figure 13-7Figure 13-7
    36. 36. Fig. 13-7, p. 277 4% Food production Food distribution and preparation Food processing LivestockCrops 5%6%2% 17% of total U.S. commercial energy use
    37. 37. Traditional Agriculture: Low Input Polyculture Many farmers in developing countries use low- input agriculture to grow a variety of crops on each plot of land (interplanting) through: Polyvarietal cultivation: planting several genetic varieties. Intercropping: two or more different crops grown at the same time in a plot. Agroforestry: crops and trees are grown together. Polyculture: different plants are planted together.
    38. 38. 6.4 billion tons of soils are eroded from the U.S. each year; this would fill 320 million average-sized dump trucks that, if parked end-to-end, would extend to the moon and ¾ of the way back! Erosion
    39. 39. Definition Erosion is the movement of soil components, especially surface litter and topsoil, from one place to another.
    40. 40. Importance In undisturbed ecosystems, the roots of plants help anchor the soil, and usually soil is not lost faster then it forms. But, farming, logging, construction, overgrazing by livestock, off-road vehicles, deliberate burning of vegetation etc. destroy plant cover and leave soil vulnerable to erosion. This destroys in a few decades what nature took hundreds to thousands of years to produce.
    41. 41. SOIL EROSION AND DEGRADATION Soil erosion lowers soil fertility and can overload nearby bodies of water with eroded sediment. Sheet erosion: surface water or wind peel off thin layers of soil. Rill erosion: fast-flowing little rivulets of surface water make small channels. Gully erosion: fast-flowing water join together to cut wider and deeper ditches or gullies.
    42. 42. SOIL EROSION AND DEGRADATION Soil erosion is the movement of soil components, especially surface litter and topsoil, by wind or water. Soil erosion increases through activities such as farming, logging, construction, overgrazing, and off-road vehicles. Figure 13-9Figure 13-9
    43. 43. Global Outlook: Soil Erosion Soil is eroding faster than it is forming on more than one-third of the world’s cropland. Figure 13-10Figure 13-10
    44. 44. Case Study: Soil Erosion in the U.S. – Some Hopeful Signs Soil erodes faster than it forms on most U.S. cropland, but since 1985, has been cut by about 40%. 1985 Food Security Act (Farm Act): farmers receive a subsidy for taking highly erodible land out of production and replanting it with soil saving plants for 10-15 years.
    45. 45. Water Erosion Splash – water hits the soil at a severe angle (based on slope)  This can erode soil. Sheet – when surface water moves down a slope or across a field in a wide flow and peels off fairly uniform sheets of soil. Because the topsoil disappears evenly, sheet erosion may not be noticeable until too much damage has been done.
    46. 46. Water Erosion (Cont.) Mass Slippage – (like in California) where it is very wet and large amounts of soil slip away in large chunks (mud slides). Rill – concentrated flow across the surface of soil. Leaves rivets (micro channels).
    47. 47. Gully – rivulets of fast-flowing water join together and, with each succeeding rain, cut the channels wider and deeper until they become ditches or gullies. Gully erosion usually happens on steep slopes where all or most vegetation has been removed.
    48. 48. Wind Erosion Saltation – one particle hitting another and being blown across the surface of the soil.
    49. 49. Suspension – airborne soil. Ex. soil from Lubbock is found in Temple, Texas.
    50. 50. Surface Creep – mountains/sand dunes; surface creeping slowly across. Landslides are an example of a very fast surface creep.
    51. 51. Desertification: Degrading Drylands About one-third of the world’s land has lost some of its productivity because of drought and human activities that reduce or degrade topsoil. Figure 13-12Figure 13-12
    52. 52. Salinization and Waterlogging Repeated irrigation can reduce crop yields by causing salt buildup in the soil and waterlogging of crop plants. Figure 13-13Figure 13-13
    53. 53. Fig. 13-13, p. 281 Evaporation Transpiration Evaporation Evaporation Waterlogging Salinization Waterlogging 1. Irrigation water contains small amounts of dissolved salts 2. Evaporation and transpiration leave salts behind. 3. Salt builds up in soil. 1. Precipitation and irrigation water percolate downward. 2. Water table rises. Less permeable clay layer
    54. 54. Fig. 13-15, p. 281 CleanupPrevention Soil Salinization Solutions Reduce irrigation Switch to salt- tolerant crops (such as barley, cotton, sugarbeet) Flush soil (expensive and wastes water) Stop growing crops for 2–5 years Install underground drainage systems (expensive)
    55. 55. Salinization and Waterlogging of Soils: A Downside of Irrigation Example of high evaporation, poor drainage, and severe salinization. White alkaline salts have displaced cops. Figure 13-14Figure 13-14
    56. 56. Erosion Control (see Miller pg. 282) Shelterbelts – can reduce wind erosion. Long rows of trees are planted to partially block the wind. They can also help retain soil moisture, supply some wood for fuel, and provide habitats for birds.
    57. 57. Minimum Tillage – (conservation tillage) to disturb the soil as little as possible while planting crops. Special tillers break up and loosen the subsurface soil without turning over the topsoil, previous crop residues, and any cover vegetation.
    58. 58. SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE THROUGH SOIL CONSERVATION Modern farm machinery can plant crops without disturbing soil (no-till and minimum tillage. Conservation-tillage farming: • Increases crop yield. • Raises soil carbon content. • Lowers water use. • Lowers pesticides. • Uses less tractor fuel.
    59. 59. Contour Farming –sloping your growing crops, etc. You run terraces parallel to the ground to stop soil from running down a steep slope. Plowing and planting crops in rows across, rather than up and down, the sloped contour of the land.
    60. 60. Terracing – (what you use for contour farming.) Dirt goes up to hold the dirt in place. Broad, nearly level terraces that run across the land contour. Helps to retain water for crops at each level and reduce soil erosion by controlling runoff.
    61. 61. SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE THROUGH SOIL CONSERVATION Terracing, contour planting, strip cropping, alley cropping, and windbreaks can reduce soil erosion. Figure 13-16Figure 13-16
    62. 62. Strip Cropping – a row crop such as corn alternates in strips with another crop that completely covers the soil, reducing erosion. It catches and reduces water runoff and helps prevent the spread of pests and plant diseases.
    63. 63. Cover Cropping (alley cropping) – several crops are planted together in strips or alleys between trees and shrubs that can provide shade (which reduces water loss by evaporation) and helps to retain and slowly release soil moisture.
    64. 64. Irrigation Techniques Conventional center-pivot irrigation- allows 80% of the water input to reach crops Gravity-flow irrigation- Valves that send water down irrigation ditches. Drip irrigation- Can raise water efficiency to 90-95% and reduce water use by 37- 70%. Floodplain irrigation- allowing the natural floods to irrigate the crops. Soils in flood
    65. 65. Macronutrients Macronutrients are larger in atomic structure. Ex. Nitrogen, Phosphorus & Potassium. Micronutrients These are smaller in atomic structure. Plants need them in small amounts. Ex. Selenium, Zinc & Iron. Soil Nutrients
    66. 66. Fertilizers and Labels Organic Fertilizers – animal manure, crop residues, bone meal, and compost Inorganic Fertilizers – man-made from chemical compounds Benefits – exact compositions are known; they are soluble & thus immediately available to the plant Costs – quickly leach away; this pollutes the water; doesn’t help the water holding capacity of the soil like organic fertilizers do.
    67. 67. Definition Hydroponics are growing plants in fertilized water. Hydroponics: Method of suspending plants in water and the solutions involved. Ex. cranberries are grown this way.
    68. 68. Costs of Hydroponics: It is labor-intensive and expensive. You can control the environment & grow plants where there is no soil; NASA is looking into this. Benefits:
    69. 69. SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE THROUGH SOIL CONSERVATION Fertilizers can help restore soil nutrients, but runoff of inorganic fertilizers can cause water pollution. Organic fertilizers: from plant and animal (fresh, manure, or compost) materials. Commercial inorganic fertilizers: Active ingredients contain nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium and other trace nutrients.
    70. 70. THE GREEN REVOLUTION AND ITS ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT Since 1950, high-input agriculture has produced more crops per unit of land. In 1967, fast growing dwarf varieties of rice and wheat were developed for tropics and subtropics. Figure 13-17Figure 13-17
    71. 71. THE GREEN REVOLUTION AND ITS ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT Lack of water, high costs for small farmers, and physical limits to increasing crop yields hinder expansion of the green revolution. Since 1978 the amount of irrigated land per person has declined due to: Depletion of underground water supplies. Inefficient irrigation methods. Salt build-up. Cost of irrigating crops.
    72. 72. THE GREEN REVOLUTION AND ITS ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT Modern agriculture has a greater harmful environmental impact than any human activity. Loss of a variety of genetically different crop and livestock strains might limit raw material needed for future green and gene revolutions. In the U.S., 97% of the food plant varieties available in the 1940 no longer exist in large quantities.
    73. 73. Fig. 13-18, p. 285 Biodiversity Loss Soil Water Air Pollution Human Health Loss and degradation of grasslands, forests, and wetlands Erosion Water waste Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use Nitrates in drinking water Loss of fertility Aquifer depletion Pesticide residues in drinking water, food, and air Salinization Increased runoff and flooding from cleared land Other air pollutants from fossil fuel use Fish kills from pesticide runoff Waterlogging Sediment pollution from erosion Greenhouse gas emissions of nitrous oxide from use of inorganic fertilizers Contamination of drinking and swimming water with disease organisms from livestock wastes Desertification Killing wild predators to protect livestock Fish kills from pesticide runoff Surface and groundwater pollution from pesticides and fertilizers Belching of the greenhouse gas methane by cattle Loss of genetic diversity of wild crop strains replaced by monoculture strains Bacterial contamination of meat Overfertilization of lakes and rivers from runoff of fertilizers, livestock wastes, and food processing wastes Pollution from pesticide sprays
    74. 74. THE GENE REVOLUTION To increase crop yields, we can mix the genes of similar types of organisms and mix the genes of different organisms. Artificial selection has been used for centuries to develop genetically improved varieties of crops. Genetic engineering develops improved strains at an exponential pace compared to artificial selection. Controversy has arisen over the use of genetically modified food (GMF).
    75. 75. Mixing Genes Genetic engineering involves splicing a gene from one species and transplanting the DNA into another species. Figure 13-19Figure 13-19
    76. 76. Fig. 13-19, p. 287 Projected Disadvantages Irreversible and unpredictable genetic and ecological effects Need less fertilizer Need less water More resistant to insects, disease, frost, and drought Harmful toxins in food from possible plant cell mutations Grow faster New allergens in food Can grow in slightly salty soils Lower nutrition Less spoilage Increased development of pesticide-resistant insects and plant diseases Need less pesticides Can create herbicide- resistant weeds Better flavor Tolerate higher levels of herbicides Can harm beneficial insects Lower genetic diversityHigher yields Trade-Offs Genetically Modified Crops and Foods Projected Advantages
    77. 77. PRODUCING MORE MEAT About half of the world’s meat is produced by livestock grazing on grass. The other half is produced under factory- like conditions (feedlots). Densely packed livestock are fed grain or fish meal. Eating more chicken and farm-raised fish and less beef and pork reduces harmful environmental impacts of meat production.
    78. 78. Fig. 13-21, p. 289 Trade-Offs Animal Feedlots Advantages Disadvantages Increased meat production Need large inputs of grain, fish meal, water, and fossil fuelsHigher profits Concentrate animal wastes that can pollute water Less land use Reduced overgrazing Reduced soil erosion Antibiotics can increase genetic resistance to microbes in humans Help protect biodiversity
    79. 79. How Many People can the World Support? Food Production and Population The number of people the world can support depends mostly on their per capita consumption of grain and meat and how many children couples have. Research has shown that those living very low on the food chain or very high on the food chain do not live as long as those that live somewhere in between.
    80. 80. PRODUCING MORE MEAT Efficiency of converting grain into animal protein. Figure 13-22Figure 13-22
    81. 81. CATCHING AND RAISING MORE FISH AND SHELLFISH After spectacular increases, the world’s total and per capita marine and freshwater fish and shellfish catches have leveled off. Figure 13-23Figure 13-23
    82. 82. CATCHING AND RAISING MORE FISH AND SHELLFISH Government subsidies given to the fishing industry are a major cause of overfishing. Global fishing industry spends about $25 billion per year more than its catch is worth. Without subsidies many fishing fleets would have to go out of business. Subsidies allow excess fishing with some keeping their jobs longer with making less money.
    83. 83. Aquaculture: Aquatic Feedlots Raising large numbers of fish and shellfish in ponds and cages is world’s fastest growing type of food production. Fish farming involves cultivating fish in a controlled environment and harvesting them in captivity. Fish ranching involves holding anadromous species that live part of their lives in freshwater and part in saltwater. Fish are held for the first few years, released, and then harvested when they return to spawn.
    84. 84. Fig. 13-24, p. 292 Trade-Offs Aquaculture Advantages Disadvantages High efficiency Needs large inputs of land, feed, and water High yield in small volume of water Large waste output Destroys mangrove forests and estuaries Can reduce overharvesting of conventional fisheries Uses grain to feed some species Low fuel use Dense populations vulnerable to disease Tanks too contaminated to use after about 5 years High profits Profits not tied to price of oil
    85. 85. Fig. 13-25, p. 293 Solutions More Sustainable Aquaculture • Use less fishmeal feed to reduce depletion of other fish • Improve management of aquaculture wastes • Reduce escape of aquaculture species into the wild • Restrict location of fish farms to reduce loss of mangrove forests and estuaries • Farm some aquaculture species in deeply submerged cages to protect them from wave action and predators and allow dilution of wastes into the ocean • Certify sustainable forms of aquaculture
    86. 86. SOLUTIONS: MOVING TOWARD GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY People in urban areas could save money by growing more of their food. Urban gardens provide about 15% of the world’s food supply. Up to 90% of the world’s food is wasted. Figure 13-26Figure 13-26
    87. 87. Solutions: Steps Toward More Sustainable Food Production We can increase food security by slowing populations growth, sharply reducing poverty, and slowing environmental degradation of the world’s soils and croplands.