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Soil lab guiding questions


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This comprehensive presentation is a broad unit on soil, soil formation and soil layers. The unit gives performance expectations, key vocabulary, types of weathering, soil components and types, soil composition, formation, horizons, hazards, properties, characteristics. Finally the unit covers soil nutrients and forest systems.
Can best be used at High and Junior high schools, by hobby gardeners, farmers and as a college introductory presentation or as a basic refresher. Also elementary teachers can use this to "get up to speed" on the fascinating topic of soil!
Soil Lab v4 is the final version for 2015.

Published in: Education, Technology
  • I teach many of the same concepts and will be presenting at NSTA conference 3/2015. I would like permission to use your slide share as I present a session about nutrient management and soils
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  • Thanks for the feedback Jagadish! js sends
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  • power point presentations are good .good enough to understand from the good pictures
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Soil lab guiding questions

  1. 1. Soil v4 Importance, Formation, Properties & Nutrients jschmied©2015
  2. 2. Essential Question Why is soil important to all living things? jschmied©2015
  3. 3. Key Soil Vocabulary Soil Formation – creation of soil by breaking down rocks, minerals, & adding water, decaying plants, animals & other once living creatures Sand – Small loose grains of worn or disintegrated rock Silt - Fine sand, clay, or other material carried by running water and deposited as a sediment. Clay - fine-grained minerals; generally “plastic “ when wet & hardens when dried or fired. Loam - A soil with proportions of sand, silt, clay & humus. (Equal parts of the 3 + 5-10% humus is most fertile.) Nutrients – Chemicals organisms need to get from the environment to build new cells & make internal processes work (like building DNA, digestion, make leaves). Key plant nutrients (NPK) : Nitrogen (N)– helps plants have greener leaves, faster growth, better seed & root production Phosphorous (P) - helps plant root growth, flower blooms. Makes plants grow faster with less stress Potassium (K) - helps make stronger stalks & stems, gives drought resistance Less disease & insect damage pH – measure of how acid or basic a soil or solution is. Acids have pH numbers from 0 to below 7, 0 is the strongest acid. 7 Is pH neutral. Numbers, above 7 to 14 pH are basic, 14 is the strongest base. Decomposition – process by which organic substances are broken down into a much simpler form of matter. Matter Cycling - constant cycling of Earth’s atoms between living & nonliving parts of the environment. Soil Erosion – constant wearing away (weathering) & transport of the top layers of the soil to valleys, rivers, & the ocean Organic Matter – matter from living or once living plants, animals and other creatures. Inorganic Matter – matter not consisting of or deriving from living matter. Compounds lacking carbon. Weathering – breakdown of the outer rocky part of the Earth into smaller particles like sand, clay & minerals. & movement of particles to other places : There are three types: Physical – breakdown of rock by wind blown sand, the freeze -thaw effect, and direct impact. Chemical – breakdown of rock into smaller particles by contact with chemicals like water, acids & bases. Biological – breakdown of rock/stone by plants, animals and microbes jschmied©2015
  4. 4. Vocabulary (continued) Soil Layers or Horizons - 4 layers exist in the PacNW. Nutrients & water flows down through these layers to plant roots. The rest flows down or sideways in the soil., enriching lower layers. “O” layer (also “Litter” layer) – Top soil layer made of dead, decaying plants & animals. When decayed to nutrient rich humus, becomes part of the A layer. Dark black/brown. “A” Layer, or Horizon (also “Topsoil”) - Layer rich in nutrients, decaying material, & microorganisms. Darker color. “B” Layer, or Horizon – Less humus, nutrients & decaying material. Has more small rocks. Lighter in color.. “C” Layer, or Horizon – Rocky, low nutrients , big rocks, part of Earth’s outer layer. Lighter, bedrock color. Humus - A dark, organic material formed in soil when plant & animal matter decays. Soil organisms – Microorganisms are bacteria, fungi & tiny creatures called protozoa. Macro organisms include worms, insects, moles, shrews, etc. Physical properties - structural characteristics of soil. Example: Texture, Clumping, Water holding ability…. Biological properties - the amount of decomposers in soil Example: Bacteria and Fungi Chemical properties – type/amount of chemicals in soil. Macronutrients (NPK) & Micronutrients (Calcium, Zinc, H2O) & proper pH Soil Erosion – breaking down soil structure & moving the particles away. (Cause: Water, Wind, Ice, Gravity) Overgrazing - soil/plants exposed to intensive grazing for long periods of time, or without enough recovery periods Soil Pollution/Contamination – presence of human made chemicals, farm & industrial waste products. Soil Sealing – Covering soil by roads, houses, parking lots so as to not allow forests or crops to grow. Dead Zone – an area of a lake, sound or ocean with very low, or no, oxygen, causing marine life to die. Often caused by run off of high nutrient soil, fertilizers, animal wastes, or contrary winds etc. Results – the statement(s) that explains or interprets data from an investigation. Field Study - collecting data outside of a lab setting. Done in natural settings or environments and can be done in a variety of ways for various disciplines. jschmied©2015
  5. 5. What was the Dust Bowl? Dust Bowl Video jschmied©2015
  6. 6. What Caused the “Dust Bowl”? • US gives each settler 4x more land to farm • Unusual wet weather caused settlers to think area is good for intense cultivation • 6x more area becomes farmed • Native grasses holding soil were removed • Severe drought strikes in 1930’s, not abnormal… • Wind, dried topsoil, creates huge dust storms Result - Massive erosion! jschmied©2015
  7. 7. Effects of the Dust Bowl 1930-1940 Human Health : 1. Dust seeped in cracks & crevices, covering everything. 2. Hundreds of patients contracted "dust pneumonia." 3. Farmers became lost in their own field, suffocated. Massive loss of Topsoil: In 1934 two storms alone blew 650 million tons of topsoil off the Great Plains. Agriculture: Crops buried, in the worst hit areas farming ceased. Livestock Losses: Livestock suffocated. Cattle ate the dust- laden grass & filled their stomachs with fatal "mud balls." Loss of Property: Dust covered houses, buried fences & filled farm buildings. Penetrated auto engines clogging parts. Population: Over 350,000 people fled the Great Plains in the 1930s. jschmied©2015
  8. 8. Some solutions to Dust Bowl Problems… Some areas have NEVER RECOVERED Contour Farming Planting Windbreaks Replanting Native Grasses Providing Farmers Expert Help jschmied©2015
  9. 9. What is Weathering? Weathering The breakdown of the outer rocky part of the Earth into smaller particles like sand, clay & minerals. Includes the movement of particles to other places Three types: • Physical • Chemical • Biological jschmied©2015
  10. 10. Rock makes up the outermost layer of Earth jschmied©2015
  11. 11. Physical (mechanical) Weathering The breakdown of rocks by physical processes with no change in the new rock’s make up. Creates joints in rocks jschmied©2015
  12. 12. Chemical Weathering is the breakdown of rocks caused by a change in the rock’s chemical make up jschmied©2015 1. Oxygen reacting with minerals 2. CO2 & H20 makes Carbonic acid which reacts with minerals 3. H20 reacts with minerals directly Some Types
  13. 13. Biological Weathering the weakening & breakdown of rock by plants, animals and microbes. Plant Roots - exert stress or pressure on rock. This is a biologically caused physical action. A Lichen is made of a fungi & an algae. The Fungi release chemicals, breaking down rock minerals. The minerals released from rock are consumed by the algae. Plant roots or microorganisms produce organic acids which help to dissolve minerals. jschmied©2015 Burrowing animals …bore into rocks for protection either by scraping away the grains or secreting acid to dissolve the rock.
  14. 14. Processes in the Rock Cycle jschmied©2015 Visit this site and research Weathering.
  15. 15. Soil Composition & Formation jschmied©2015
  16. 16. Soil Development over time The development of a soil is influenced by five interrelated factors: 1. organisms 2. topography 3. time 4. parent material, and 5. climate. (Source: jschmied©2015
  17. 17. Soil Composition Figure 1: Most soils contain four basic components: Mineral particles, water, air, and organic matter. Organic matter can be further sub-divided into humus, roots, and living organisms. Values given are for an average soil. (Source: jschmied©2015 Air, Water & Minerals are Inorganic Matter!
  18. 18. Soil Types by particle size The three main soil types. Sand Small rock & mineral particles 0.5 – 2 mm (500 – 2000) microns Silt Fine sand, clay, minerals carried by running water & deposited as sediment 2 – 50 microns Clay Very Small minerals < 2 microns Different mixes of the three soil textures make soil with different characteristics Micron = 0.00004 inch! jschmied©2015
  19. 19. Soil Formation Weathering • Physical, Chemical and Biological processes break down rock. Erosion • Broken down rock is moved by wind, water, or ice. This breaks the rock down more! Deposition • Plants grow. • Organic material added • Humus forms • Soil layers form jschmied©2015
  20. 20. Humus brings soil to life! • A dark, organic material formed in soil when plant & animal matter decays. • Contains nutrients (minerals such as, nitrates, phosphates, potassium, copper, zinc dissolved in water) plants need to be healthy. • Improves the fertility & water retention of soil Humus can be: • produced naturally • by composting. Humus must be added to soil to make plants thrive. A fertile soil should contain at least 5% organic matter, 4% of which is humus. jschmied©2015
  21. 21. Different mixes of the three soil types make soil with different characteristics jschmied©2015 A fertile soil should contain at least 2 - 8 percent organic matter.
  22. 22. Formed from broken down rocks and minerals mixed with decaying plants and animals. (Plus H2O & Air) Soil created by: • Physical, chemical & biological weathering of rocks into sand, silt & clay. • Microorganisms breaking down organic matter to humus . Summary: Where does soil come from? jschmied©2015 So soil is a mixture of inorganic and organic matter. • Organisms living in soil recycle & store nutrients, making the soil more fertile over time.
  23. 23. • Soil Nutrients wash into sea & fertilize oceanic phytoplankton. – Phytoplankton are the basis of all oceanic food chains & make about 70% of the worlds oxygen! 6 ways soil is important to all living things jschmied©2015 • Is a growing medium for plant (food) production Plants provide food and oxygen for animals • Is habitat for billions of animals & decomposers • Filters water, controls water flow & stores water • Recycles nutrients, absorbs & neutralizes contaminants • Provides most antibiotics used to fight diseases
  24. 24. Properties of Soil jschmied©2015
  25. 25. Physical Properties of Soil Soil needs the proper combination of 3 key properties to support life. Physical, Chemical & Biological Physical properties have to do with soil’s structural characteristics. Key Characteristics: • Structure = % Sand, Silt & Clay • Texture = Size of grains in the sample, also % organics • Clumping Ability = Ability to stick together • Water holding ability & availability of water = for plants • Color = Tells boundaries in soil profiles jschmied©2015
  26. 26. Water Flow in soil grains • Micropores between soil particles hold water • Macropores allow water to flow between particles jschmied©2015
  27. 27. Chemical Properties of Soil Soil needs the proper combination of 3 key properties to support life. Physical, Chemical & Biological Key chemical properties: - Proper soil pH = (Acid – Base balance) - Chemical nutrients – 2 types. (16 total nutrients of healthy soil) Macronutrients => needed in larger amounts. Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Carbon (C), Oxygen (O), Hydrogen (H), and Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Sulfur (S). Essential nutrients to plant development. Micronutrients => needed in smaller amounts, but also crucial for plant development and growth. Iron (Fe), Zinc (Zn), Manganese (Mn), Boron (B), Copper (Cu), Molybdenum (Mo) and Chlorine (Cl). jschmied©2015
  28. 28. Biological Properties include the type & number of organisms • Organisms include: fungi, earthworms, nematodes, protozoa, bacteria and different arthropods (insects, spiders, millipedes, etc.) Fungi are key in PacNW soil. • The organisms = break down organic matter => make nutrients available for uptake by plants. • Nutrients stored in the bodies of soil organisms prevent nutrient loss by leaching. • Microbes maintain soil structure while organisms like earthworms are important in reworking the soil. • Bacteria play a vital role in the Nitrogen and Carbon cycles = getting & releasing valuable macronutrients into the soil. Biological Properties of Soil Soil needs the proper combination of 3 key properties to support life. Physical, Chemical & Biological jschmied©2015
  29. 29. What are hazards to healthy soil? Erosion Pollution Soil Sealing Cutting down forests Poor Farming Practices Overgrazing Construction Hazards “degrade” soil fertility. jschmied©2015
  30. 30. Extent of Eroded soil Worldwide jschmied©2015
  31. 31. Soil Erosion - a global problem Erosion always happens. We have increased the process by poor land use! jschmied©2015
  32. 32. Erosion - Cutting down forests jschmied©2015
  33. 33. Erosion - Poor Farming Practices jschmied©2015
  34. 34. Soil Sealing Covering soil w/roads, houses, malls, parking lots….etc. jschmied©2015
  35. 35. Erosion - Overgrazing Too many animals eating the vegetation! jschmied©2015
  36. 36. Erosion - Construction jschmied©2015
  37. 37. “Dead Zone Process. Forming a Dead Zone Normal situation jschmied©2015
  38. 38. Aquatic Dead Zones Low to no Oxygen Water meets oxygen rich waters in the Gulf of Mexico jschmied©2015
  39. 39. How does NW Washington forest soil lose key nutrients like NPK? 4. Invasive species 1. Rainfall 2. Deforestation 3. Soil Erosion by wind and water jschmied©2015
  40. 40. Soil Layers jschmied©2015 Grassland Soil Profile Mature Forest Soil Profile
  41. 41. Steps in forming soil & soil layers jschmied©2015 It takes a long time to make soil - > can take over 500 years to make 2 centimeters!
  42. 42. What are the layers in healthy soil? • This is a cut away of a Grassland soil. It shows the different soil horizons, or layers. • The most “evolved layer”, is the A horizon, or “Topsoil”. • There are 4 soil horizons on top of bedrock in this image, layers O, A, B & C. jschmied©2015 Older Forests develop an “E” layer between the A & B layers.
  43. 43. Soil Fertility vs. Layers jschmied©2015 Most nutrients – most evolved Least nutrients – least evolved The most “evolved” (broken down) layers are the most fertile. Thus the C layer is less fertile than the A layer.
  44. 44. What are the layers in healthy soil? jschmied©2015
  45. 45. What nutrients does healthy soil need? pH = Acid – Base balance Plants need the correct soil pH so the plant can take up a nutrient. jschmied©2015 Key Macronutrients: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) Potassium (K) Key Micronutrients: Sulfur (S) Magnesium (Mg) Calcium (Ca) Iron (Fe) Zinc (Zn) Manganese (Mn) Molybdenum (Mo) Copper (Cu) Boron (B)
  46. 46. What do the macronutrients in soil do? Leaf Root Stem pHNitrogen Phosphorous Potassium Nutrients – Chemicals organisms need to get from the environment, to build new cells & make internal processes work (like building DNA, digestion, make leaves). jschmied©2015
  47. 47. Nitrogen (N) “Leaf” Greener Leaves Faster growth Better seed and root production jschmied©2013
  48. 48. Phosphorous (P) “Root” Stronger root growth Better flower blooms Makes plants grow faster, less stress jschmied©2013
  49. 49. Potassium (K) “Stem” Increases fruit set Stronger stalks & stems Drought resistance Less disease & insect damage jschmied©2015
  50. 50. pH and Nutrient uptake Adjusting soil pH levels is important because: 1. Specific plants grow best in a certain range of pH, 2. The correct soil pH allow plants to take up a certain nutrient. 3. If the pH is not proper, the nutrient can’t be taken in by plant roots. 4. Soil pH influences the amount of microbial activity in soils. pH of 6->7 is best.. This figure shows the relationship between pH and the availability of elements needed for plant growth jschmied©2015
  51. 51. pH How does this affect our Washington plants & forests? – The PacNW rainfall & decomposition of leaves & needles makes our soil acidic. Only certain plants can stand acidic soils. – Conifers (pines, firs, cedars) grow best in acidic soils, that’s why we have mostly conifers in the Pac NW! – Our garden soils need to be adjusted to make the pH less acid. jschmied©2015
  52. 52. Fertilizers have different amounts of NPK You can tell the % of each nutrient on the bag! This fertilizer has 5% Nitrogen 8% Phosphorus 4% Potassium Organic fertilizer is better for our planet overall. It is a Trade Off though…. • On one hand it costs more! • On the other hand manufactured fertilizers make the soil acid etc. jschmied©2015
  53. 53. How do forest plants get nutrients? Leaf litter, animals, debris die & fall to forest floor Fungi decay leaf litter, & bacteria the animals (in PacNW) Nutrients released ( lower pH) Nutrients dissolve in water, are absorbed by roots, leaving soil nutrient poor CO2 O2 Sunlight NPK + H20 Water Water Nutrients to tree Nutrients to soil NPK & Water Soil pH Thermal Energy jschmied©2015
  54. 54. CO2 O2 Sunlight NPK + H20 Water Water Nutrients to tree Nutrients to soil NPK & Water Soil pH Plants take up nutrients fast. Rain washes the remaining nutrients out of the soil, lowering soil pH. Decaying plants & animals add Nitrogen, Phosphorous & Potassium back into the soil. Not enough to replace all nutrients. Phosphorous & Potassium come from the weathering of rocks & minerals in the soil to help But the Nitrogen supply is limited in PacNW. Fungi is the primary NW decomposer releasing nitrogen. 2nd Plants “fix” some nitrogen in plant root nodules. PacNW forest plants take up available nitrogen fast, leaving our soil nitrogen poor. Thermal Energy jschmied©2015
  55. 55. Average Class Soil Test Data 2014 Data Table 1. Testing results for soil samples for Period XX Test A Horizon B Horizon Potting Soil Garden Soil Soil pH [ 4 - 9 ] 4.5 4.5 7.5 7.5 Nitrogen (N) [ Low-High ] low low low low Phosphorous (P) [ Low-High ] low low med med Potassium (K) [ Low-High ] high medium- high high high jschmied©2015
  56. 56. Plants vs Humans most common Element needs Plants Humans Element Element Carbon Carbon Hydrogen Hydrogen Oxygen Oxygen Nitrogen Nitrogen Phosphorous Phosphorous Sulfur Potassium Sulfur jschmied©2015
  57. 57. About the author: John Schmied has been a secondary science school teacher for 20 years and is involved in developing practical, yet innovative, hands on curriculum for teens. In addition he is a Chemical Hygiene Officer and an Environmental Educator. He has created, developed and manages a 6 acre Environmental Center at his school site. John’s presentations are viewed worldwide & have been in the top 5% of Slideshare for multiple years. During this time John served as the Strategic planner for the Friends of the Hidden River a 501(C)(3) non profit. • Over the past 13 years Friends helped King County, WA design, fund, construct & develop the 14,800 sqft Brightwater Environmental Center in Woodinville WA. • John is the Director & a principal developer of the Ground to Sound STEM Environmental Challenge course, a locally popular cutting edge environmental program that merges, Science, Tech, Art, Multimedia and other disciplines with Leadership studies at the Center Prior to this period John served as a Coast Guard Officer, primarily involved in ice, navigation & search and rescue operations. His specialties are Ship handling, Diving and Oceanographic Operations. John can be contacted via Linked In.