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All About Soil

What Is Soil?

Soil is the top layer of the earth where plants are sown and grown. It's made up of unconsolidated organic material and minerals. The matter that makes up soil is affected by the micro and macro organisms that live in and feed off of the soil and the water and temperature elements of the surrounding climate.

  • Soil: An Explanation: Soil can include minerals, bacteria, fungi, and pieces of rock.
  • >How Climate Impacts the Soil: Climate change has an impact on the soil because soil is the second-largest repository of carbon.
  • Soil Types and Gardening: The type of soil you choose affects the plants you'll be able to grow.

What Is Dirt?

Dirt is soil that is no longer able to support life. In a way, it's deactivated soil. When soil gets stuck on our clothes, it becomes dirt. Unlike dirt, soil has seven important roles:

  1. Soils absorb and emit greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.
  2. They purify the water in land-based ecosystems and process nutrients so that they can be reused by other organisms.
  3. Fossils and archeological elements can be preserved in soil. Soil can also accelerate the decomposition of man-made structures through the weathering process.
  4. Buildings and their foundations are built on soil.
  5. Living organisms have habitats in the soil.
  6. Many different types of plants can grow in the soil.
  7. Before water drains into an aquifer, it's purified by the soil.
  • How Dirt Cleans Water: It's safe to drink groundwater because it's been purified by the soil.
  • How Trees Improve Soil: Trees protect the soil more than other plants because they help to halt soil erosion.
  • Fossil Preservation: Animal tracks and teeth that are preserved by layers of soil teach us about the evolution of plant and animal life.

Soil Profile

Soil has six horizons. A horizon is a layer of soil.

  1. The O horizon is an organic layer made up of decomposing biological matter like leaves. The O horizon may be of varying levels of thickness. Some soils don't have an O horizon.
  2. The A horizon is the topsoil and is a mix of mineral and organic matter. The A horizon is the layer of soil that is best for plant growth.
  3. The E horizon consists of eluviated soil, which means that most of the minerals, clay, and organic matter have been drained from the soil, leaving behind primarily sand and silt.
  4. The B horizon is the subsoil and is the depository of the clay and minerals that were leached from the E horizon.
  5. The C horizon is parent material, the birthplace of soil as we know it. It's mostly broken-up bedrock and contains little to no organic material.
  6. The R horizon is pure bedrock. Although it's considered to be a soil layer, it's not really soil; it's the ultimate parent material.

Additional Soil Resources

Written By Ava Rose.

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