Characteristics of soil will allow you to determine what type of soil is in an area. Scientists use characteristics of soil to learn more about a region’s history and any shift within the region.
There are seven soil characteristics that are used to classify the soil: composition, color, texture, structure, soil water, organic matter and chemistry. Each one of them are described briefly below.
The composition of the soil is placed into four different categories: inorganic material, organic material,water and air. Inorganic material is any compound that is not derived from animal or plant sources. Carbon atoms are not present in inorganic compounds. Organic material is composed of animal and plant sources. Carbon atoms are present in organic compounds. The amount of water and air particles that are present in the soil will also determine it’s composition.
The color of the soil is another way to characterize soil. Soil that is black or a rich, deep brown is high in organic content. This soil is very fertile and is ideal for planting and farming. The nutrients in the soil are rich. Yellow, red, or orange soil indicates that it is rich in iron. Soil that has a light gray or white tint has a lot of calcium or silica.
The texture is the feel of the soil and generally refers to the clay, silt and sand content. There is a texture triangle that scientists use to determine the characteristics of soil. According to the texture triangle, the soil is considered clay if it is less than 0.002 mm. It is silt if the soil is between 0.002 and 0.05 mm. The texture is sand if it is between 0.05 and 2.0 mm.
Structure is the shape, size and organization of peds. A ped is a soil particle. Soil that has particles that are horizontal, plate-like or flat are called platy. Soil with long, vertical particles that are bound by flat or slightly rounded vertical faces are prismatic and columnar. Particles that are block-like or somewhat square are called blocky. Small, rounded particles are granular.
Soil water means the infiltration which includes the rate and capacity. How fast the water moves through the soil and how much water the soil can hold at saturation level will help determine the type of soil. There are several forms of soil water and includes gravity water, capillary water, field capacity, wilting point, hygroscopic water and the available water capacity.
Organic matter can be categorized into two forms: litter and humus. Litter also referred to as litterfall, plant litter, tree litter, soil litter or duff. This refers to dead plant materials that are on the ground and provides nutrients to the top layer of the soil. Humus is any organic materials that are stable, they will no longer break down and will remain in their current state for several thousand years.
Soil is classified by the acidity and alkalinity of the matter. It is measured in pH units and is determined by the amount of hydrogen ion concentration within the soil. The pH measurements are on a scale from 0 to 14, a pH of 7 means that it is neutral. A pH level of 0 to 7 measures the acidity of the soil. A pH level of 7 to 14 measures the alkalinity of the soil.