What Is Soil? (Part 1.1)

by Johann Buck, PhD

This two-part article continues our 2015 series on soil as we recognize the International Year of Soils. In Part 1.1 we define soil and its formation. In Part 1.2 we’ll continue with soil texture, structure, and color.

“Daddy, which is this – soil or dirt?” That’s the question Billy asked his father in one of my favorite The Family Circus comic strips.

Let’s begin with dirt. The word “dirt” is derived from the Old Norse word “drit,” which means excrement. Dirt is what you get under your fingernails or on your clothing or shoes while working in soil.

Several definitions exist for soil. Many of those definitions are, let’s be honest, dull. (Those specific definitions of soil can be found on the USDA Soil Education Web page). The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) first defines soil as “an amazing substance.” The SSSA continues to define soil as “a complex mix of minerals, air, water, and countless microorganisms, soil forms at the surface of the land and comes in many types.” In other words, soil possesses life, it supports life, and that makes soil exciting!

Okay, so soil is alive and exciting. How does it form? What is it made of? What does it look like?

Soil Formation
CLORPT. No, that word isn’t Klingon: it stands for “Climate, Organisms, Relief (landscape), Parent material, and Time.” These represent the five major soil-forming factors.

“Climate” determines the kind of plant and animal life that reside on and in the soil. Climate also influences soil temperature, the amount of water available for weathering minerals, and the rate of chemical weathering.

“Organisms,” such as plants and animals, contribute to the formation of soil by adding organic matter. Fungal and bacterial microorganisms subsequently break down the organic matter into a semi-soluble material known as humus, while insects, earthworms, and burrowing animals aid in the distribution of humus throughout the soil. Humus contributes to both soil chemical and physical properties. Humus is composed of small particles, which results in high surface area. These small particles contribute to the soil’s ability to supply and retain essential plant nutrients. The presence of humus can also improve soil physical properties such as water-holding capacity. Humus and its benefits will be addressed in subsequent newsletter articles.

The “Relief,” or landscape, includes the slope, aspect, and position of the soil. The steepness, shape, and length of slope affects the way water flows on or off the soil. Aspect is the compass direction that a slope faces and therefore affects soil temperature. North-facing slopes in the United States, generally speaking, are cooler and wetter than south-facing slopes.

“Parent material” is the mineral and organic material from which soil formation begins. The formation of soils is a continuous process that requires thousands of years for significant changes to occur. This is why “Time” is included as one of the five soil-forming factors. It is this weathering of the parent material over time that leads to the development of the soil horizons.

SoilHorizonsStylin’ and Profilin’
Soil forms in layers, and these layers are often parallel to the soil surface. Technically, these layers are called horizons and their formation is called horizonation. Although these horizons are
related, they differ from each other chemically, physically, and biologically. There are five master horizons, each represented by a letter (see Fig. at left): O, A, E, B, and C. A sixth horizon, represented by the letter R, is used to denote the underlying bedrock. The vertical arrangement of soil horizons is known as the soil profile. Soil profiles vary from location to location, and not all soil profiles possess all five master horizons. (Expanded details for each horizon can be found in the USDA NRCS publication, From the Ground Down.) Soils on older, more stable surfaces will generally possess well-defined soil horizons. The longer a soil has been exposed to events such as rain and plant growth, the more developed the soil profile.

Methodologies exist that scientists use to describe the components and characteristics of the soil profile. These standardized soil-profile descriptions are used to decide how a soil may be used and/or predict how a soil may react to its intended use. Not only are these soil descriptions useful for farmers, they are also useful for civil engineers, ecologists, and hydrologists – to name a few.

Be sure to read part 1.2 of this article in our next newsletter. Keep growing, and make it a good day!

Dr. Buck is North America Director of Technical Services for HUMA GRO®.

Read this and other articles in the Spring 2015 issue of The Solution at http://bhn.uberflip.com/i/513498-bhn-spring-2015-newsletter. Past issues are located at http://bhn.us/newsletters/.

HUMA GRO® ZAP® CAULIFLOWER TEST FIELD IN SPAIN

Cauliflower-Spain

Distributor: Huma Gro Hispaña
HUMA GRO® application was ZAP® 5L/ha

The cauliflower on the left was planted 3 weeks earlier than the cauliflower on the right, meaning the control is an older crop—although it looks worse for wear and is shorter. The two groups have equal nutrition programs: the difference is time and ZAP® at 5L/ha.

Because of the improvement in soil structure and the flourishing of microorganisms, there is more water available to the plant—resulting in a more vibrant color (an indicator that the plants are receiving more nutrients) and stronger vigor and turgidity (meaning the leaves are very firm and have absorbed more water than the control because there is more soil-available moisture). Along these same lines is that by having more water in the leaves, they are less susceptible to low-temperature stress and the plant physiology will continue to function at lower temperatures without losing pace, improving productivity.

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A Life of Abundance!

The Huma Gro® family of products comes from Bio Huma Netics, Inc., a company that values mission over margin. Our mission is to “provide technologically advanced and ecologically sustainable quality products and services that replenish the earth by restoring water quality, reviving soil fertility, renewing food and fiber value, and refocusing engineered technologies—while minimizing human environmental impact and thereby enhancing the quality of life world-wide.” This video represents our company vision and commitment to help growers/operators and communities—both locally and all over the world—through our sustainable, efficient products and programs.

Southwest Ag Summit

SWAgSummit

Come see us at the Southwest Ag Summit at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona, on February 25–26. Ray Speakman and Nathan Smith will be there in Booth 52 to answer all of your Huma Gro questions. For more information, go to www.swagsummit.com.

20th Annual Commodity Classic

Blazing-to-Success

Come see us at the 20th Annual Commodity Classic at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 26–28. Alan Merrill and Johann Buck, PhD, will be there in Booth 1438 to answer all of your Huma Gro questions. For more information, go to www.commodityclassic.com.

Solving Agricultural Challenges with HUMA GRO®

This video is about solving the challenges of modern agriculture & crop fertility with HUMA GRO® product line: Sustainable Soil Fertility & Carbon-Rich Organic Acids, Optimal Growth Managers, Ultra-Efficient Crop Nutrition, and Zero-Residue Crop Protection.  With HUMA GRO®, growers can apply less and see more benefits from our Micro Carbon Technology®. HUMA GRO® enhances fruit quality and increases yields while being environmentally sustainable. Watch this video featuring Lyndon Smith, President/CEO.

4R Nutrient Stewardship Partner

4R blog banner-01For over 40 years, since 1973 HUMA GRO® has been developing high efficiency liquid soil health and plant nutrition products. HUMA GRO® agricultural products support the innovative and science-based approach of 4R Nutrient Stewardship that offers enhanced environmental protection, increased crop production and quality, increased farmer profitability, and improved soil productivity and sustainability. We strongly support the concept of using the right nu4r_nutrientstewardship_rgb_MRtrient source, at the right rate, the right time, and in the right place to support the nutrient needs of crops. Our products support cropping systems that provide economic, social, and environmental benefits; and our philosophy is to promote the 4Rs as a recognizable strategy for economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

HUMA GRO® agricultural products use our proprietary Micro Carbon Technology® to help move nutrients into the plant, promote the growth of roots and benefit microorganisms in the soil as well as reduce the amount of product needed to accomplish maximum results. HUMA GRO® offers complete crop programs that implement the 4Rs with a full line of crop fertility products. The “Right Time” to inquire about a tailored crop program that follows Nutrient Stewardship is “Right Now.” Contact us.

Case Studies

case studies banner-01

Case studies are a great way to learn about our crop fertility product uses and effectiveness from other people who have tested them. HUMA GRO® has been testing its products since it was established in 1973.  Now there is a list of recent field trials and 3rd-party research available on the case studies page found on the resources tab.  This page will be updated as new research becomes available throughout the year.

We Are Currently Seeking Distributors

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be the designated HUMA GRO® representative in your area.

We are looking for distributors who are

  • Established and experienced at sales in the agriculture industry
  • Knowledgeable about crop nutrition
  • Committed to offering their customers the best products available

Visit our distributors page for more information or give us a call at 1-800-961-1220 to find out how you can take advantage of this great opportunity!

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