A Lesson Learned About Soil

While surfing the web, I came across and interesting article on the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) website – a site specializing in water and soil conservation. In an effort to learn more about these issues, I perused some of the links and I found one that worked particularly well for me. The link was titled “Helping People Understand Soils.” I know, I thought it was for kids at first, too. But, after reading through its ten key messages, I found that, although stated simply, this article contains lessons for anyone. So, here’s what it said (in a nutshell):

Lesson #1: Soils perform vital functions. They sustain plant and animal life below and above the surface. Soils regulate and partition water and solute flow. They filter, buffer, degrade, immobilize and detoxify. Soils store and cycle nutrients and they provide support to structures.

Lesson #2: Soil is the basis of the ecosystem. The living systems occurring above and below the ground surface are determined by the properties of the soil. We often ignore the soil because it is hard to observe.

Lesson #3: Soils Support Life. Organisms like bacteria, fungi, earthworms and more live in the soil and perform important roles in decomposition, release of nutrients, creating pores and stabilizing soils.

Lesson #4: Soil management affects soil quality.

Lesson #5: Soils have unique physical, chemical and biological properties that are important to their users.Traits like color, texture, structure, consistency, roots and pores all all important soil characteristics. Soil is a natural body of solids, liquids and gases with either horizons or layers or the ability to support rooted plants.

Lesson #6: Soil-forming factors determine the location and type of soil. Factors that affect soil formation include parent material, climate, living organisms, topography and time. Within the United States there are 23,000 soil series in various combinations with different slopes and surface textures.

Lesson #7: Soil Survey is a scientifically-based inventory. A soil survey includes maps, descriptions, properties, climate and interpretations. About 3,000 counties in the U.S. have a soil survey.

Lesson #8: Soils have limitations which must be understood. Soil related problems include corrosivity, flooding, rapid runoff, septic failure, soil born disease, contamination, crop loss, erosion, slope failures and much more.

Lesson #9: Just like plants and animals, soils are classified with scientific names using Soil Taxonomy – the highest level is Soil Order and the lowest is Soil Series.