To get a bountiful harvest, a farmer must sow a specific plant at the right time and in the right place. The right place determines not only the geographic location and climate but also the type of soil. Each type has advantages and disadvantages, and different types of soil are suitable for growing different crops in terms of nutrient content (is there enough nutrient in a particular soil type for the plants); characteristics of soil types for cultivation (how easily the land is cultivated); irrigation (how quickly water flows in and out). By managing these key factors, you can get the most out of your situation. But for this, you need to know what type of soil you are dealing with.
What Are the Types of Soil
As for the classification of soil types (soil), there is no consensus. There are several approaches depending on the main distinguishing feature. Most often, however, the paradigm is based on composition. It should also be noted that different industries have their own classifications of soil types and their characteristics.
Definitions of soil type usually explain the elements that make up a substance: sand, clay, and silt. Thus, there are three main materials for creating different types of soils with their strengths and weaknesses. When trying to understand what is the difference, one should pay attention to the particle size. The smallest are typical for clay. The smaller the particles, the less air remains between them and the closer they stick to each other.
And, of course, speaking of soils, it is difficult not to mention black soil. On our summer cottages, they are not so common, but deserve special attention.
Chernozems are soils of high potential fertility. Stable granular-lumpy structure, high humus content, high percentage of calcium, good water-absorbing and water-retention capabilities allow us to recommend them as the best option for growing crops. However, like any other soil, they tend to deplete from constant use, therefore, already 2-3 years after their development, it is recommended to apply organic fertilizers to the beds, sow green manures.
In addition, chernozems can hardly be called light soils, based on this, they are often loosened by adding sand or peat. They can also be acidic, neutral and alkaline, which also requires adjustment.
To understand that you really have black soil in front of you, you need to take a guest of the earth and squeeze it in your palm, a black bold imprint should remain on your hand.
Some people confuse chernozem with peat – here, too, there is a method for checking: a wet lump of soil must be squeezed out in the hand and placed in the sun – the peat will dry out instantly, while chernozem will retain moisture for a long time.
Clay soil. It is quite easy to determine the clay type of soil: after digging it has a coarse, lumpy, dense structure, sticks greasy to the feet in the rains, does not absorb water well, easily sticks together. Plants on clay soils do not have an easy time. The characteristics of this type of soil include: poor heating of the roots, lack of oxygen, stagnant moisture, the formation of a soil crust that does not work for the benefit of the crop. But still, trees and shrubs, having a sufficiently powerful root system, tolerate this type of soil well. Among the agrotechnical methods, special attention should be paid to loosening and mulching on clay soils.
Sandy soil refers to light types of soil. It is also not difficult to recognize it: it is loose, free-flowing, it easily passes water. All the qualities inherent in sandy soils are both their plus and their minus. This type of soil quickly warms up, is well aerated, easily processed, but at the same time it cools quickly, dries up soon, and weakly retains minerals in the root zone (nutrients are washed out by water into the deep layers of the soil). As a result, the soils are poor in the presence of useful microflora and are poorly suited for growing any crops.
Sandy loam soil
Sandy loam soil is another option for light-textured soils. In terms of its qualities, it is similar to sandy soil, but it contains a slightly higher percentage of clay inclusions, which means it has a better holding capacity for mineral and organic substances, not only warms up quickly but also retains heat for a long time, passes moisture less and dries out more slowly, is well aerated and easy to process.
Loamy soil is the most suitable type of soil for growing horticultural crops. Anything can be grown on loamy soils. It is easy to process, contains a large percentage of nutrients, has high air and water permeability, is able not only to retain moisture, but also to distribute it evenly over the thickness of the horizon, and retains heat well. Due to the totality of the available properties, the loamy soil does not need to be improved, but it is only necessary to maintain its fertility: mulch, apply manure for autumn digging (3-4 kg per 1 sq. M.) And, if necessary, feed the crops planted on it with mineral fertilizers.
Lime soil is poor soil, usually light brown in color and contains lime or calcium carbonate. They are very alkaline and not suitable for growing plants that require acidic soils. In crops grown on such soils, foliage turns yellow and unsatisfactory growth is observed. To improve the structure and increase the fertility of calcareous soils, it is necessary to regularly apply organic fertilizers, and not only for the main processing, but also in the form of mulch, use potash fertilizers, sow green manures. Everything can be grown on this type of soil, but subject to frequent loosening of the row spacing of fields, timely watering and the thoughtful use of mineral and organic fertilizers.
Peat soils can hardly be called good for growing crops: the nutrients they contain are inaccessible to plants, they quickly absorb water, but they give up just as quickly, they warm up poorly and often have high acidity. On the other hand, such soils hold mineral fertilizers well and are easy to process. To increase the fertility of wetlands, it is necessary to saturate the soil with sand (this requires deep digging to lift the sand from the lower layers) or clay flour, in a particularly acidic version – make abundant liming, take care of increasing the content of beneficial microorganisms in the soil (add manure, suspension, compost, do not ignore microbiological additives), do not forget about potassium-phosphorus fertilizers.
Comparison of Major Soil Components
Let’s compare the advantages and disadvantages of each component in the main soil types.
|Sand (particle size 0.05-2 mm)||Clay (particle size <0.002 mm)||Sludge (particle size 0.002 – 0.05 mm)|
|Easy to cultivate||Difficult to cultivate||Easy to cultivate|
|Poor in nutrients||Rich in nutrients||Contains enough nutrients|
|Dries quickly||Dries slowly, but cracks when dry||Does not dry very quickly, but cracks when dry and require plowing for better air circulation|
|Warms up quickly after winter||Warms up slowly after winter||Warms up quickly after winter|
|Poor water retention||Retains water for too long||Drains well but retains enough moisture|
|Suction rate * (0.6 inches / hour)||Suction speed * (0.1 inch / h)||Suction rate * (0.3 inches / hour)|
|Field capacity ** (0.1%)||Field capacity ** (0.357%)||Field capacity ** (0.255%)|
* The suction rate is the time it takes for the soil to absorb the amount of water.
** Field capacity is the percentage of moisture in the soil after there is no more water left.
It seems that sludge is the optimal composition for the needs of agriculture, as it has the wisest combination of all parameters. “Baseline” means a lot, but it is not decisive. At elevated temperatures and lack of water, you may encounter errors. However, if you mix sandy soil with silt or peat, you have every chance of achieving the best results. In the case of clay, it is good to mix it with sand. Silt seems like the best option so far, but it doesn’t seem to be necessary.
North America soils
Almost all of the world’s soil zones are found in North America. Compared to other continents, the smallest areas are occupied by deserts and very few wind-blown sands. In the northern part of the mainland, within Canada, large areas are occupied by podzolic soils and podzols, as well as swamp soils. The southern part of Canada is dominated by gray forest soils and meadow chernozems.
The best soils (brunezems, chernozems, and chestnut soils) are common in the United States. Good soils also include the red soils developed in the eastern part of the mainland, and the brown soils of the inner subtropical regions.
Within the mountain belts of North America, it can be considered that mountain brown forest and mountain brown soils are among the best soils.
The distribution of soils is generally subordinated to bioclimatic zoning and facies, which are well traced from north to south and from west to east. However, this pattern is complicated by the specific influence of local factors: the Cordillera in the west and the Appalachians in the east isolate the flat center of the continent from the oceans; large areas in the north are under glaciers; bays (Hudson, Mexican, California) are deeply embedded in the mainland; cold and warm ocean currents have a significant impact on the climate.
In the arctic climate, soil formation proceeds weakly and only fragmentarily under very sparse vegetation. Soils are arctic desert, mainly
tive, underdeveloped with horizon A and transitional horizon BC, with the presence of permanent permafrost at a depth of 30–100 cm. Physical weathering predominates, ice, rock outcrops, and stony places are widespread. Cryogenic phenomena are characteristic: the formation of heaving mounds, the polygonality of the microrelief.
In the subarctic climate (tundra and forest-tundra zones), salt-fluctuation, frost heaving, gleying, and polygonality are developed. Quite large areas are occupied by outcrops of rocks and coarse moraine deposits. Characterized by tundra gley coarse humus acidic soils, often peat, waterlogged. Sometimes there is a slight podzolization of soils. The gleying of soils occur mainly at the contact with permafrost.
In the boreal moderately cold climate (middle and southern taiga), podzols, gray and brown forest soils are developed.
Podzols are mainly humus-ferruginous with mobile fulvate humus, often waterlogged, with extended reddish horizons, rubble. Lessive soils are genetically close to gray and brown forest soils. They are characterized by the formation of secondary clays and their movement together with sesquioxides from the upper horizons to the lower ones, as well as the movement of carbonates.
In the subboreal moderately warm climate of the forest-steppe and steppe, brunezems, meadow-chernozem soils, chernozems, chestnut and brown semi-desert soils are widespread. These soils form on moraine deposits in the northern zones and on loess-like loams and loes in the south. The chernozem zone is elongated in the direction from the north-east to the south-west. The northern subzones of chernozems have features of residual or modern meadow land.
Brunezems occupy more eastern positions than chernozems, and therefore are under the great influence of the Atlantic Ocean and are formed in a uniformly warm and relatively humid climate, milder and warmer than the climate of the steppes. Brunezems are distinguished by good structure, non-salinity. In the “corn belt” zone, brunezems are developed on alluvial plains with similar groundwater levels.
The dry subtropical climate is dominated by dry savannas, subtropical steppes and semi-deserts. Characterized by medium and low intensity of weathering, significant mineralization of organic remains, reddish color of soils and parent rocks, inherited mainly from the ancient weathering crust formed in a more humid climate. Clay horizon B is usually observed in soils, which indicates shallow weathering in warm climates with insufficiently high moisture content.
In some places, the heterogeneity of the soil profile is observed – an arid type of soil formation in the upper part and residual signs of tropical soil formation in the lower part.
The humid subtropics are characterized by intense weathering of the mineral part, rapid mineralization of organic matter, removal of organomineral complexes and the
accumulation of oxides of iron, aluminum and silica, which gives the soils a reddish-brown or reddish color. The formed red soils are predominantly podzolized or ferrallitized, with an acidic reaction, a low degree of saturation, with a predominance of the absorbed bases of hydrogen and aluminum. A significant content of gib-bite is observed in the clay fraction, as well as kaolinite, vermiculite, and highly dispersed quartz.
In the humid tropics, weathering is very intense and continuous, which brings them closer to the soils of Africa. The formed unsaturated ferralitic and ferruginous tropical soils are distinguished by an acidic reaction, an insignificant amount (2-5%) of fulvate humus, a low absorption capacity, migration of bases, silica, a high content of mobile and crystallized forms of iron, intensive loessivage (movement) of clays into the depth of the profile with the formation of sometimes colmated horizons. The clay fraction of soils is dominated by kaolinite.
In a dry tropical climate, the intensity of weathering dies out and depends on the duration of the dry season. Mostly moderate weathering. Red-brown and black tropical soils prevail. In the profile of red-brown soils, there is still a rather significant content of free and crystallized iron, ferromanganese nodules. The soils are low-humus, fulvate humus, with low absorption capacity, with a large amount of fine sand and coarse dust, with a slightly acidic or neutral reaction. Black tropical soils are characterized by features that bring them closer to similar soils of the tropics on other continents – the montmorillonite composition of the clay and the specificity of physical properties.
How to Determine Soil Type: Simple But Reliable Techniques
There are several basic and quick tests to understand the types of soil structure. For greater accuracy, it is necessary to separate large and heavy particles from it, for example, stones and gravel, and pre-mix samples from different parts of the field.
- The ball . Make a ball out of a damp (but not completely wet) substance and drop it about half a meter high. Catch. If it falls apart, then it is too gritty. If it is still sticking together, it means that there is a lot of clay in it. Another option is to simply squeeze out. If it breaks, then the type of soil is sandy. If it sticks to your hands, then it is made mostly of clay.
- Pea grain . Take a small amount of dirt and rub it with your fingers. If the substance seems to be oily to the touch, sticks to the fingers and spreads smoothly, it is clay. If it is sandy and has difficulty spreading, it is sandy soil.
- Stick . Make a stick out of damp earth by rolling it between your hands. Put it down. If erected without crushing, there is enough clay in this type of soil. If not, it mostly consists of sand.
- Jar (bottle) . This option involves a little math and physics. Pour a handful of soil into a bottle and cover with water. Shake well. As a result of the experiment, different layers will be obtained depending on their weight. Measure them and calculate the ratio. Note that the clay can fall for several days. The sequence of the elements depends on their weight. The heaviest is sand, it will be at the bottom. Il will be in the middle. The lightest is clay – it will be on top.
Soil Type For Crop: How To Make The Right Choice?
When it comes to the right type of soil for plants, there is no one-size-fits-all recipe, however loamy soils seem ideal.
Even if the grass behind the fence looks greener, your neighbor most likely has the same soil as yours. It rarely happens that different types of soil are found in the same area. Online farm management software can provide the most accurate answer – satellites can monitor the area, process data, and provide an accurate answer using your field’s soil type chart.
It should also be noted that “pure” types are rare – most likely, you have to deal with such mixtures as sandy clay, silty clay, loamy clay, silty loam, sandy loam, etc.
In addition, the types of soil contamination should be considered. Along with natural “impurities” such as manure and excrement produced by animals and humans, there are radioactive contaminants, municipal and industrial waste that affect the composition and overall quality of the soil.
So, the main way to succeed in agriculture here is to know your specific soil type and its characteristics and grow the plants that are most suitable for the given case.