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What on Earth is Soil?
What is Soil?
What is petrology and what does a petrologist do?
What does a mineralogist do?
What does a petrologist do?
Where do mineralogists work?
What education does a mineralogist need?
What does soil pH mean?
What are minerals?
What is clay?
Where does clay come from?
Why should you know about soil?
What should you know about soil?
How does soil ph affect plant nutrients?
What are plant macronutrients and micronutrients?
What is lime?
What does lime do to soil to enhance plant growth?
What education does a mineralogist need?
What do all living things need in order to live?
Do plants need the same things?
Which of these things do plants get from the soil?
What part or parts of the soil do you think contain these things?
Soil Test
What are the different types of soil?
Why should you have soil tested?
What are the types of soil testing?
Soil testing for growing food grains, fruit trees, and vegetables.
Soil testing for construction.
Soil testing for extraction of elements or materials.
How do you test soil for growing food grains, fruit trees, and vegetables?
How do you test soil for construction purposes?
How do you test soil for extraction of elements and materials?
How often should soil tests be done?
What should you do if you plan to grow plants for food?
What do you need to grow?
Should the end products be utilized for human food?
If the end product is not utilized for human food, it is a futile exercise.
How much land is available?
What is the quality of the soil?
How do you test the quality of soil?
What should you test in the quality of soil?
What are various soil tests available?
Where and when should you collect samples of soil?
What should be the quantity of samples?
How many samples should you collect?
What should you test in soil?
Is it sandy, gravel, silt, or clay soil?
What is the Ph of the soil?
How do you measure the Ph of soil?
What should be the Ph of soil for rice, wheat, or corn crops?
Does soil contain enough primary and secondary nutrients?
What are primary and secondary soil nutrients?
How do you verify primary and secondary soil nutrients?
What are various types of fertilizers?
What should you look for in a fertilizer?
How do you test the quality of fertilizer?
How do you make recommendations for fertilizers for specific soils for growing food grains, fruits, and vegetables?
There are plants that prefer to grow in specific Ph of the soil, chemical composition of soil. You must declare plants you need to grow.
What is the texture of soil?
What is the chemical composition of soil?
Does it contain primary and secondary nutrients?
How often does it rain?
Do crops need any human irrigation?
When should you harvest?
What are the physical properties of minerals?
What are the chemical properties of minerals?
What are various mineral groups?
What makes various mineral groups different than pure elements?
To what mineral group does silica tetrahedron belong?
How is silica tetrahedron different than silicon?
What on Earth is Soil?
* Soil makes up the outermost layer of our planet.
* Topsoil is the most productive soil layer.
* Soil has varying amounts of organic matter (living and dead organisms), minerals, and nutrients.
* Five tons of topsoil spread over an acre is only as thick as a dime.
* Natural processes can take more than 500 years to form one inch of topsoil.
* Soil scientists have identified over 70,000 kinds of soil in the United States.
* Soil is formed from rocks and decaying plants and animals.
* An average soil sample is 45 percent minerals, 25 percent water, 25 percent air, and five percent organic matter.
* Different-sized mineral particles, such as sand, silt, and clay, give soil its texture.
* Fungi and bacteria help break down organic matter in the soil.
* Plant roots and lichens break up rocks which become part of new soil.
* Roots loosen the soil, allowing oxygen to penetrate. This benefits animals living in the soil.
* Erosion GraphicRoots hold soil together and help prevent erosion.
* Five to 10 tons of animal life can live in an acre of soil.
* Earthworms digest organic matter, recycle nutrients, and make the surface soil richer.
* Soil GraphicMice take seeds and other plant materials into underground burrows, where this material eventually decays and becomes part of the soil.
* Mice, moles, and shrews dig burrows which help aerate the soil.

What is Soil?
Soil is one of the three major natural resources, alongside air and water. It is one of the marvellous products of nature and without which there would be no life.

Soil is made up of three main components - minerals that come from rocks below or nearby, organic matter which is the remains of plants and animals that use the soil, and the living organisms that reside in the soil.

The proportion of each of these is important in determining the type of soil that is present. But other factors such as climate, vegetation, time, the surrounding terrain, and even human activities (eg. farming, grazing, gardening etc.), are also important in influencing how soil is formed and the types of soil that occur in a particular landscape.

Soil can form from the rocks below, or from rocks a very long distance away - perhaps being carried by wind or water. The glaciers of the last ice age acted as giant bulldozers pushing truly huge amounts of soil along as they grew and dropping the soil as they melted.

What is petrology and what does a petrologist do?
Petrology is the scientific study of rocks. A petrologist is a scientist who examines rocks to determine their origin, composition, and geologic history.


(1) Soil Chemistry
(2) Soil Genesis, Morphology and Classification
(3) Soil Biology and Biochemistry
(4) Soil Physics

What does a mineralogist do? A mineralogist is a person who studies minerals. Since minerals are defined as naturally occurring solid substances, there is a tremendous range of ideas and processes that can be studied. This includes everything from the soil surface to the center of the earth ( and maybe a few extraterrestrial materials ). Most mineralogists are employed by universities where they do research and teach. Other employers consist of state and federal geological surveys, private mining companies, and a few curating museum collections of minerals The following are areas of interest for members of this Society. Mineralogy - Crystallography - Crystal and Mineral Chemistry - Crystal Structures - Material Properties - Mineral Physics - Mineral Surfaces - Spectroscopy - Igneous, Metamorphic, and Sedimentary Petrology - Petrography, and Petrogenesis - Major and Trace Element Geochemistry - Isotope Geochemistry - Mineral-fluid Reactions and Geochemistry - Phase Equilibrium - Economic Geology - Ore Deposits - Experimental Mineralogy and Petrology - Clay Mineralogy - Industrial Mineralogy - Environmental Mineralogy - Theoretical Mineral Physics - Gem Materials - Planetary Materials - Biological Mineralogy - Teaching - New Minerals and Mineral Occurrences - Mineralogical Apparatus, Techniques, and Analysis - Mineralogical Nomenclature - Mineral Synthesis - Materials Science - Fluid Phase Petrology - Mineral Thermodynamics and Thermochemistry - Volcanic Processes - Crystal and Mineral Growth - Electron Microscopy - Optical Crystallography and Microscopy - Forensic Mineralogy - Microtextures and Fabrics - Mineral Classification - Fluid Inclusions - Pegmatites - Databases - Symmetry - History of Mineralogy - Ceramic Archeology - Mineral Collection Preservation - Mineral Museums - Single Element Mineralogy and Geochemistry - Philosophy of Natural Sciences - Soil Science - Refractories - Experimental Geochemistry - Meteoritics - Geochronology - Mineral Processing - Kinetics - Geochemical Prospecting - Structural Petrology - Concrete Petrology What does a petrologist do? A petrologist is a scientist that studies rocks. The first tool that most petrologists use is a petrological microscope. This is used to view thin sections of rocks ( thin slices of rock that are about a hair's thickness). This microscope uses polarized light ( light in which all the waves vibrate in a single direction). Once this is used, there are many other tools available that are used depending upon what questions are being answered. For instance there is equipment that can be used to determine the permeability of a rock ( how fast fluids flow through a rock ). This can be of interest to persons studying how much water can be delivered from an aquifer or how best to produce oil or gas from a rock. Study of rocks is also important in finding deposits of commercially valuable minerals, and in determining the history of the earth. Where do mineralogists work? The vast majority of mineralogists teach at universities. Smaller numbers work at the U.S. Geological Survey and some state geological surveys. There are also members employed at the national laboratories. Some mineralogists work as museum curators. What education does a mineralogist need? Becoming a mineralogist requires at a minimum a college degree and often postgraduate work. Since most mineralogists work in research or teaching a PhD is the commonest degree that is required. To prepare for this you need to take a college preparatory track in high school. It would pay to take as much science and mathematics that you can. The MSA website has a K-12 teaching subsection that is under construction at the present time and should be checked periodically. It is a good idea to look at as many minerals as you can. This can include museums, gem & mineral shows, and field trips. Some mineral clubs have junior sections that give younger members some experience with minerals. Natural history museums often have displays of minerals with some educational explanations. The American Association of State Geologists contains links to all of the state surveys and they often have links to educational resources. What does soil pH mean?
The acidity or alkalinity of the soil is measured by pH (potential Hydrogen ions).

Basically it is a measure of the amount of lime (calcium) contained in your soil, and the type of soil that you have. Generally, soils in moist climates tend to be acid and those in dry climates are alkaline. A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid soil and one with a pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline. The soil must be adjusted to suit the plant which will occupy that area if it is not already within that plants requirement range.

Testing your soil pH

Most good garden centers will even gladly pH test a soil sample for you, or you can buy an inexpensive pH test kit at most nurseries, or hardware stores.

These test kits generally consist of a test tube, some testing solution and a color chart. You put a sample of your soil in the tube, add a few drops of test solution, shake it up and leave it for an hour or so to settle.

The solution in the tube changes color according to the pH of your soil. Compare the color of the sample with the color chart that came with the kit. Matching colors will tell you the pH of your sample. The better kits will also advisory booklets about how to interpret your result.

Adjusting your soil pH

Once you have determined the pH you can amend the soil, if needed to accommodate the plants in your garden using materials commonly available at your local garden center.

Raising the soil pH to make it more alkaline

Generally speaking, it is easier to make soils more alkaline than it is to make them more acid. Because different soil types react in different ways to the application of lime you will have to add more lime to clay soils and peaty soils than you will in sandy soils to achieve the same result.

To increase your pH by 1.0 point and make your soil more alkaline:

* Add 4 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in sandy soils
* Add 8 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in loamy soils
* Add 12 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in clay soils
* Add 25 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in peaty soils

Correction of an overly acid soil should be considered a long term project, rather than trying to accomplish it in one year. It is better to test your soil each year and make your adjustments gradually. The addition of hardwood ash, bone meal, crushed marble, or crushed oyster shells will also help to raise the soil pH.

Lowering the soil pH to make it more acidic

If your soil needs to be more acidic, sulfur may be used to lower the pH if it is available. To reduce the soil pH by 1.0 point, mix in 1.2 oz of ground rock sulfur per square yard if the soil is sandy, or 3.6 oz per square yard for all other soils. The sulfur should be thoroughly mixed into the soil before planting. Sawdust, composted leaves, wood chips, cottonseed meal, leaf mold and especially peat moss, will lower the soil pH.


* Always read and follow the manufactures recommendations when using chemical products.

* Use appropriate protection such as a dust mask, and gloves.

* The best way to adjust pH is gradually, over several seasons.

* Lime should be applied only when tests show it to be necessary.

* If the soil is excessively alkaline, you may find that you are better off to build a raised bed using topsoil purchased from a nursery.

Nutrients from the Soil

Most living things need three basic things to survive: food, water, and air. If you said that plants get their nutrients and water from the soil, you are right! Although all green plants make their food by photosynthesis, they also need to get nutrients from the soil. These dissolve in water and are taken up by the roots of the plant.

The most important plant nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K).

Nitrogen helps above-ground leafy growth and gives dark green color to leaves.

Phosphorous encourages plant cell division. Without phosphorous, flowers and seeds could not form. Phosphorous also helps root growth and protects the plant from disease.

Like phosphorous, potassium increases the plant's resistance to disease and encourages root growth. Potassium is needed for the making of chlorophyll.

Soil is the thin layer on the surface of the Earth on which the living beings of the earth survive since it is the layer of materials in which plants have their roots. Soil is made up of many things like weathered rock particles and decayed plant and animal matter. It takes a long time for soil formation and more than thousand years for the formation of a thin layer of soil. Since soil is made up of such diverse materials like broken down rock particles and organic material, it can be classified into various types, though based on the size of the particles it contains.

Plant Preferences for pH

Very acid
(pH 5.0 to 5.8)
Moderately acid
(pH of 5.5 to 6.8)
Slightly acid
(pH 6.0 to 6.8)
Very alkaline
(pH 7.0 to 8.0)

Irish potato
spinach beet
wild strawberry
sweet potato
white birch

Brussels sprouts
collard greens
lima bean
bok choy
Swiss chard
Chinese cabbage
date palms
dusty miller
salt cedar
Rocks from which minerals are mined for economic purposes are referred to as ores.

What are minerals?
A mineral is an element or chemical compound that is normally crystalline and that has been formed as a result of geological processes. Examples include quartz, feldspar minerals, calcite, sulfur and the clay minerals such as kaolinite and smectite.

Minerals are often used in the production of ceramics. Properties of minerals

Minerals have a characteristic chemical composition and a highly ordered atomic structure.

People describe soil types in all kinds of ways such as heavy, light, sandy, clay, loam, poor or good.

Soil makes up the outermost layer of our planet.

Soil scientists describe soil types by how much sand, silt and clay are present. This is called texture.

Soil is formed from rocks and decaying plants and animals.

An average soil sample is 45 percent minerals, 25 percent water, 25 percent air, and five percent organic matter.

Soils are formed under the influence of climate, the material they occur on, the flora and fauna (including human activity), the topography of the terrain, and time. These five factors are commonly known as the Soil forming factors.

Because soil is important for cultivation and agricultural production, soil fertility and productivity are important issues to address. Detailed pedological knowledge is useful for land evaluation purposes, i.e. the classification in fertile productive soils and less valuable soils. Soils are an integral part of landscapes and the knowledge of the distribution of different soils helps to preserve a high standard in environmental quality. For example, site specific management cannot be developed without detailed knowledge of soils. Critical sites, e.g. shallow hillslope soils prone to erosion and leaching of nutrients, can be identified using pedology. Soil surveys furnish basic inputs to soil conservation planning and provide information used in equations for predicting soil loss and water pollution under various management practices on different soils.

The behavior of water in the ground is influenced by the type of soil present. Soils are classified according to their particle size as follows:

Soil Particle Sizes

There are several different systems in place that denote the particle sizes. The values given above pertain to the USDA Soil Taxonomy system. You probably have a good idea of what gravel and sand particles look like, but maybe not silt or clay. Silt particles are about as big as the thickness of your hair, and clay particles are much smaller than that!

Generally, soils consist of a mixture of different particle types, such as "sandy clay", or a "silty sand".

Name of soil separate Diameter limits (mm)
Clay less than 0.002
Silt 0.002–0.05
Very fine sand 0.05–0.10
Fine sand 0.10–0.25
Medium sand 0.25–0.50
Coarse sand 0.50–1.00
Very coarse sand 1.00–2.00

Soil Separates - Sand, Silt and Clay

Where does clay come from?

Clay is a soft, loose, earthy material containing particles with a grain size of less than 4 micrometres (μm). It forms as a result of the weathering and erosion of rocks containing the mineral group feldspar (known as the ‘mother of clay’) over vast spans of time.

What is clay?
What is clay useful for?