You go out to the park. You see soil on the pavement side with a lot of grass and trees growing from it. You go to the beach. You see soil that gets in your feet and touches the ocean. Did you ever wonder how they differ? Even though they are both soils, they look different, feel different, and even smell different.
Let’s understand how it comes to exist and what kinds are there.
About Soil / What are Soils?
Soil is the outermost layer of the Earth. Hence, it is the layer we can readily see when we step out of our homes.
Soils evolve due to the breakdown of rocks due to climatic, biological, topographic, and geologic influences.
Factors of Soil formation / Factors responsible for soil formation
Soil formation refers to the evolution of soils and their qualities, and pedologists have identified five main soil formation processes that impact soil properties.
These five factors are:
Parent material – It is the initial state of the solid matter making up the soil.
Topography – Topography includes the physical characteristics of an area of land, especially the position of its rivers, mountains, etc.
Climate – It refers to the traits of weather as they evolve for soil properties to develop. It includes precipitation, temperature, and storm patterns.
Organisms – Organisms greatly affect the development of soils. Be it animals, humans or other smaller living organisms.
Time – The parent material and topography are variable factors of soil formation. Organisms and climate are fixed attributes of soil formation. Time is an abstract variable whose significance is a marker of the evolution of soil characteristics.
How is soil formed?
Soil formation occurs due to a gradual and consistent breakdown of rocks. Process of soil formation –
The formation of the soil starts with the disintegration of rocks under certain environmental conditions.
Particularly under rains, water seeps into the rocks through crevices. The outside temperatures then impact the water and cause the expansion and contraction of the rocks.
As temperatures drop, the water inside those crevices tends to freeze and when temperatures rise, the water melts or vaporizes. This causes cracks inside the rocks and finally breaks them into finer particles. Therefore, rocks break down due to weathering conditions and erosions caused as a result of the climate.
Rocks get swamped by lichens that grow on their surface.
Rocks get converted into powder form by substances released by Lichens. The powdery material then gets converted into the soil.
Plants like moss can grow on these surfaces. The decaying plants produce organic acids that attack the rocks.
Organic matter and the rock particles get mixed with minerals and forms soil.
Types of Soil
Soil is classified into four types:
What is Sandy Soil?
Tiny particles of worn rock make up sandy soil.
The breakdown or fragmentation of rocks such as granite, limestone, and quartz form Sandy soil.
Sandy soils are one of the worst types of soil for growing plants. They have very few nutrients and low water retention capacity, making it difficult for the plant’s roots to absorb water.
This soil type is ideal for nitrogen-fixing in the environment.
Sandy soils are found commonly in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, and parts of Gujarat. The east and west coasts of India also have sandy soils.
What is Silt Soil?
Silt soil’s particles are much smaller in size than sandy soil. Rocks and other mineral particles help in their formation.
– It holds water better than sand.
– Riverbanks, lakes and other water bodies mostly have silt.
– It is most apt for agricultural activity.
– Humus is a dark, organic material that forms in soil when plants and animals decay. The residuals of these organisms decay on the surface of the soil and piles up. It contains many nutrients for healthy soil.
What is Clay Soil?
Clay soil is the soil having the smallest particle size.
The particles in the soil are densely packed together, with little or no airspace between them.
This soil has excellent water storage characteristics, making it difficult for moisture and air to infiltrate.
When wet, it is quite sticky to the touch, but when dry, it is smooth.
Clay is the densest soil and also the heaviest soil. Therefore, it does not drain properly or allow plant roots to grow.
They cover the plateaus of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and extend in the South-East direction along Godavari and Krishna valleys.
What is Loamy Soil?
Loamy soil is a mixture of sand, silt and clay, with the positive characteristics of each incorporated.
It can retain moisture and nutrients, making it more ideal for farming.
Because of its inorganic origins, it also has high calcium and pH levels.
This soil is also known as agricultural soil as it is a combination of all three types of soil materials: sandy, clay, and silt. It also contains Humus.
Soil is one of the finest gifts of nature. Since it is a result of Earth’s natural processes, it comes to us in abundance. However, when we use hazardous substances and litter, our activities hampers the soil quality. We end up deteriorating it for all organisms and the Earth too.
Therefore, we should respect the gifts of nature and learn about them so we can find ways to sustain them for future generations.
The next time you step out of your house, assess the soil types around you and think about their properties.
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