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All over the country [some soils are] worn out, depleted, exhausted, almost dead. But here is comfort: These soils possess possibilities and may be restored to high productive power, provided you do a few simple things. —C.W. BURKETT, 1907
Definition of Soil
SOIL—the natural medium in which plants grow.
This definition, however, may be a little too simple. Here’s a better one:
SOIL—a natural body that develops in profile form from a mixture of
minerals and organic matter. It covers the earth in a very thin layer and supplies plants with air, water, nutrients, and mechanical support.
Our definition is, of course, the one we prefer:
SOIL—a living, dynamic system at the interface between air and rock.
Soil forms in response to forces of climate and organisms that act on parent material in a specific landscape over a long period of time.
*Oregon State University Extension Service-Manual for Judging Oregon Soils.
Pore Space Mineral Matter
Making a poor garden better often begins with the soil. If your garden soil is poor, consider giving it some help. Adding organic materials to sandy soils improves their nutrient- and water-holding capacity. Adding organic materials to clay soil improves drainage and aeration, and helps the soil dry out and warm up more quickly in the spring.
Intensive tillage, soil erosion and insufficient
added residues Soil organic matter decreases Surface becomes compacted, crust forms Most soil organic matter is lost Crop yields decline Aggregates break down Erosion by wind and water increases Less soil water storage, less diversity of soil organism, fewer nutrients for plants
The soil ecosystem Residue decomposition Nutrient cycling Aggregation and porosity Enhance plant growth Break down contaminants .
fungi. earthworms Pictures courtesy M. protozoa. nematodes. arthropods.Soil Organisms Bacteria. Bezdicek . actinomycetes. Fauci and D.
.Energy and nutrition in soils starts with organic matter. Maintaining organic matter helps soils release other nutrition through chemical action of humic acids and chemicals created by life forms that depend on organic matter.
Fungi infect the roots and send out root like structures called hyphae. The hyphae of these mycorrhizal fungi take up water and nutrients that can then feed the plant. . This is especially important for phosphorus nutrition of plants in low-phosphorus soils. Photo by Sara Wright. which the plant produces in its leaves and sends down to the roots.The Soil Food Web Root heavily infected with mycorrhizal fungi (note round spores at the end of some hyphae). Many plants develop a beneficial relationship with fungi that increases the contact of roots with the soil. The hyphae help the plant absorb water and nutrients and in return the fungi receive energy in the form of sugars.
1881 . and continues to be thus ploughed by earthworms. but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed.Soil air and water Water Movement How quickly water moves through soil Water Holding Capacity How much water a soil can hold available for plant growth The plow is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man’s inventions. —CHARLES DARWIN.
Pore space and airwater relations Soil acts like a sponge Macro pores control infiltration and drainage Capillary pores control water holding capacity Micro pores hold unavailable water Why are soils which in our father’s hands were productive now relatively impoverished? —J. 1908 . JONES. HILLS. CUTLER. AND C. H. L. C.
Soil properties that affect porosity Soil texture Soil structure Compaction and disturbance Organic matter .
05-2 mm Silt.002-.Sand .002 mm Soil Particle Sizes Coarse Fragments >2 mm .05 mm Clay <.
hexagonal. and thin. as in a deck of cards. They are flat. clay particles resemble playing cards in form. .Approximate surface areas of 1 gram samples Coarse sand Fine clay Half Dollar Basketball court Under the microscope. When wet. like cards. the particles can 'slip' across each other.
or potatoes. 1896 .Soil Minerals …with methods of farming in which grasses form an important part of the rotation. —HENRY SNYDER. the decline of the productive power is much slower than when crops like wheat. are grown continuously. which leave little residue on the soil. especially those that leave a large residue of roots and culms. cotton.
The more clay you have in your soil the longer the ribbon you can squeeze out. loam.What Kind of Soil Do I have? Texture Structure Compaction Organic matter The soil-fist test can be used to determine soil type. Clay/silty soil will form into a ball that has sufficient plasticity that it will remain a ball when poked with a finger. If it is loamy. it will form itself into a ball. If it is sandy soil. or clay/silt. but remain friable so that it will crumble when poked with your finger. it will refuse to form itself into a ball in your fist. Compact wet soil in your fist to determine whether it is sandy. .
CUTLER. AND C. C.H.H. JONES.Texture Structure Compaction Organic matter The depletion of the soil humus supply is apt to be a fundamental cause of lowered crop yields. HILLS. —J. 1908 .
Aggregation of sand. silt. and clay particles Structure affects: Macro porosity Infiltration Aeration .
C. its tillage.Formation of soil structure Growth of roots and movement of organisms create pores and aggregates Soil organisms break down organic residues. chemical processes also involved Moisture. all these are quite as important factors in the make up and maintenance of the fertility of the soil as are manures. fertilizers. 1908 . and aeration. HILLS. drainage and irrigation.H.L. and soil amendments. soil organisms. CUTLER. —J. warmth. producing glues that stabilize aggregates Fungi provide structural support to aggregates Physical. soil texture. JONES. AND C. soil fitness.
and leaching. GUSTAFSON. the necessity of maintaining the active organic-matter content of the soil.A.Structure Factors Texture Structure Compaction Organic matter Because organic matter is lost from the soil through decay. F. and because large amounts are required every year for crop production. to say nothing of the desirability of increasing it on many depleted soils. washing. 1941 . -. is a difficult problem.
Human compaction: Natural compaction: Clearing Construction Basal glacial till Very compact. Livestock . Traffic Nearly impermeable.
Rome . and then plowed in. If they are sown about the middle of September in a poor soil.Improving Soils Texture Structure Compaction Organic mattermanure is to be had. 1st Century. —COLUMELLA. I think the cultivation of lupines will be found Where no kind of the readiest and best substitute. they will answer as well as the best manure.
dog or swine manure. Well aged (>six months) and thoroughly composted manure do not have pathogen risk. Don’t use cat.Using animal manure safely Incorporate manure into soil before planting. Wait AT LEAST 120 days between application of fresh manure and harvest. .
Why is organic matter important? Structure and macropores Water holding capacity Infiltration Nutrient supply Biological activity •Improved root environment .
How does topography affect soil water? … generally. whereas the type that provides the highest income over the period of a generation leads to the maintenance or improvement of productivity. —CHARLES KELLOGG. 1936 . the type of soil management that gives the greatest immediate return leads to a deterioration of soil productivity.
.Plant Nutrients Major Nutrients Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium Calcium Magnesium Sulfur Micronutrients Boron Iron Manganese Zinc Copper Chloride Molybdenum About 90 nutrients found in soils are thought to affect health of animals and humans.
Chlorophyll photosynthesis Amino Acid Amino acids and proteins DNA Plant and Soil Sciences. . Ohio State Univ. U Nebraska Bern Kohler.
Nutrient deficiencies P deficiency in corn can sometimes be identified by observing symptoms. and yield. health.Nutrient Deficiencies Reduce plant growth. Mg deficiency in corn .
Problems with excess nutrients Nitrogen: Plant health. fruit yield and quality Groundwater quality Boron: Toxicity .
Mineral Matter Organic Matter .
K Ca Mg Mineral Matter Nutrient s Generall yNot availabl e N S P Organic Matter .
Not available N S P Weathering K Ca Mg + K+ Ca+ soluble. available .
Weathering K Ca K Not available Mg + N S P Biological release + + Ca NH4+ SO4-2 soluble. available .
2 lb potash (K2O) .10 % N .% phosphate -% potash Phosphate = units of P 1 lb P = 2.3 lb phosphate (P2O5) Potash = units of K 1 lb K = 1.Fertilizer Labels 5- 10 .
. The available amount is often less than the total amount. Manure increases the biological activity in soil which liberates phosphate and other minerals that are “locked up”.How much fertilizer do I use? Fertilizer should be added after determining what the available amount of nutrition is. Available phosphorous in the spring is often higher than the input amount after adding manure in the fall.
Soil pH Indicates relative acidity or alkalinity pH 7 = neutral.org . more than 7 = alkaline or basic Logarithmic scale Adapted from library. less than 7 = acid.thinkquest.
.Why is pH important? Nutrient availability Availability of toxic metals Microbiological activity Acids in soils generally result in higher levels of metals being available to plants like copper. Can also cause heavy metals that are toxic to humans and other animals to be more available. a necessary nutrient for blueberries. The widest amount of biological activity is seen in soils that have a near neutral pH.
Soil Acidification A natural process in humid areas Accelerated by fertilizers Sulfur and ammonium sulfate are strong acidifiers Has a tendency to leach calcium and other rock minerals from soil .
5 to 8 Acid loving plants 4.5 to 5.Desirable pH Ranges Vegetables 6 to 7.5 .5 Pastures 5.
which is often deficient in acid soils Dolomite lime also supplies Mg Magnesium may raise pH six times faster than calcium Apply lime based on soil test.Increasing pH Lime (CaCO3) neutralizes acidity Lime supplies Ca. For gardens without soil test: 50 lb/1000 sq ft/year . and lime only those crops that need it.
5. dead furrows. 3. Avoid old fence rows. 4. Take cores from at least 15 to 20 spots randomly over the field to obtain a representative sample. sample to plow depth. Sample between rows. if they can be treated separately. One sample should not represent more than 10 to 20 acres.Taking a Sample 1. Spring samples should be taken early enough to have results in time to properly plan nutrient management for the crop season. The best time to sample for a general soil test is usually in the fall. Don’t wait until the last minute. . In cultivated fields. and other spots that are not representative of the whole field. Take separate samples from problem areas. 2.
Mix the core samplings. Sample fields at least every three years.Taking a Sample 6. 11. Sample permanent pastures to a 3. 7. 12. Remember. and one to a 2-inch depth to monitor surface acidity. giving all of the information requested. 8. and allow to air dry. Take two samples from no-till fields: one to a 6-inch depth for lime and fertilizer recommendations. Complete the information sheet. Annual soil tests will allow you to fine-tune nutrient management and may allow you to cut down on fertilizer use. Collect the samples in a clean container. . 1999. 9. remove roots and stones. —MODIFIED FROM THE PENNSTATE AGRONOMY GUIDE.to 4-inch depth. Fill the soil-test mailing container. the recommendations are only as good as the information supplied. 10.
kinseyag.com Kinsey Agricultural Services Soil fertility problems/Albrecht Method (feed the soil) http://www.503-231-9320 http://www.A & L Labs Complete Soil Test .503-968-9225 http://www.com/ Wy’East Environmental Services Soil Lead Test .wyeastlab.al-labs-west.net .
Both the amount of irrigation water needed and the proper method of applying it depend on a soil’s permeability rate and waterholding capacity.Many soils require irrigation for maximum productivity. .
Best results will occur with the use of some kind of mechanical or electronic control system that measures the water or the amount of time the water is allowed to run. . A typical drip system can easily recapture the entire cost in a single season by limiting excessive watering while ensuring plants get the needed resources. You can build simple effective systems with off the shelf components from hardware stores. It can also mitigate pest and disease problems caused by over or improper watering.Installing an irrigation system can save money/water and increase yields. Drip or weep hose irrigation will maximize delivery of water and nutrients to the root zone while minimizing splashing and watering that causes disease.
Puyallup Dr. S. Craig Cogger-WSU/NRCS.gov/ Building Soils for Better Crops http://www. Department of Agriculture Additional Resources USDA National Agricultural Library http://www.pdf .sare.nal.usda.Thank You Material provided by: Dr. Charles Brun-WSU Extension Clark County Kinsey Agricultural Services National Center for Appropriate Technology U.org/publications/bsbc/bsbc.
html OSU Extension Service-Improving Garden Soil http://extension.pdf NRCS Soil Survey Explorer http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.org/soils.oregonstate.org .aspx Guide to Soil Survey Reports http://smallfarms.wikipedia.gov/Manuscripts/WA011/0/wa011_text.org/index.html Soil and Health Library http://www.pdf Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) http://www.sare.org/wiki/Clay National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service http://attra.ncat.edu/catalog/html/grow/grow/soil.soilandhealth.oregonstate.htm Clay http://en.gov/app/WebSoilSurvey.usda.Additional Resources Soil Survey of Clark County http://soildatamart.nrcs.edu/sites/default/files/Soil_survey_brochure.
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