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Experiment 5

Soil Characterization
K. Draheim, B. N. Estrella, K. M. L. Garcia, L. Guillermo
Department of Biological Sciences, College of Science, University of Santo Tomas, España
Street, Manila 108

Key words:



Soil can be characterized by its structure, color,
consistence, texture and abundance of roots, rocks and
carbonates. These characteristics allow scientists to
interpret how the ecosystem functions and make
recommendations for soil use that have minimal impact on
the ecosystem. In the experiment, the percent composition
was computed to be 10% gravel, 45% sand, 49% silt, and
11% clay. With the use of the soil texture triangle, soil
texture class was determined to be loam.


I. Introduction
Soil is the mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids, and the countless organisms
that together support life on Earth. Soil is considered to be the "skin of the Earth" and interfaces
with its lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. The properties of soil are
determined by environmental factors and five dominant factors are often considered in the
development of the various soils: climate, parent materials, relief, organisms (fauna and flora),
and time factor. Soil is the end product of these factors interacting over time. Different soil types
exhibits diverse behavior due to differences in micro-morphological, morphological, physical,
chemical and mineralogical properties. These variations are due to variations in soil forming
factors and processes operating on different parent materials, under different climatic,
topographic, and biological conditions over varying periods of time. There are a large number of
different soils, reflecting different kinds and degrees of soil forming factors and their
A horizontal layer of the soil, whose physical features, composition and age are distinct
from those above and beneath, are referred to as a soil horizon. The naming of a horizon is based

on the type of material of which it is composed. Those materials reflect the duration of specific
processes of soil formation. They are labeled using a shorthand notation of letters and numbers
which describe the horizon in terms of its color, size, texture, structure, consistency, root
quantity, pH, voids, boundary characteristics and presence of nodules or concretions. Few soil
profiles have all the major horizons. Some may have only one horizon.
Soil can be characterized by its structure, color, consistence, texture and abundance of
roots, rocks and carbonates. These characteristics allow scientists to interpret how the ecosystem
functions and make recommendations for soil use that have minimal impact on the ecosystem.
Soil characterization data can help determine whether a garden should be planted or a school
should be built. Soil characterization data can help scientists predict the likelihood of flooding
and drought. It can help them to determine the types of vegetation and land use best suited to a
location. Soil characteristics also help explain patterns observed from satellite imagery,
vegetation growth across the landscape or trends of soil moisture and temperature that might be
related to weather.
II. Objectives
1.) To identify, measure and record the horizons in a soil profile at a soil characterization site
and its particle size distribution.
2.) To determine the particle size distribution for each horizon in a soil profile.

III. Methodology
The following materials were used in the experiment: triple
beam balance, trowel/shovel, and sieves. A shovel was used to scrape
soil off the profile. The soil sample was then initially weighed then
sieved in four different pore sizes. The four soil samples were then
reweighed. The percent composition was computed and a soil texture
triangle was used to classify the soil sample texture class.
Figure 1.
Sample picture
of sieves

V. Discussion
Soil texture is the relative proportion of sand, silt, and clay in a soil sample. It is critical for
understanding soil behavior and management. It is determined by the size of particles in the soil.
Soil texture affects water-holding capacity, permeability, porosity, soil workability, and the
ability of plants to grow.
The size particles that make up each type of soil determine the size of the pores between the
particles. A pore is a space in rock, soil, or unconsolidated sediment that is not occupied by
mineral matter and that allows the passage or absorption of fluids. Porosity is the percentage of
rock or soil that is void of material and thus can be filled with water. The larger the particles
making up the soil, the larger the pores between them. And the larger the pore space or the
greater their number, the higher the porosity.
Sand is made up of particles with diameters ranging from 0.05 mm to 2 mm. Because of the size
of the particles, sand feels gritty and does not stick together in a mass unless it is very wet. It has
fewer nutrients for plants than silt or clay. It has pores between sand particles that allow free
drainage of water and entry of air. Sandy soil has large particles with large spaces or pores
between them. Therefore, water drains through sandy soil quickly. Sandy soils do not hold or
retain water very well. As a result, it is not good for growing most plants.
Silt, on the other hand, are made up of particles with diameters ranging from 0.002 mm to 0.05
mm. Erosion by glaciers are often responsible for formation of silt. Wet silt does not stick
together and cannot mold into different shapes. It has smaller particles and slower drainage than
sand, which enables it to retain more water and nutrients for plants.
Lastly, clay is made up of particles with diameters less than 0.002 mm. When mixed with water,
the small particles of clay do not settle. Clay is very powdery when dry and very sticky and
slippery when wet. Wet clay can be molded readily into any shape or rod. Clay swells when
added with water and shrinks and become hard when the water evaporates. Pore spaces between
clay particles are very small. It has a tremendous ability to hold water because water and air
move very slowly through clay.
To determine the texture of the soil sample, the percentages of the three soil particles were

determined. In this experiment, we obtained 7.57% gravel, 39.67% sand, 9.12% clay, and
43.65% silt. Using the Soil Texture Triangle, the textural class was determined to be loam. Loam
is a mixture of clay, sand and silt and is the best soil for growing plants. Because loam is a
mixture of different soils, it holds the proper amount of water and provides all the nutrients
plants need. Since loamy soils have different sized particles, pores are varying in size. Its
drainage is slow but still well drained. In other words, it has varying porosity and permeability.

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