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SOILS

Soil forming factors:
Weathering of rocks:
 Warm and wet climates cause rapid chemical weathering of rocks/ the parent material.
 This account for the great depth of latosols.
 In tropical areas, there is a high rate of weathering (high temps and plentiful rainfall)
and hence the soils are more mature. This is how the rate and degree of weathering
affects the formation of the soil.
Parent material / rock type:
 Parent material of the soil determined by the geology or rock type such as limestone,
shale or sandstone.
 Weathering of the parent results in regolith which accumulates over the bedrock.
 Influences the texture of the soil, its depth and its material composition, the structure
and the porosity of the soil.
Landform: topography: slope or physical site:
 The lay of the land.
 May be flat, rolling, steep or mountainous.
 In flat land, where run-off is slow and the underground drainage is free, weathered
materials are of a greater depth and hence the soil is more mature (deep).
 On top of slopes, soils are subjected to erosion and mass movement therefore the soil
at the top of a slope is shallow and less mature.
Climate Influences:
 Weathering of rocks greater in high temperatures rather than cooler ones.
 Climate influences soil forming processes such as leaching, percolation, etc. and
therefore affect the translocation of the minerals within the soil.
 Leaching more pronounced in areas of heavy rainfall.
 Climate also influences the type of vegetation forming and the vegetation affects the
humus amount, degree of permeability and the microorganisms in the soil.
 The nature of the soil is highly dependent on the temperature and the climate of the
region.
Biological Influences:
 Microorganisms (such as bacteria) in the soil help with the decay of organic matter.
Humus is made available by this.
 Earthworms, ants and termites bring underlying soil to the surface through their
activities. They also affect the permeability of the soil by digging it up.
Time:
 Influences the degree of maturity of the soil.

stability and degree of adhesion. silt and clay in the soil.  Most biologically active layer. Soil texture:  Refers to the amount of sand.  High level of humus from leaf litter and dead animals.C Horizon:  The parent material comprising of fragmented bed rock. Soil profile:  Vertical arrangement in cross section of the horizons or layers of the soil from the surface to the bedrock. the water retention capability of the soil can be determined. the zone of deposition.  Eluviation (exiting):  The removal by leaching of materials such as organic matter.  Zone of leaching. .  Highly weathered soils (which take a long time to develop) are deep and more mature as opposed to soils which are immature and not fully weathered. Characteristics of Soil Soil structure:  Refers to the arrangement of the soil particles in aggregates.  Nutrients from A settle here.B Horizon:  Zone of enrichment or deposition. sand and gravel. .A Horizon:  Upper part of the soil profile.  Unweathered rock/material.  Soils in the tropics are arranged in three horizons: . size.  Differing in slope. Soil forming processes: Leaching:  The downward percolation of water and minerals in solution through the soil pores from the A horizon where it is removed to the B horizon. . colloids and bases in solution.  Also known as the subsoil of zone of accumulation.  Depending on the percentage of each.

Soils of the equatorial regions: Laterite soils:  Mature zonal (influenced by climate) soils found in equatorial regions. hence they decompose dead matter at a faster rate.  Restores minerals to the soil. Through Flow:  The horizontal flow of water within the soil. heavy abundant rainfall and forest vegetation. therefore more humus.  Soil is well drained. Benefits of Humus:  Provides a catalyst in chemical reactions by which plants can extract nutrients from the soil. These materials form a hard pan. .  When the rate of evapo-transpiration exceeds the rate of precipitation. Characteristics of Laterite soils:  Formed in hot and humid regions with average temperatures of 270C.  Illuviation (into):  The redeposition of leached materials from the A horizon to the B horizon. Capillary Action:  The upward movement of water in the soil via plant roots because they need the water.  Thin humus/ organic layer due to high level of leaching and eluviation because of the heavy and plentiful rainfall. loose and crumbly. capillary action draws water up the roots for the plant to use. There is a lot of leaf litter and the microorganisms thrive in hot conditions.  Humus constantly supplied due to the temperature and rainfall.  Takes place when the soil is completely saturated with water.  Rapid run-off also causes a thin top layer.  Serves as a source of food for the microorganisms that live in the soil. Percolation:  The ability of the soil to absorb water. making it more loose and crumbly.  Dependent on climate and vegetation rather than parent rock.  Enables the soil to retain water.  The soil is not acidic.  Improves the soil texture.

.B Horizon:  Depth of 15 – 180 cm. Soil profile of Laterite soils: . hence producing a reddish hue in the A horizon.  Hard pans: the B horizon is able to retain so much water that it becomes compact or hardened.  Laterite soils are usually poor and infertile because they are leached so quickly and constantly. Cultivation can also be difficult when the hard pan is exposed. .  Thin layer of humus despite the rapid rate of decomposition. Mineral elements such as silica and iron are cemented together to form hard pan.  Depth of 0 – 10 cm.C Horizon:  The parent material from which the soil develops.A Horizon:  Thick leaf litter above it. .  Insoluble compounds such as iron and aluminum are not leached into the B horizon.Properties of Laterite soils:  The soil is permeable and friable mineral particles from the A horizon such as silica and alkalis are leached into the B horizon.

Thick leaf litter Due to the lack of growth in the forest floor. This is caused due to leaching. .biological Rapid surface run-off also aids in this. The vegetation. aluminum clay and (affects silica.climate water and minerals such as iron.chemical weathering Red colour of A horizon Sesquioxides of iron and aluminum are insoluble . /biotic Due to the high temperatures. .climate abundant rainfall cause the humus layer to bet thin.Summary of the characteristics of Laterite soils: Soil Characteristics Reason Factor Thin layer of humus Leaching and eluviation caused by heavy and . Formation of hard pan Because the B horizon is able to retain a lot of . Deep soil Due to the degree of weathering and the parent .parent and hence they are not leached. plants .climate can’t grow there. will leave minerals in soil) . giving the A material ( horizon that red color. decomposers break down the humus are a quick rate. crumbly and loose due to .biological The taller trees shed leaves and they accumulate on the forest floor. the soil there becomes hard and compact leaching) forming hard pan. . of large evergreen trees contributes to this. Lack of distinct The soil is well drained. The horizons merge into each other due to the leaching form the A to B horizon. The soil extends from 2-3 m as they material consist of three horizons.parent material.climate horizons the leaching and eluviation caused by the rainfall.