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Draw your own soil horizons layer diagram

Soil Horizons

Road cuttings often allow us to see various layers in
soil. These layers are called soil horizons and
range from the rich, organic upper layers of humus
and top soil through the subsoil, down to the
underlying rocky layers and the bedrock.

Letters identify the different layers. The main layers
are the O, A, B C, E and R horizons. It is important
to remember that not all horizons are always present
in a soil profile. The most typical soil profiles are A-
B-C, found in fields and O-A-B-C, found in forests.

The arrangement of these horizons in a soil is
known as the soil profile.

A soil profile
© 2009 John A. Kelley, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

The main horizons are:

O horizon: This is the uppermost organic soil layer composed of mostly decaying leaves
and insects. This is the dark brown humus in colour layer.

A horizon: This layer is often known as the top soil where seeds begin growing. The
horizon is composed of minerals and humus. It is also dark brown in colour.

E horizon: This layer is characterised by water leaching through and flushing minerals and
small clay particles from the soil. Consequently, this layer is mostly composed of sand
and silt and is light in colour.

B horizon: This sub-soil layer it is made up of clays and minerals, e.g. aluminium oxides,
calcium carbonate and iron leached down from the horizon above. It is light in colour.

C horizon: This layer comprises weathered and broken pieces of the bedrock from the
bedrock below. It is also called the regolith. Plant roots and insects do not penetrate this
far and the layer is very light in colour.

R horizon: This is the deepest horizon and is a continuous mass of hard solid rock known
as the bedrock. This horizon varies greatly in depth.

© 2013 18853 Page 1 of 2

The best ones will go on classroom display! Draw this soil profile using a vertical scale of 1mm = 2013 18853 Page 2 of 2 . Use colour and symbols/abbreviations from the periodic table to help. Draw your own soil horizons layer diagram Student task Read the descriptions above and draw symbols or pictures to show what is going on in each soil layer.teachitgeography. The horizon depths are: Horizon Depth (cm) O 0–5 A 5 – 20 E 20 – 30 B 30 – 75 C 75 – 120 R >120 ©