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Soil Profile Description

Otto Spaargaren
ISRIC – World Soil Information Wageningen The Netherlands

Why soil profile descriptions ?
In surveys: as typical example of soil mapping unit or of one of its components For research: as baseline record to illustrate the environmental setting and relationships between the soil attributes For land resource development: as base for building geo-referenced land information systems

Guidelines (1)
FAO Guidelines for Soil Profile Description. 3rd Edition. 1990 – English 1993 – French

Guidelines (2)
2005. Draft FAO Guidelines for Soil Profile Description and Classification. 4th Edition Prepared jointly by Universität Halle – Würtenberg, Germany Universität Kiel, Germany Leyte State University, Philippines ISRIC – World Soil Information, The Netherlands

Purpose of the FAO Guidelines To enhance standardization and uniformity of soil profile descriptions. through the objective description and recording of soil properties. both to the understanding of the land of which the soil forms part. in order to facilitate cross-references and comparison between soil descriptions To contribute. and to the reliable transfer of technology .

Sources for the 1990 FAO Guidelines USDA Soil Survey Manual Revised Legend of the Soil Map of the World Keys to Soil Taxonomy Australian Soil and Land Survey Field Handbook .

Additional sources for the 2005 FAO Guidelines World Reference Base for Soil Resources USDA Field Book for Describing and Sampling Soils 1999 Soil Taxonomy and 2003 Keys to ST AG-Boden 2004. Auflage . KA5: Bodenkundliche Kartieranleitung – 5.

both administratively and environmentally Description of the individual soil horizons Linkage to computerized information systems. in particular the FAO-ISRIC Soil Database (SDB) .Content of the FAO Guidelines General information about the soil.

General Information Section Registration and location Soil classification Landform and topography Land use and vegetation Parent material Surface characteristics Soil-water relationships .

General information (1) : Registration and location Profile number Soil profile description status Date of description Author(s) Soil unit Location Elevation Map sheet number and grid reference Coordinates .

General information (2) : Soil classification Soil taxonomic classification – – – – WRB reference group name FAO Legend (1974) and Revised Legend (1988) Soil Map of the World Soil Taxonomy (1999) National Soil climate .

General information (3) : Landform and topography Topography Landform Land element Position Slope Micro-topography Soil-landscape sequential relationships .

General information (4) : Land use and vegetation Land use Human influence Vegetation .

General information (5) : Parent material Parent material – – Unconsolidated material Rock type Effective soil depth .

General information (6) : Surface characteristics Rock outcrops Surface coarse fragments Erosion Surface sealing Surface cracks Other surface characteristics .

General information (7) : Soil-water relationships Drainage class Internal drainage External drainage Flooding Groundwater Moisture conditions of the soil .

Soil horizon description Horizon designation and dimensions Soil colour Primary constituents Organization of the constituents Voids (porosity) Concentrations Biological activity Soil reaction Samples .

A. distinctness and topography .Soil horizon description (1) : Designation and dimensions Horizon symbol – H. B. and the subordinate characteristics within master horizons and layers Horizon boundary – depth. O. C and R master horizon nomenclature. E.

where flooding is either permanent or cyclic Soil horizon description (2) : . also known as limnic soil material W layer: Water layer in soils or flooded soils.Additional 2005 horizon symbols New master horizon symbols I layer: Ice lenses and wedges that contain at least 75% ice (by volume) and that distinctly separate organic or mineral layers in the soil L layer: Sediment deposited in a body of water composed of both organic and inorganic materials.

Soil horizon description (3) : Master horizon designation (1) Organic horizons: H or O H = wet O = dry .

unconsolidated) .Soil horizon description (4) : Master horizon designation (2) Mineral horizons: A (organic matter) E (eluviation) B (illuviation) C (parent material.

Soil horizon description (5) : Master horizon designation (3) Mineral horizons: R (parent rock) .

Soil horizon description (6) : Subordinate characteristics of master horizons (1): c f g h j k m Concretions or nodules Frozen soil Gleying evidenced by mottling Accumulation of organic matter Jarosite mottling Accumulation of carbonates Cementation or induration .

Soil horizon description (7) : Subordinate characteristics of master horizons (2): n o p q r s t Accumulation of sodium Residual accumulation of sesquioxides Ploughing or other disturbance Accumulation of silica Strong reduction Illuvial accumulation of sesquioxides Accumulation of silicate clay .

Soil horizon description (8) : Subordinate characteristics of master horizons (3): v Occurrence of plinthite w Development of colour or structure x Fragipan character y Accumulation of gypsum z Accumulation of salts more soluble than gypsum .

Soil horizon description (8) : New 2005 subordinate characteristics of master horizons (1): a b c d Highly decomposed organic material Buried horizon In combination with L: Coprogenous earth Dense layer (physically root-restrictive. In combination with L: Diatomaceous earth . not used in combination with m).

In combination with H or O: Slightly decomposed organic material m In combination with L: Marl u Urban and other man-made materials @ Evidence of cryoturbation .Soil horizon description (9) : New 2005 subordinate characteristics of master horizons (2): e Moderately decomposed organic material i Slickensides.

boundary and colour (dry and moist) .Soil horizon description (10) : Soil colour Matrix colour – hue. value and chroma. size. both dry and moist. contrast. or the Revised Standard Soil Color Charts Mottling – abundance. according to the Munsell Soil Color Charts.

clay loam. silt. silt loam. sandy loam. loam. clay Rock fragments – gravel. silty clay. silty clay loam.Soil horizon description (11) : Primary constituents Texture of the fine earth fraction – sand. stones. boulders . sandy clay. loamy sand. sandy clay loam.

granular. columnar. angular blocky. size and type – Types: single grain. subangular blocky. stratified structure Consistence – dry. moist and wet . massive. platy.Soil horizon description (12) : Organization of soil constituents Soil structure – grade. rock structure. prismatic.

They are described in terms of – – – – – Type Size Abundance Continuity Orientation .Soil horizon description (13) : Voids (porosity) Voids include all space in the soil.

size.Soil horizon description (14) : Concentrations Cutanic features – clay. hardness. nature. nature. kind. iron coatings Cementation and compaction – continuity. colour . structure. slickensides. pressure faces. humus. shape. degree Mineral nodules – abundance.

Soil horizon description (15) : Biological activity Roots – abundance and size Biological features – abundance and kind .

Soil horizon description (16) : Soil reaction Presence of carbonates – non-calcareous. strongly calcareous and extremely calcareous (tested with 10% HCl) Field pH – Hellige test. slightly calcareous. field pH meter. moderately calcareous. NaF test for volcanic soils .

Soil horizon description (17) : Soil odour New in the draft Guidelines of 2005 is the recording of odour. This gives the opportunity to indicate the presence of petrochemical substances or sulphurous compounds (the smell of “rotten eggs”). .

either from the centre of the horizon.Soil horizon description (18) : Samples Basically. or at balanced intervals if the horizon exceeds 50cm thickness – . there are two methods of collecting soil samples: – Sampling in equal proportions over the whole horizon (recommended method) Sampling in equal proportions within a depth of 20cm.

or statistical programs Linkages (1) : . automated land evaluation packages.FAO-ISRIC Soil Database (SDB) Permits storage and retrieval of large amounts of field and analytical data Provides a flexible coding system to accommodate local needs Can be linked to geographical information systems (GIS).

soluble salts Soil physical analytical results: infiltration and water retention data .Linkages (2) : FAO-ISRIC Soil Database (SDB) The following data sets can be stored in the SDB: Field descriptions: coded information on site and profile characteristics Standard soil analytical results: chemical analyses.

New developments In 2003. which had replaced the DOS- based version of SDB. FAO and CSIC issued “The Multilingual Soil Profile Database” (SDBm Plus). an upgraded and expanded Windows version of the SDBm software. .

“soil crusts”. with numerous useful diagrams and illustrations Introduces new descriptive elements.g. such as “redoximorphic features”. no comparison between particle size classes of USDA and FAO) .The USDA Field Book Very comprehensive. and “odor” Provides little linkage to the FAO Guidelines (e.

SDBm Plus (1) Re-designed and re-written as Windows application Multilingual (English. Spanish. French. German) Detailed soil profile characterization .

SDBm Plus (2) Possibility of monitoring the temporal variability of analytical. physical and hydraulic soil properties Metadata facility for describing analytical methods and procedures used Linkage between database and land evaluation/geographical information systems (LES/GIS) .

so that they can serve multiple purposes.” .Afterthought “In view of the high costs of soil survey. soil profile descriptions should be made as detailed and comprehensive as possible.