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What are Soil and its Component?

Soil, the loose material that covers the land surfaces of Earth and supports the
growth of plants. In general, soil is an unconsolidated, or loose, combination of inorganic
and organic material. The inorganic components of soil are principally the products of
rocks, and minerals that have been gradually broken down by weather, chemical action,
and other natural processes. The organic materials are composed of debris from plants
and from decomposition of many tiny life forms that inhabit the soil.

Soils vary widely from place to place. Many factors determine the chemical
composition and physical structure of the soil at any given location. The different kinds
of rocks, minerals, and other geologic materials from which the soil originally formed
play a role. The kinds of plants or other vegetation that grow in the soil are also
important. Topography-that is, whether the terrain is steep, flat, or some combination-is
another factor. In some cases, human activity such as farming or building has caused
disruption. Soils also differ in color, texture, chemical makeup, and the kinds of plants
they can support.

Generally, soil consists of four main constituents which are mineral matter,
organic matter, air, and water. Mineral water consists of two groups which is primary
minerals, resistant-coarse minerals weathered from rocks, and secondary minerals,
formed in the soil by recombination of substances, usually fine-grained. Organic matter
derived mostly from decaying plant matter, but also consists of decaying animal matter
composed of cellulose, starch and lignin in various states of decomposition. In soil that
has structure, the minerals and organic component are aggregated into discrete structural
unit called Peds, which are surrounded by open spaces which is occupied by air and
water. In soils that are saturated, most air is removed while in freely drained soils, water
adheres to the mineral particles.

The mineral portion comes primarily in situ weathering of the geological

substrate. Occasionally, however, minerals are transport in, as well as blown in from
eolion wind activity. Particles range in size from very small clay particles measured in
microns up to sand-size particles that can be measured in millimeters. This fraction of soil
is called fine earth, and usually consists of particles less than 2mm in size. It is upon this
fraction that soil texture is determined.

The volume of air and water in pore spaces is complementary, as one increase, the
other decreases. In poorly drained soils, all pore space may be occupied by water while in
freely drained soils, water lost from large cavities and larger pores is called gravitational
water soil air differs from atmospheric air in that (1) it is saturated with water vapour
(near 100% humidity) and (2) carbon dioxide, a lay-product of decomposition, is
sometimes 5-10 times higher. More organic matter in a base-rich soil would favor soil
fauna which deplete soil oxygen and increases soil carbon dioxide.

Soil Formation

Soil formation is an ongoing process that proceeds through the combined effects
of five soil-forming factors: parent material, climate, living organisms, topography, and
time. Each combination of the five factors produces a unique type of soil that can be
identified by its characteristic layers, called horizons. Soil formation is also known as
pedogenesis ( from the Greek words pedon, for “ground” and genesis, meaning “birth” or

Parent Material

The first step in pedogenesis is the formation of parent material from which the
soil itself forms. Roughly 99 percent of the world’s soils derive from mineral-based
parent materials that are the result of weathering, the physical disintegration and chemical
decomposition of exposed bedrock. The small percentage of remaining soils derives from
organic parent materials, which are the product of environments where organic matter
accumulates faster than it composes. This accumulation can occur in marshes, bogs, and

Bedrock itself does not directly give rise to soil. Rather, the gradual weathering of
bedrock, through physical and chemical processes, produces a layer of rock debris called
regolith. Further weathering of this debris, leading to increasingly smaller and finer
particles, ultimately results in the creation of soil.

In some instances, the weathering of bedrock creates parent materials that remain
in one place. In other cases, rock materials are transported far from their source-blown by
wind, carried by moving water, and borne inside glaciers.


Climate directly affects soil formation. Water, ice, wind, heat and cold cause the
physical weathering by loosening and breaking up rocks. Water in rock crevices expands
when it freezes, causing the rocks to crack. Rocks are worn down by water and wind and
ground bits by the slow movement of glaciers. Climate also determines the speed at
which parent materials undergo chemical weathering, a process in which existing
minerals are broken down into new mineral components. Chemical weathering is fastest
in hot, moist climates and slowest in cold, dry climates.

Climate also influences the developing soil by determining the types of plant
growth that occur. Low rainfall or recurring drought often discourage the growth of threes
but allow the growth of grass. Soils develop in cool rainy areas suited the pines and other
needle-leaf trees are low in humus.

Living Organism

As the parent material accumulates, living things gradually gain a foothold in it.
The arrival of living organisms marks the beginning of the formation of true soil. Mosses,
lichens, and lower plant forms appear first. As they die, their remains add to the
developing soil until a thin layer of humus is built up. Animals’ waste materials add
nutrients that are used by plants. Higher forms of plants are eventually able to establish
themselves as more and more humus accumulates. The presence of humus in the upper
layers of a soil is important because humus contains large amounts of the elements
needed by plants.
Living organisms also contribute to the development of soils in other ways. Plants
build soils by catching dust from volcanoes and deserts, and plants’ growing roots break
up rocks and stir the developing soil. Animals also mix soils by tunneling in them.


Topography, or relief, is another important factor in soil formation. The degree of

slope on which a soil forms helps to determine how much rainfall will run off the surface
and how much will be retained by the soil. Relief may also affect the average temperature
of a soil, depending on whether or not the slope faces the sun most of the day.


The amount of time a soil requires to develop varies widely according to the
action of the other soil-forming factors. Young soils may develop in a few days from the
alluvium (sediments left by floods) or from ash from volcanic eruptions. Other soils may
take hundreds of thousands of years to form. In some areas, the soils may be more than a
million years old.


Most soils, as they develop become arranged in a series of layers, known as

horizons. These horizons, starting at the soil surface and proceeding deeper into the
ground, reflect different properties and different degrees of weathering.
Soil scientists have designated several main types of horizons. The surface
horizon is usually referred to as the O layer; it consists of loose organic matter such as
fallen leaves and other biomass. Below that is the A horizon, containing a mixture of
inorganic mineral materials and organic matter. Next is the E horizon, a layer from which
clay, iron, and aluminum oxides have been lost by a process known as leaching (when
water carries materials in solution down from one soil level to another).
Removal of materials in this manner is known as eluviations, the process that
gives the E horizon its name. Below E horizon is the B horizon, in which most of the
iron, clay, and other leached materials have accumulated. The influx of such materials is
called illuviation. Under that layer is the C horizon, consisting of partially weather
bedrock, and last, the R horizon of hard bedrock.

Along with these primary designations, soil scientists use many subordinate
names to describe the transitional areas between the main horizons, such as Bt horizon or
BX2 horizon.
Soil scientists refer this arrangement of layers stop another as a soil profile. Soil
profiles change constantly but usually very slowly. Under normal conditions, soil at the
surface is slowly eroded but is constantly replaced by new soil that is created from the
parent material in the C horizon.

Why Is Soil So Important?

Soil is important for plants because it holds roots, stores nutrients, and provides
support for plants. Most living things need three basic things to survive: food, water, and
air. Plants get their nutrients and water from soil. Although all green plants make their
food by photosynthesis, they also need to get nutrients from the soil. These nutrients
dissolve in water and are taken up by the roots of the plant.
The most important plant nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and
potassium (K). Nitrogen helps above-ground leafy growth and gives dark green color to
leaves. Phosphorus encourages plant cell division. Without phosphorus, flowers and
seeds could not form. Phosphorus also helps root growth and protects the plant from
disease. Like phosphorus, potassium increases the plant’s resistance to disease and
encourages root growth. Potassium is needed for the production of chlorophyll.

Physical Properties of Soil

Soil texture is the determination of the percentages of sand, silt and clay:-

• Sand has large particles with little surface area. Sand has very limited
chemical and physical bindings with particles in the soil.
• Silt is smaller than sand and larger than clay. Silts are more weathered than
sand. Silt has less surface area than clay. Because of silt’s size and physical
properties, they can hold water and nutrients.
• Clay is the smallest of the three particles sizes. It has strong affinity for water
and nutrients. Clay has thousands of times more surface area than silt and
millions more times the surface area of sand.

A soil that tested by Western Laboratories is dried, ground and passed through a 2
mm sieve. Particles sizes greater than 2 mm fall in the gravel, pebble, and cobble classes.
Particles smaller than 2mm (size of a pinhead) are considered as soil. By feel, sand is
gritty, silt is very slick and clay is very sticky. There are over a million combinations of
percent sand, percent silt and percent clay. Sand, silt and clay form textural classes when
mixed in differing percentages. In naming textural classes, the last word is the domination
fraction. Soil textural classes are derived from a textural triangle. When using textural
triangle the percentages of sand, silt and clay should total 100.

• Loam – means sand silt and clay fraction are all shared in this class.
• Loamy Sand – means sand is the dominating fraction, but silts and clays are
• Sandy Loam – means silts and clays are present, but sand dominates.

Farmers refer to texture as (1) Light soils being coarse textured (2) Heavy soils
being fine textured. Light soils are easier to work. They are more seriated. They hold less
moisture. They have more temperature fluxuation between day and night. They have
lower organic matter. They also have higher nutrient leaching potential. Heavy soils are
harder to work. The soil structure can be altered. They hold more moisture and the soil
temperature fluctuates less. They have higher biological activity and organic matter. They
have lower nutrient leaching potential.
Soil texture and soil structure have strong influences on soil aggregation. A well
aggregated soil improve soil air, water penetration, nutrient assimilations, soil gas
evacuation, soil drainage, root development and microorganism activity. Soil structure is
the way the sand; silt and clay are arranged or grouped together to form structures. Typer
of soil structures are:

Prismlike – aggregates with horizontal axes are shorter than the vertical axes. Think of a
quartz prism. This structure is found in young soils or in dry and arid
Blocklike – aggregates with horizontal axes and vertical axes are more or less equal. Like
the toy building blocks or a small sugar cube. Blocklike structure is found
deep in the soil horizon (profile).
Platelike – aggregates with horizontal axes longer than the vertical, like a dinner plate or
Frisbee. This structure occurs on or near the soil surface caused by
ponded water or impact from rain (crusting).
Spheroidal – aggregates that are more or less rounded; granular, crumb like. This
structure is found under grass stands near the surface.

Improper soil structure management affects the physical, chemical and biological
properties. By destroying structure, the solid phase of the soil increase at the expense of
air and water. The chemical and biological phase is affected because the soil is
compacted. This affects root growth and biological activity. Soil consistence is the
resistance of a soil to deformation or rupture by a compressing, shearing or pulling force.
Consistence is a measure of how soil particles bind together (cohesion), bind with organic
matter (adhesion), and how the soil responds to tillage under different moisture contents.

In most cases, soil color can be attributable to organic matter or to the state of
oxidation and hydration of the iron minerals present.
• Whitish soils are associated with various salts in arid and semiarid regions.
• Black and dark brown colors indicate accumulation of organic matter usually
confined to the surface horizons.
• Gray colors are associated with the removal of iron.
• Reddish-brown colors are associated with well-drained soils.

Soil color is described using the Munsell color system which uses hues (red R or
yellow Y), value (darkness or lightness from white to black), and chroma (the strength of
the color).

Chemical Properties of Soil

Soils also have key chemical characteristics. The surfaces of certain soil particles,
particularly the clays, hold groupings of atoms known as ions. These ions carry a
negative charge. Like magnets, these negative ions (called anions) attract positive ions
(called cations). Cations, including those from calcium, magnesium, and potassium, then
become attached to the soil particles, in a process known as cation exchange. The
chemical reactions in cation exchange make it possible for calcium and the other
elements to be exchanged into water-soluble forms that plants can use for food.
Therefore, a soil’s cation exchange capacity is an important measure of its fertility.

What is Ecology?

The term ecology originated from the Greek word oikos, which means dwelling
and logos which means the study of something. Based on this, the term ecology can be
described as the study of the habit of the living thing. Various definitions have been
suggested for this term such as:-

• Ecology is the study of relationship between organisms in their natural habitat.

• Ecology is the study of organism relating to their natural environment.
• Ecology is the study of interactions between organism and their habitat (Ernst
Haekel, 1969).
• Ecology is the study of structure and function of the natural habitat as a part of
• Ecology is the study of the sum total of relationship between living thing and
their habitat. (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary).

The best understanding of the concept of ecology is based on hierarchy or
organization of life in biology. According to the organization of life:-
• Molecules of life are organized specifically to form cells.
• Cells are then grouped together to form different tissues.
• Tissues then arranged to form functional organ varies in structure and
• Existence of these function forms varies type of system such as blood
circulation system.
• Arrangement of all this system is considered as constitutes a complete
• Individual of one type of organism do not live in isolation but in groups called
• Various populations of organism interact with one another forming a
• A community including abiotic factors and interacts with it is called

• All ecosystems on earth together constitute the biosphere that encompasses

all the layers, air, water and soil, from the base of the ocean to the atmosphere
and extending mot more than 15 km from the surface of the earth. In the
biosphere, organism is distributed according to fixed patters that are clearly
seen on the global scale as large and stable vegetation zones. Example for
these kinds of zones including tropical rainforest, temperate grassland,
deciduous temperate forest, coniferous forest and etcetera. Each of these zones
is called biome. Each biome represents a primary life zone characterized by
the presence of dominant plants form.

Based on the hierarchy or organization of life, ecology is a study of biological

organization levels that higher than individual organism, that is population, communities,
ecosystem and biospheres.

Division in the Field of Ecological Studies

Basically, study of ecology covers widely various branches of science such as

taxonomy, physiology, geology, chemistry, physic, animal behavior and sociology.
Generally ecology can be divided into plant ecology and animal ecology. Scope of
ecological study can be further subdivided into various divisions such as:-

• Habitat ecology such as marine ecology, freshwater ecology, estuarine ecology

and terrestrial ecology.
• Ecosystem ecology which is related to the relationship between biotic and
abiotic component in an ecosystem.
• Production ecology which is related to the aspects of energy transfer in a
system, the flow of energy through organism and the rate of increase of
organic composition and organism.
• Paleontology which is related to the geological environment of fossil
• Preservation ecology which is related to the efficient and effective
management of the natural resources to increase their production.

Ecological study also can be divided into two parts as follows:-

• Autecology’s is related to the study of the relationship between individual
organism, populations or species and the environment. Here the focus is on
the life cycles and organism behaviors as an adaptation to the environment.
• Synecology’s is related to the study of groups of groups of organisms that
combine to form a whole unit.

As such, studies carried out on one relationship, for example shorea with its
natural environment, must take the autecological approach. On the contrary, if the study
is related to the forest in whish the shorea plants live, the study approach must be
synecological. It must be emphasized that the division of ecology into a number of
detailed divisions is solely to facilitate studies, but they all exist as a whole in the natural

1.1 Objective of Soil Ecology

Primary research initiatives involve evaluating the properties of soil which define
soil quality and assessing the capability of implementing soil remediation procedures to
optimize the soil quality level. The overall objective of these studies is to derive
principles applicable to assessment and management of industrially contaminated soil
sites. The product of the optimized soil quality will be improvement of both ecosystem
quality and overall environmental health. Specific research areas include:-

• Elucidation of the properties of soil controlling microbial movement and

function of soil: For successful bioremediation of soil system, microbes
capable of catalyzing the requisite processes (frequently, genetic engineered
bacteria) may be added to the soils in which their action is needed. To achieve
this objective, bacterial propagules must be amended to soil surface and
washed through the soil pores to the sites where their function is required. The
properties of soil and of bacteria controlling transport of microbes ore being
evaluated. These studies include a micro morphological evaluation of soil to
determine the components of soil to which foreign bacteria become associated
when washed into soil pores and elucidation of the properties of soil
controlling function and survival of the bacterial propagulas.
• Evaluation of the recovery of soil quality in heavy metal impacted soils: High
metal loadings reduce soil biological activity and therefore result in a
reduction of overall ecosystem health. The capacity to ameliorate the impact
of metal contamination on soil biological function and to optimize soil quality
through a variety of remediation procedures is being evaluated.
• Development of methods to manage soil quality in sites contaminated with
biodegradable carbonaceous substances: The capacity to optimize soil quality
in systems contaminated with petroleum products undergoing a variety of
remediation procedures is being assessed. Recovery of soil biological activity,
reduction of toxicity, and recovery of soil structure are being evaluated.

Other research activities include study of a (a) the behavior of xenobiotics and
native organic compounds in soil and their impact on ecosystem stability and (b)
biogeochemical cycles in native ecosystems and the factors controlling these processes.
The studies of the behavior of xenobiotics in soils have involved the examination of
reclamation and management practice for disturbed soils, behavior of antibiotics and
various carcinogens in soils, and problem associated with disposal of radioactive wastes.
Objectives of the biogeochemical cycle projects relate to the elucidation of the
responsible microbial populations, determination of the enzymes involved in the
mineralization reactions, evaluation of the rates of plant nutrient movement through
various soil organic matter pools (including the effect of various management systems on

this nutrient mobility), and delineation of plant-microbe interactions affecting nutrient

Soil is generally considered (and treated as) a lifeless substance, but the opposite
is true: Soils teem with life, and would not exist without the organisms inhabiting it.
Under a 1-meter-square soil surface, more than 10,000 bacterial and fungal types may be
found, as well as 100 to 1,000 species of soil animals, such as protozoa, nematodes,
mites, collembolan, and earthworms. These organisms form an integral part of the soil, as
they contribute to the development of soil structure, the dynamics of organic matter, and
the availability of nutrients for plant growth.

The objective of this ecological study is to study soil organisms at the population,
community and ecosystem level also to ultimately increase understanding of the role of
soil organisms. An important focus in this theme is on the significance of soil organisms
for nutrient use efficiency, disease suppression, and soil structure formation. Current
research questions relate to the structure and function of soil biodiversity: How is soil
biodiversity maintained, what are the linkages vegetation diversity, what is its function,
and can we use this knowledge in the development of sustainable agriculture? A second
important research topic is the effect of environmental stressors (such as metals, PACs
and injected manure) on soil organism activity. Ultimately, such knowledge will be
applied in the development of a biological indicator of soil quality.

1.2 Importance of Ecological Study

The importance of the knowledge obtained from ecological studies includes the

• Initiate us to understand the roles and function of an ecosystem. This is based

on the facts that the plants and animals complex in a community is the sum
total of the interrelationships between organisms and their physical
• Facilitate us to understand the concepts of natural population control.
• With the development of improved sampling methods, the study of natural
populations of organisms can be carried out more accurately.
• Make possible the management of chemical control on animal pest such as
insects, to be carried out more effectively.
• Enable us to understand the life system of a species. This way, primary
mortality factors in a natural population is known. This further allows us to
develop control measures that least affects the balance of the natural
• With the knowledge of the effects of physical environmental factors on the
development and physiology of individual organism, the upper and lower
mortality limits can be determined.
• Through the study of genetic changes in the species, the process the evolution
can be understood to a greater depth.

What is Soil Analysis?

The idea behind balance plant nutrition is to apply nutrients that cannot be
adequately supplied by the soil. We therefore need to use soil analysis to determine how
much of each nutrient the soil will provide to our crop.

Soils often contain high amounts of nutrients, but the majority is in solid forms.
Plants take up nutrients in solution: therefore most of the solid nutrients may be
unavailable. For example, a soil may contain 5,000 lbs of potassium per acre, but only 50
lbs may be available to a crop.

The trick to soil analysis is to determine both the amount of each nutrient that is
immediately available and the amount that can become available during the life of the
crop. Various methods have been developed and the key to success is that the methods
must be calibrated.

Experiments must be done to show that the result of the analysis consistently
indicate the amount of nutrient that a crop will actually get from the soil. Once the
method and its interpretation are shown to be reliable, they can then be used to predict
whether or not a crop will need additional nutrients and how many needs to be added.

The numbers on a soil report do not indicate the exact amount of nutrients
available to a crop, but when interpreted correctly, they give a description of the soil
fertility. The potassium analytical result may be 0.25 meq/100 cm3, but this number does
not mean anything by itself. What really matters is that for our method, this value
indicates that the potassium level is deficient.

Another laboratory may use a different method and get a different potassium
value on the same sample. The results from the two laboratories cannot be directly
compared. However, if they are both properly calibrated, the two methods should give the
same fertility description; they should both indicate that the soil is deficient in potassium.

The analytical result is used to suggest how much nutrient should be applied. The
exact amount needed will depend on the crop to be grown and must be modified to suit
the conditions under which it is grown.

2.1 Soil Sampling Technique

Any technique that is used for soil sampling must be one that maintains the soil
sample in its natural condition so that the results obtained from its study illustrate the
actual characteristics of the soil. Methods that are usually used for soil sampling include:-

• The use of soil bore (figure 2.10). Using this methods, soil samples can be
obtained from various depths. As such, this method is suitable for the study of
the characteristic of the different layers of a specific soil profile.
• The use of a corer. An example of a corer is the ‘apple-corer’ type (figure
2.11). Through this method, a soil sample is isolated by puling out the piston
from its cylinder. Using this method, a large portion of the natural structure of
the soil is maintained in its original state.
• The use of the scoop. Like the soil bore, this tool can be used to obtain soil
samples from different depths. However, using this method may cause various
problem besides it’s a difficult technique and also may destroy the soil area
being studied.

Figure 2.10 Soil Bore

EXPERIMENT 2.1 Soils Sampling Techniques

Purpose: Soil Sampling Using Apple-Corer type Corer Technique

• Metal Cylinder and Piston (to dig out soil)
• Newspapers

Figure 2.11 ‘Apple-Corer’ types Corer


1. Carefully press the metal cylinder into the land contains soil (terrestrial area).
2. Soils that contain in the metal cylinder then dig out from that area.
3. The soil is removed from the cylinder by using the piston.


1. We must be very careful when dig and take out the soil sample in order to
maintain its natural and original state.
2. Soil sample must not be pressed or crashed.


• Using the appropriate technique and methods will prevent any kind of
distraction or damage on the sample which will be used in the ecological



A Piece Of Information

Soil texture is determined by the relative amounts of three groups of soil particles,
namely sand, silt and clay. Texture provides a means to physically describe soil by feel.

The texture of soil determines the amounts of air and water the soil can hold.
Plant roots need liberal supplies of both. Large soil particles do not pack tightly and
therefore provide air spaces in the soil. On the other hand, soil consisting of extremely
fine pack tightly and permits little air in the soil to support root function. A soil with a
very large particles drains to extensively and plants will lack sufficient water, will wilt,
and perhaps even die. A soil with extremely fine particles holds tremendous amounts and
can hold so much as to exclude air from the soil. In the case, the roots die, the plants
wilt, and perhaps will die as well. Thus the perfect soil texture for growing plants is a
compromise between fine, medium, and coarse particles.

Sand has large particles with little surface area. Sand has very limited chemicals
and physicals bindings with particles in the soil.

Silt is smaller than the sand and larger than clay. Silts are more weathered than
sand. Silt has less surface area than clay. This is because of it’s size and physical
properties, they can hold water and nutrient.

Clay is the smallest of the three particles size. It has strong affinity for water and
nutrients. Clay has thousands of time or more surface area of sand. It doesn’t let air and
water passing through it well.

The relative sizes for three types of soil particles is shown in Table 2.21

Soil Particles Diameter Of Soil Particles (mm)

Stones/ Gravels >2.0

Coarse Sand 2.0-0.2

Fine Sand 0.2-0.02

Silt 0.02-0.002

Clay <0.002

TABLE 2.20 : size ranges of soil particles according ISSS (International Soil science
Society ) standard.
*Stones (gravels are not considered to be soil particles. )
By feel, sand is gritty, silt is very slick or floury and clay is very sticky when wet.
There are million combinations of percent sand, percent silt and percent clay. Sand, slit,
and clay from textural classes when mixed in differing percentages. In naming textural
classes, the last word is the dominating fraction.

Loam --- means sand, silt and clay fraction are all shared in the class.

Loamy sand --- means sand is the dominating fraction, but silt and clay present.

Sandy loam --- means silts and clay are present, but sand dominates.

Soil textural classes are derived from a textural triangle. When using a textural
triangle, the percentage of sand, slit, and clay should total 100.

Figure 2.20: A Textural triangle

Farmers refer to texture as:

Light soils being coarse textured. Heavy soils being fine textured.

Light soils are easier to work. They are more aerated. They hold less moisture.
They have more temperature flocculation between day and night. They have lower
organic matter. They also have higher nutrient leaching potential.

Heavy soils are harder to work. The soil structure can be altered. They hold more
moisture and the soil temperature fluctuates less. They have higher biological activity
and organic matter. They have lower nutrient leaching potential.

Soil texture and soil structure have strong influences on soil aggregation. A well-
aggregated soil improves soil air, water penetration, root growth, and nutrient as
simulation, soil gas evacuation, soil drainage, root development and microorganisms’

Soil structure is the way sand, silt, and clay are arranged or grouped together to
form structures. Each individual unit of soil structure called a pad. Types of soil
structure are:

• Prism like ---aggregates with horizontal axes are shorter than vertical axes.
Think of a quartz prism. This structure is found in young soils or
in dry and arid regions.
• Block like---aggregates with horizontal axes and vertical are more or less
equal. Like the toy building blocks or a small sugar cube. Block
like structure is found deep in the soil horizon.
• Plate like ---aggregates with horizontal axes longer than the vertical, like a
dinner plate or Frisbee. This structure occurs on or near the soil
surface caused by ponded water or impact from rain.
• Spheroid ----aggregates that are more or less rounded, granular, crumb like.
This structure is found under grass stands near the surface.

Shapes Of Soil Aggregates

FIGURE 2.21: Shapes of soil aggregate

Improper soil structure management affects the physical, chemical and biological
properties. By destroying structure, the solid phase of soil increases at the expense of air
and water. The chemical and biological phase is affected because the soil is compacted.
This affects root growth and biological activity.

Soil consistence is the resistance of soil to deformation or rapture by a

compressing, shearing or pulling force. Consistence is a measure of how soil particles
bind together, bind with organic matter, and how the soil responds to tillage under
different moisture contents.


Purpose: To determine the texture of a soil sample.

Apparatus: Four sieves with 2mm, 0.2mm, and 0.02mm mesh openings respectively,
newspaper, plastic bags, rubber gloves, 4 beakers, electronic balance,
oven and crucibles.

Materials: Soil sample A, B, and C

Procedure: 1. All the soil samples are dried in oven at 101oc-105oc.

2. A sieves with 2mm mesh openings are put on a large piece of newspaper
and the soil sample A is poured on the sieve (a).
3. The sieve is shaken carefully until no soil particles are coming out
through the openings. Soil particles that stay on top of the sieve is
collected and its mass with beaker is recorded as (b).
4. Sieved soil particles on the newspaper are collected and are put onto
another sieve with 0.2mm openings. Step (2) and (3) are repeated to find
the mass of another type of soil particles.
5. Step (4) is repeated for sieves with 0.02mm and 0.002mm mesh
6. Sieved soil particles on the newspaper sieves with 0.002mm mesh
opening are clay. Its mass with beaker (f) is recorded.
7. All the data obtained are performed in Table 2.2.
8. The textural classes for each soil sample are determined.

Types of mesh

FIGURE 2.22 : Sieves with different size of mesh openings


No. Mass of /g Soil Sample A Soil Sample B Soil Sample C

1. Soil sample, a 444.27 153.30 584.84
2. Beaker + stones, b 97.86 174.17 150.82
3. Beaker + coarse sand, c 210.97 153.96 295.20
4. Beaker + fine sand, d 165.04 107.83 128.33
5. Beaker + slit, e 242.24 111.33 155.03
6. Beaker + clay, f 199.91 110.28 121.19
7. Beaker, g 94.35 100.85 96.55
8. Stones, b-g 3.51 73.32 54.27
9. Coarse sand, c-g 116.62 53.13 198.65
10. Fine sand, d-g 70.69 6.96 31.78
11. Slit, e-g 147.89 10.46 58.50
12. Clay, f-g 105.56 9.43 241.64

TABLE 2.21 : Masses of stones, sand, slit and clay components of soil sample.

No. Percentage of / % Soil sample A Soil sample B Soil sample C

1. Stones 0.79 47.83 9.28
2. Sand 42.16 39.20 39.40
3. Slit 33.29 6.82 10.00
4. Clay 23.76 6.15 41.32

TABLE 2.22: Percentage of stones, sand, silt, and clay components of soil sample.

Percentage of soil Mass of soil component

Component = Mass of soil sample X 100%

No. Percentage of / % Soil sample A Soil Sample B Soil sample C

1. Sand 42.50 75.13 43.43
2. Slit 33.55 13.08 11.03
3. Clay 23.95 11.79 45.54

Table 2.23: Relative percentage of sand, slit, and clay components of soil sample

FIGURE 2.23: The textural classes for soil sample A is loam

FIGURE 2.24: The textural classes for soil sample B is loamy sand

FIGURE 2.25: The textural classes for soil sample C is sandy clay.

Discussion: 1. All the soil samples need to be dried up first so that the soil particles can
be sieved easily.
2. The relative percentage of sand, slit and clay must be determined to
complete the soil textural triangle as shown above. This is because
stone are not considering as a type of soil particles.


The textural classes for soil sample A, B, C are loam, loamy sand and sandy clay

2.3 Organic Matter and Humus of Soil

Organic Matter and Humus of Soil

Understanding the role that soil organism's play is critical to sustainable soil
management. Based on the understanding, focus can be directed toward strategies that
build both the numbers and the diversity of soil organism. Like cattle and other farm
animals, soil livestock require proper feed. That feed comes in the form of organic matter

Organic matter and humus are term that describes somewhat different but related things.
Organic matter refers to fraction of the soil that is composed of both living organisms and
once-living residues in various stages of decomposition. Humus is only a small portion of
the organic matter. It is the end product of organic matter decomposition and is relatively

Further decomposition of humus occurs very slowly in both agricultural and natural
settings. In natural systems, a balance is reached between the amount of humus formation
and the amount of humus decay this balance also occurs in most agricultural soil, but
often at a much lower level of soil humus. Humus contributes to well-structured soil that,
in turn, produces high-quality plants. It is clear that management of organic matter and
humus is essential to sustaining the whole soil ecosystem.

The benefits of a topsoil rich in organic matter and humus are many. They include rapid
decomposition of crops residues, granulation of soil into water-stable aggregates,
decreased crusting and cladding; improve internal drainage, better water infiltration, and
increased water and nutrient holding capacity. Improvements in the soil's physical
structure facilitate easier tillage, increased water storage capacity, reduced erosion, better
formation and harvesting of root crops, and deeper, more prolific plant root systems.

Soil organic matter can be compared to a bank account for plant nutrients. Soil
containing 4% organic matter in the top seven inches has 80,000 pounds of organic
matter per acre. Those 80,000 pounds of organic matter will contain about 5.25%
nitrogen, amounting to 4,200 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Assuming a 5% release rate
during the growing season, the organic matter could supply 210 pounds of nitrogen to a
crop. However, if the organic matter is allowed to degrade and lose nitrogen, purchased
fertilizer will be necessary to prop up crop yields.

All the soil organisms mentioned previously, except algae, depend on organic matter as
their food source. Therefore, to maintain their populations, organic matter must be
renewed from plants growing on the soil, or from animal manure, compost, or other
materials imported from off site. When soil livestock are fed, fertility is built up in the
soil, and the soil will feed the plants.

Ultimately, building organic matter and humus levels in the soil is a matter of managing
the soil's living organisms- something akin to wildlife management or animal husbandry.
This entails working to maintain favourable conditions of moisture, temperature,
nutrients, pH, and aeration. It also involves providing a steady food source of raw organic

Soil Tilth Organic Matter

A soil that drains well, does not crust, takes in water rapidly, and does not make clods is
said to have good tilth. Tilth is the physical condition of the soil as it relates to tillage
ease, seedbed quality, easy seeding emergence, and deep root penetration. Good tilth is
dependent on aggregation-the process whereby individual soil particles are joined into
clusters or "aggregates".

Aggregates form in soils when individual soil particles are oriented and brought together
through the physical forces of wetting and drying or freezing and thawing. Weak
electrical forces from calcium and magnesium hold soil particles together when the soil
dries. When this aggregates become wet again, however, their stability is challenged, and
they may break apart. Aggregates can also be held together by plant roots, earthworm
activity, and by glue-like products produced by soil micro organisms. Earthworm-created
aggregates are stable once they come out of the worm. An aggregates formed by physical
forces can be bound together by fine root hair or threads produced by fungi.

Aggregates can also become stabilized (remain intact when wet) through the by-product
of organic matter decomposition by fungi and bacteria chiefly gums, waxes, and other
glue-like substances. These by-products cement the soil particles together, forming water-
stable aggregates (figure2.30). The aggregate is then strong enough to hold together when
wet-hence the term “water-stable”.

USDA soil microbiologist Sara Wright named the glue that holds aggregates together
“glomalin” after the Glom ales group of common root-dwelling fungi. These fungi
secrete a gooey protein known as glomalin through their hair-like filaments, or hyphae.
When Wright measured glomalin in soil aggregates she found levels as high as 2% of
their total weight in eastern U.S. soil. Soil aggregates from the West and Midwest had
lower levels of glomalin. She found that tillage tends to lower glomalin levels. Glomalin
levels and aggregation were higher in no-till corn plot than in tilled plots. Wright has a
brochure describing and how it benefits soil, entitled Glomalin, Manageable Soil Glue.
To order this brochure sees the Additional Resources _section of this publication.

Figure (2.30)

Well-aggregated soil allows for increased water entry, increased air flow, and increased
water-holding capacity. Plant roots occupy a larger volume of well-aggregated soil. High
in organic matter, as compared to a finely pulverized and dispersed soil, low in organic
matter. Roots, earthworms, and soil arthropods can pass more easily through a well-
aggregated soil. Aggregated soil also prevents crusting of the soil surface. Finally, well-
aggregated soils are more erosion resistant, because aggregates are much heavier than
their particles components. For a good example of the effect of organic matter additions
on aggregation, as shown by subsequent increase in water entry into the soil, see table

Manure rate Inches of water

(tons /acre)
0 1.2
8 1.9
16 2.7
Table 2.30 Water entry into the soil after 1 hour

The opposite of aggregation is dispersion. In the dispersed soil, each individual soil
particle is free to blow away with the wind or wash away with overland flow of water.
Clay soils with poor aggregation tend to be sticky when wet, and cloddy when dry. If the
clay particles in these soils can be aggregated together, better aeration and water
infiltration will result. Sandy soils can benefit from aggregation by having a small

amount of dispersed clay that tends to stick between the sand particles and slow the
downward movement of water.

Crusting is a common problem on soils that are poorly aggregated. Crusting results
chiefly from the impact of falling raindrops. Rainfall causes clay particles on the soil
surface to disperse and clog the pores immediately beneath the surface. Following drying,
a sealed soil surface result in which most of the pore space has been drastically reduced
due to clogging from dispersed clay particles. Subsequent rainfall is much more likely to
run off than to flow into the soil (figure 2.31)

Since raindrops start crusting, any

Management practices that protect the soil from
Their impact will decrease crusting and increase
Water flow into the soil. Mulches and cover crops
serve this purpose well, as do no-till practices,
which allow the accumulation of surface residue.
Also a well-aggregated soil will resist crusting
because the water-stable aggregates are less likely
to break apart when the raindrop hits them. Figure 2.31

Long-term grass production produces the

best-aggregated soils. A grass sod extends a mass
of fine roots throughout the topsoil, contributing
to the physical processes that help form
aggregates. Roots continually remove water from
soil micro sites, providing local wetting and
drying effects that promotes aggregation. Fine
root hairs also bind soil aggregates together.

Roots also produce food for soil

microorganisms and earthworms, which in turn
generate compounds that bind soil particles into
water-stable aggregates. In addition, perennial
grass sods provide protection from raindrops and
erosion. Thus, a perennial cover creates a
combination of conditions optimal for the
creation and maintenance of well-aggregated soil.

Conversely, cropping sequences that

involve annual plants and extensive cultivation
provide less vegetative cover and organic matter,
and usually result in a rapid decline in soil

Farming practices can be geared to conserve and promote soil aggregation. Because the
binding substances are themselves susceptible to microbial degradation, organic matter
needs to be replenished to maintain microbial populations and overall aggregated soil
status. Practices should conserve aggregates once they are formed, by minimizing factors
that degrade and destroy aggregation. Some factors that destroy or degrade soil
aggregates are:

 bare soil surface exposed to the impact of raindrops

 removal of organic matter through crop production and harvest without

return the organic matter to the soil

 excessive tillage

 working the soil when it is too wet or too dry

 use of anhydrous ammonia, which speeds up decomposition of organic


 excess nitrogen fertilization

 allowing the build-up of excess sodium from irrigation or sodium-

containing fertilizers

Table 2.31 Factors that Destroy or Degrade Soil Aggregates.

Tillage, Organic Matter, and Plant Productivity

Several factors affect the level of organic matter that can be maintained in a soil. Among
these are organic matter additions, moisture, temperature, tillage, nitrogen levels,
cropping and fertilization. The level of organic matter present in the soil is a direct
function of how much organic material is being produced or added to the soil versus the
rate of decomposition. Achieving this balance entails slowing the speed of organic matter
decomposition, while increasing the supply of organic materials produced on site and / or
added from off site.

Moisture and temperature also profoundly affect soil organic matter levels. High rainfall
and temperature promote rapid plant growth, but these conditions are also favourable to
rapid organic matter decomposition and loss. Low rainfall or low temperatures slow both
plant growth and organic matter decomposition. The native Midwest prairie soils
originally had a high amount of organic matter from the continuous growth and
decomposition of perennial grasses, combined with a moderate temperature that did not
allow for rapid decomposition of organic matter. Moist and hot tropical areas may appear

lush because of rapid plant growth, but soils in these areas are low in nutrients. Rapid
decomposition of organic matter returns nutrients back to the soil, where they are almost
immediately taken up by rapidly growing plants.

Tillage can be beneficial or harmful to a biologically active soil, depending on what type
of tillage is used and it is done. Tillage affects both erosion rates and soil organic matter
decomposition rates. Tillage can reduced the organic matter level in croplands below 1%
rendering them biologically dead. Clean tillage involving molboard plowing and disking
breaks down soil aggregates and leaves and soil prone to erosion from wind and water.

The mouldboard blow can bury crop residue and topsoil to a depth of 14 inches. At this
depth, the oxygen level in the soil is so low that decomposition can not proceed
Adequately. Surface-dwelling decomposer organisms suddenly find themselves
suffocated and soon die. Crop residues that were originally on the surface but now have
been turn under will putrefy in the oxygen-deprived zone. This rotting activity may give a
putrid smell to the soil. Furthermore, the top few inches of the field are often covered
with subsoil having very little organic matter content and, therefore, limited ability to
support productive crop growth.

The topsoil is where the biological activity happens-it’s where the oxygen is. That’s why
a fence post rots off at the surface. In terms of organic matter, tillage is similar to opening
the air vents on a wood-burning stove; adding organic matter is like adding wood to the
stove. Ideally, organic matter decomposition should proceed as an efficient burn of the
‘wood’ to release nutrients and carbohydrates to the soil organisms and create stable
humus. Shallow tillage incorporates residue and speeds the decomposition of organic
matter by adding oxygen that microbes need to become more active.

In cold climates with a long dormant season, light tillage of a heavy residue may be
beneficial; in warmer climates it is hard enough to maintain organic matter levels without
any tillage. As indicated in, molboard plowing causes the fastest decline of organic
matter, no-till the least. The plow lays the soil up on its side, increasing the surface area
exposed to oxygen. The other three types of tillage are intermediate in their ability to
foster organic matter decomposition.

Oxygen is the key factors here. The molboard plow increases the soil surface area,
allowing more air into the soil and speeding the decomposition rate. The horizontal line
on represents the replenishment of organic matter provided by wheat stubble. With the
molboard plow, more than entire organic matter contribution from the wheat straw is
gone within only 19 days following tillage. Finally, the passage of heavy equipment
increases compaction in the wheel tracks, and some tillage implements themselves
compact the soil further, removing oxygen and increasing the change that deeply buried
residues will putrefy.

Tillage also reduced the rate of water entry into the soil by removal of ground cover and
destruction of aggregates, resulting in compaction and crusting. Table 2.33 shows three
different tillage methods and how they affect water entry into the soil. Notice the direct
relationship between tillage type, ground cover, and water infiltration. No-till has more
than three times the water infiltration of the molboard-plowed soil. Additionally, no-till
fields will have higher aggregation from the organic matter decomposition on site. The
surface mulch typical of no-till fields acts as a protective skin for the soil. This soil skin
reduces the impact of raindrops and buffers the soil from temperatures extremes as well
as reducing water evaporation.

Water Infiltration Ground cover

mm/minute percent
,No-till 2.7 48
Chisel Plow 1.3 27
Moldboard Plow 0.8 12
From Boyle et al. 1989.
Table 2.31 Tillage effects on water infiltration and group cover.

Both no-till and reduced tillage systems provide benefits to the soil. The advantages of a
no-till system include superior soil conservation, moisture conservation, reduced water
runoff, long-term build up of organic matter, and increased water infiltration. A soil
managed without tillage relies on soil organisms to take over the jod of plant residue
incorporation formerly done by tillage. On the down side, no-till can foster a reliance on
herbicides to control weeds and can lead to soil compaction from the traffic of heavy

Pioneering development work on chemical-free no-till farming is proceeding at several

research stations and farms in the eastern U.S. Pennsylvania farmer Steve Groff has been
farming no-till with minimal or no herbicides for several years. Groff grows cover crops
extensively in his fields, rolling them down in the spring using a 10-foot rolling stalk
chopper. This rolling chopper kills the rye or vetch cover crop and creates nice no-till
mulch into which he plants a variety of vegetable and grain crops. After several years of
no-till production, his soils are mellow and easy to plant into Groff farms 175 acres of
vegetables, alfalfa, and grain crops on his Cedar Meadow Farm. Learn more about his
operation in the Farmer Profiles section of this publication, by visiting his Web site, or by
ordering his video (see Additional Resources section ).

Other conservation tillage systems include ridge tillage, minimum tillage, zone tillage,
and reduced tillage each possessing some of the advantages of both conventional till and
no-till. These systems represent intermediate tillage systems, allowing more flexibility
than either a no-till or conventional till system might. They are more beneficial to soil
organisms than a conventional clean-tillage system of molboard plowing and disking.

Adding manure and compost is a recognized means for improving soil organic
matter and humus levels. In their absence perennial is the only crop that can regenerate
and increase soil humus. Cool-season grasses build soil organic matter faster than warm-
season grasses because they are growing much longer during a given year. When the soil
is warm enough for soil organisms to decompose organic matter, cool-season grass is
growing.While growing, it is producing organic matter and cycling minerals from the
decomposing organic matter in the soil. In other words, there is a net gain of organic
matter because the cool-season grass is producing organic matter faster than it is being
used up.

With warm-season grasses, organic matter production during the growing season can be
slowed during the long dormant season from fall through early spring. During the
beginning and end of this dormant period, the soil is still biologically active, yet not grass
growth is proceeding. Some net accumulation of organic matter can occur under warm-
season grasses.However, in a Texas study, switchgrass (a warm-season grass)grown for
four years increased soil carbon content from 1.1% to 1.5% in the top 12 inches of soil.In
hot and moist regions, a cropping rotation that includes several years of pasture will be
most beneficial.

Effect of Nitrogen on Organic Matter

Excessive nitrogen applications stimulate increased microbial activity, which in turn

speeds organic matter decomposition.The extra nitrogen narrows the ratio of carbon to
nitrogen in the soil.Native or uncultivated soils have approximately 12 parts of carbon to
each part of nitrogen, or a C : N ratio of 12 : 1. At this ratio, populations of decay bacteria
are kept at a stable level, since additional growth in their population is limited by a lack
of nitrogen.When large amounts of inorganic nitrogen are added, the C : N ratio is
reduced, which allows the populations of decay organisms to explode as they decompose
more organic matter with the now abundant nitrogen.

While soil bacteria can efficiently use moderate applications of inorganic nitrogen
accompanied by organic amendments (carbon ), excess nitrogen results in decomposition
of existing organic matter at a rapid rate. Eventually, soil carbon content may be reduced
to a level where the bacterial populations are on a starvation diet. With little carbon
available, bacterial populations shrink, and less of the free soil nitrogen absorbed.

Thereafter, applied nitrogen, rather than being cycled through microbial organisms and
re-released to plants slowly over time, becomes subject to leaching. This can greatly
reduced the efficiency of fertilization and to environmental problems. To minimize the
fast decomposition of soil organic matter, carbon should be added with nitrogen. Typical
carbon sources – such as green manures, animal manure, and compost –serve – this
purpose well.

Amendments containing too high a carbon to nitrogen ratio (25:1 or more) can tip the
balance the other way, resulting in nitrogen being tied up in an unavailable form. Soil
organisms consume all the nitrogen in an effort to decompose the abundant carbon ; tied
up in the soil organisms, nitrogen remains unavailable for plant uptake. As soon as a soil
microorganism dies and decomposes, its nitrogen is consumed by another soil organism,
until the balance between carbon and nitrogen is achieved again.

EXPERIMENNT 2.3 Determination of Organic Matter Content of The Soil

Purpose : to determine the organic matter content in the soil sample

 Desiccators
 Tripod
 Bunsen burner
 Asbestos mat
 Fire clay triangle tongs
 Crucible

Materials :
 Dried soil sample


1. Crucible and lid strongly heated to remove all trace of moisture. The crucible and lid
then cooled in the desiccators and the mass (X ) is weighted and recorded.
2. 1/3 of the crucible is filled with the soil sample that has been previously dried in an
oven (105 - 110 celsius). The crucible is covered and weighed again. The mass (Y )is
3. The covered crucible and its contents are then heated until red-hot for approximately 1
hour to burn off all the organic matter. The hot crucible and its contents are then cooled
in desiccators after which they weighed. The mass ( Z ) is recorded.
4. This step is repeated until a constant weight is obtained.
5. The percentage of organic matter content in the soil sample is calculated as follow :

Y-Z x100


From the weight readings obtained, the percentage of organic matter in soil sample can be
calculated as follows :
Crucible +cover = 17.11 g
Crucible +cover + soil before heating = 24.05 g
Crucible +cover + soil after heating = 22.56 g
Soil sample used = (24.05 - 17.11 ) g
= 6.94 g
Organic matter = ( 24.05 – 22.56 ) g
= 1.49 g

Percentage of organic component = Weight of organic matter x100

Weight of soil sample used
= 1.49 g x100
6.94 g
= 21.47 %


1. Dried soil sample is used in order to prevent including the weight of water while
measuring the weight of organic matter.
2. Soil sample is dried in oven at the temperature of 101 -110 celsius which is
consider as most suitable range of temperature to remove trace of moisture in the soil
sample. If the soil sample is dried under 90 celcius of temperature, there will be still
containing moisture, but if its dried at 150 celcius, all trace of moisture will be totally
remove but it will as well burn off the organic matter contain in the soil sample. This
causes the organic matter of soil sample can not be determine by us.
3. Soil sample that used in this experiment required to heat for 1 hour in order to
organic matter in soil sample will be completely oxidized by heat provided.
4. To ensure that oxidation of organic matter contains in the soil sample is
complete; the experiment should be repeated so that the constant value of the weight of
organic matter is obtained.

Precaution Steps

1. During the soil sample is heated in the crucible, the crucible have to be covered
by a lid to prevent the transfer of heat to surroundings.


The percentage of organic matter content in the soil sample is 21.47 %

2.4 Water Content of Soil

Soil Water Definitions

Soil water is classified into three categories : ( 1 ) excess soil water or gravitational
water, ( 2 ) available soil water, and ( 3 ) unavailable soil water. See Figure 2.41 for a
schematic representation of soil water,

Figure 2.40 Soil Water Levels within Three Soil Types

Excess soil water or gravitational water ( Figure 2.41 ) drains or percolates readily by
gravitational force. Since drainage takes time, part of the excess water may be used by
plants before it moves out of the root zone.

Available soil water (figure 2.42 ) is retained in the soil by capillary forces and can be
extracted by the plant. This soil water is most important for crop production. It is the
water held by the soil between field capacity and wilting point. plants can use
approximately 50 percent of the available water without stress. When less than 50 percent
of available water remains, stress can occur.

Field capacity is the water content of a soil at a upper limit of the available water range.
It is the amount of water remaining in a soil after it has been saturated and allowed to
drain for 24 hours.

Permanent wilting point is the lower limit of the available water range. When plants
have removed all of the available water from a given soil, they wilt and do not recover.
Thus, the water available for plant growth exists between the range of field capacity and
wilting point.

Available water capacity is all the water that a soil can possibly hold between field
capacity and wilting point.The capacity varies with soil texture.

Unavailable soil water ( Figure 2.43 ) is soil water held so firmly to soil particles by
adsorptive soil forces that it can not be extracted by plants. Unavailable water remains
when soil is direr than wilting point.

Volumetric water content is the total amount of water that a soil holds at a particular
time, It includes the available, unavailable, and gravitational water if present. Volumetric
water content is the fraction or percent of water in the total soil volume. Sands, loams,
and clay loams reach saturation when volumetric water content is 45 percent, 48 percent,
and 52 percent, respectively.

Figure 2.41 Gravitational Water Figure 2.42 Available Water

Figure 2.43 Unavailable Soil Water

Soil Water Retention

The soil holds water in two ways : ( 1 ) as a film coating on soil particles, and ( 2 ) in the
pore space between particles. When water infiltrates into the soil from rain or irrigation,
the pore spaces are nearly filled with water. During and immediately after a rain or
irrigation greatest movement of water occurs in the soil. Afterward, water movement
continues due to gravity and capillary forces. Capillary forces are also important for
retaining water in soil pores.

Figure 2.44 Capillary force is illustrated by how far water rises in tubes of various

Capillary forces can be illustrated by a group of small capillary tubes with different
diameters ( Figure 2.44 ). If the capillary tubes are placed with one end in a pan of water,
the water would rise into each tube. The height of the water in each tube would depend
on the diameter of the tube. The smaller the tube, the higher the rise. The surface tension
of the water itself and the diameter of the tube cause the water to rise. The water must be
under negative pressure to rise because this capillary phenomenon can operate in any
direction. It is the key to water retention in the soil pores. The pore geometry is much
more complex than the simple capillary tubes, but the water is under negative pressure
due to the capillary forces.

Soil Water Tension

Different diameters of capillary tubes illustrate how water is held in soils. The capillary
force or tension with which water is held in the soil is most important to plant growth.
Smaller pores hold water with more tension ( negative pressure ) than larger pores. Also
as films of water around soil separates or aggregates get thinner, water tension
increases.As soil dries, the tension of the remaining water increases. Plants can extract
water more readily when water tension is small.

Soil water tension measures the force with which water is retained by the soil. Tension is
a measure of negative pressure. Commonly tension units are bars which are nearly
equivalent to 1 atmosphere ( 14.7 psi ). A plant which is extracting water from a soil at
1/2 bar means it is exerting a negative pressure of about 7 psi. The same plant would
exert – 147 psi if the soil were at 10 bars of tension.Table 2.40 illustrates typical soil
water tensions for three soil textures.

Sand Loam Silty Clay Loam

Soil Water Tension( bars )
Field Capacity 0.1 0.3 0.2
50 % Available 0.4 1.5 2.0
Water Remaining
Wilting Point 15.0 15.0 15.0

Table 2.40 Soil Water Tension for Three Soil Textures.

In unsaturated soil, Soil Water Retension Curves water is under tension and it
takes energy to remove it from the soil. The negative pressure to remove water from soil
at given water content can be measured. As the water content of a soil decreases from the
saturation point, the tension used to hold water increases. In the range of water available
for plant growth, not all water is equally available.

The relationship of soil water content and soil water tension is represented in Figure
2.45. Curves like Figure 2.45 are call water retension or soil water characteristic curves.
They are different for each soil because of differences in soil textures and structures. At
field capacity the soil water is held with a certain tension. For most soils this
corresponds to a negative pressure of 0.1 – 0.3 atmospheres.

Figure 2.45 the relationship of soil water content and soil water tension.

The approximate range of available water content for a loam soil is depicted in Figure
2.45. As the soil dries, a plant will begin to wilt during the day but will recover at night.
When the soil water content decreases until the plant cannot extract enough water to
recover from its wilted condition, the soil water is at wilting point. This soil water
content corresponds to a tension of about 15 bars Loam soil has about 11 percent
volumetric water content at wilting. The soil still contains water but it is held too tightly
for plant root extraction.

Available Water Capacities

A soil’s water storange characteristics are very important for irrigation management.
Since the size and number of pores in soils are directly related to soil texture ( particle
sizes ), soil texture is the indicator for the amount of water a soil can hold. Table 2.41 is
based on soil texture and can be used to determine the amount of available soil water
that a given soil profile will hold. This is its available water capacity.

Textural Available Water
Clases Capacity
in Inches / Food of Depth
Coarse Sands 0.25 – 0.75
Fine Sands 0.75 – 1.00
Loamy Sands 1.10 – 1.20
Sandy Loams 1.25 – 1.40
Fine Sandy Loam 1.50 – 2.00
Silt Loams 2.00 – 2.50
Silty Clay Loams 1.80 – 2.00
Silty Clay 1.50 – 1.70
Clay 1.20 – 1.50

Table 2.41 Available Water Capacity based on soil texture

Plant available water capacity changes with soil textures. Soil texture often changes with
depth because the soil horizons differ. Table 2.42 gives an example for two soils.

Depth Available Water Total

from surface
( inches )

Valentine fine sand

0–6 1.2 0.6
6 – 24 1.0 1.4
24 – 60 0.7 2.2
Hasting silt loam
0–6 silt loam 2.6 1.3
6 – 48 silt clay loam 2.2 7.6
48 – 60 silt loam 2,4 2.4

Table 2.42 Effect of the soil depth on plant available water capacity

Application of Soil Water Information

Soil water holding characteristics are important for irrigation system selection, irrigation
scheduling, crop selection, and ground water quality. Soil water content in the crop’s
active root zone and available water capacity are the key indicators for applying the right
amount of irrigation at the right time. This is irrigation scheduling. Whether sprinkler
( center pivot ) or surface ( gravity ) irrigation systems will work on a particular field
depends on the soil texture.

Since soil can hold only so much water, excess or gravitation water moves out of the
crop root zone toward the groundwater table.Any dissolved nutrients or chemicals move
with the water and can eventually end up in ground water.

EXPERIMENT 2.4 Determination of Water Content of Soil

Purpose: to determination the water content in the soil sample

- Desiccators
- Oven
- Thermometer
- Petri Dish
- Crucible

- Dried soil sample


1. Empty Petri dish is weighed and is mass (a) is recorded

2. Soil sample is added to the Petri dish and weighted.Mass (b) is recorded.
3. The Petri dish that’s contains the soil sample is placed in the oven under 110 C of
temperature for a hour to get rid of any moisture trace.
4. Then the soil sample is removed from oven and cooled in desiccators and weighed
again.The mass (c) is recorded.
5. The soil sample is returned to the oven at 110 C for another 1 hour.
6. Step 3 and 4 is repeated until a constant weight is obtained.
7. The percentage of water content in soil sample is determine and calculated as

b-c x 100


>From the weight readings obtained, the percentage of water content in soil sample can
be calculated as follows:-

Weight of Petri dish (a) =29.39 g

Weight of Petri dish + soil before drying (b) = 132.32 g
Weight of Petri dish + soil after drying (c) = 116.20 g

Percentage of water content = weight of water content x 100

Weight of soil sample used
=(132.32-116.20)g x 100


1. Vaporization takes place when the soil sample dried in the oven.
2. Some water content in the soil sample cannot be lost through vaporization; water
content in the hydrated crystalline chemical compound can be removing by drying
it in the oven for not less than 1 hour.
3. Soil sample is dried in an oven at temperature 110 C for an hour because this is
consider as approximate temperature to eliminate all the water trace in the soil
sample including hygroscopic water.
4. Experiment is repeated until constant mass is obtained in order to make sure that
the soil sample is completely dried off.

Precaution Steps

1. During the soil sample is heated in the crucible, the crucible have to be covered by a
lid to prevent the transfer of heat to the surroundings.
2. A broken-up soil sample is used to provide enough surface area for the vaporization
of water.


• The percentage of water content in the soil sample is 15.66%

2.5 Air Content of Soil

Water is soil air?

Atmosphere penetrates into the soil though the pore space and fissures. After rain
once excess moisture has drained from the soil, the volume of air-filled pores is known as
the air-capacity.

Soil air differs from atmospheric air in that (1) it is saturated with water vapour
(near 100% humidity), and (2) carbon dioxide, a by-product of decomposition, is
sometime 5-10 times higher. More organic matter in a base-rich soil would favour soil
fauna which deplete soil oxygen and increase soil carbon dioxide.

When the pores are saturated with water, fresh oxygen can not diffuse into the
soil, creating anaerobic condition. Plant growth is inhibited and chemical reduction may
occur in soil (as opposed to oxidation).The by-products of the reduction of nitrates,
manganese oxide, sulphate, and iron oxide cause fermentation that produces gases in the
soil that are ultimately released to the atmosphere. Such gases in the nitrous oxide (NO2),
hydrogen sulphide (H2S), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO),and methane

It appears that soils play an important role in the sorption of greenhouse gases (‘carbon
sink’) as twice as much carbon is found in the soil as in the atmosphere. Disruption of
natural soil processes, such as by deforestation and increased cultivation, releases carbon
dioxide to the atmosphere. An increase in floodwater farming (e.g rice fields) creates
anaerobic condition, released more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the form of
nitrogen compounds (especially NO2) and methane (CH4).

The movement of gases into and out of the atmosphere takes place by diffusion, defined
as the movement of molecules along a gradient. For example, water diffusion occurs from
areas of abundance (wet areas) to areas of deficit (dry ones). Gases diffuse along zones of
high concentration to areas of low concentration.

EXPERIMENT 2.5 Determination of Air Content of Soil

Purpose: To determination the air content in the soil sample

- Empty milk cane
- Measuring cylinder
- Puncher

- soil sample


1. The volume of an empty milk cane is determined by using water and

measuring cylinder.
2. Holes are punched by using suitable kind of puncher at the base of the milk
3. The punched milk cane is then pushed into soil to obtain a cane full of
undisturbed soil sample
4. Cane is then carefully removed from the soil together with soil sample which
occupied the volume of the cane.
5. Then the soil sample from the cane is poured carefully into the large measuring
6. 640 cm of water is measured using other measuring cylinder before water is
added into the cylinder containing soil sample.
7. This mixture is then vigorously shaken.
8. The final volume of the water and soil mixture is then read and recorded.


From the weight readings obtained, the percentage of air content in soil sample can
be calculated as follows:-

Volume of milk cane, V =600cm

Volume of the soil sample,(a) =600cm
Volume of water used, V =640cm
Volume of water and soil sample mixture,V =920cm
Volume of air contain in the soil sample, (V+V) = 1240cm
Percentage of air content in the soil sample = (V+V)-V x 100
= (640+640)-920 x 100


1. The milk cane is pushed into the soil in order to get the exact percentage of air
content of the soil sample.
2. Water is used to occupy the soil part that contains air, this will force the soil sample
to release air content in it.
3. Holes are made in the surface of the milk cane to let the flow of air in the soil
sample going as usual.

Precaution Steps

1. Make sure that the milk cane is pushed into the soil before dig out the soil that the
exact percentage of air in the soil sample can be calculated.


• The percentage of air content in the soil sample is 53.30%.

2.6 Soil pH

What is Soil PH ?

An additional important chemical measure is soil ph which refers to the soil’s acidity or
alkalinity. This property hinges on the concentration of hydrogen ions in solution. A
greater concentration of hydrogen result in a lower ph, meaning greater acidity. Scientists
consider pure water, with a ph of 7, neutral.

The ph of a soil will often determine whether certain plants can be grown successfully.
Blueberry plants, for example, require acidic soils with a ph of roughly 4 to 4.5.Alfalfa
and many grasses, on the other hand, require a neutral or slightly alkaline soil. In
agriculture, farmers add limestone to acid soil to neutralize them.

A soil solution occurs when any soluble constituents of soil are dissolved in the soil
water. This provides the mechanism by which plants uptake nutrients, as these are held in
solution in the soil water.

The hydrogen ions held in solution can be measured using the ph scale. Values above
7.0 are alkaline (basic) which values below 7.0 are acidic. Soils usually have a ph range
between 3.0 and 10.0. In humid regions, ph ranges between 5 to 7, while in desert
regions, ph ranges between 7 to 9.

Soil ph is an important property of soils as it is a good guide in the diagnosis of fertility

problems. Plant nutrients are less available at either extreme of the ph scale, as other
elements become available in toxic amounts.

Soil solutions transport soil constituents from one horizon to anther either by solution if
the compounds are soluble, or in suspension, such as the clays and silts that are washed
down the soil profile.

On horizontal soils, movement of soil solution is vertically downward. However, on

slopes, movement of soil solution can also be lateral (to the sides), which helps to
produce a sequence of different soils on slopes known as a catena. However, a catena also
arises due to effects of gravity, steepness of slope, and land-use history, such that catena
also describes a concept useful in the interpretation of soil-landscape relationships in all

In arid environments, movement of soil solution can be upward due to intense

evaporation at the very hot surface. Soluble slats will then be precipitated in the upper
soil horizons, which cause problems for agriculture in arid areas.

EXPERIMENT 2.6 Determination of SOIL PH

Purpose: To determine the pH value of soil sample


 Test tube
 Test-tube rack
 Spatula
 Pipette


 Soil sample
 pH paper


1. 1cm of soil sample is measured and added to a test-tube by using spatula.

2. Then 1cm of Barium Sulphate is added into the same test-tube which contain soil
3. 10cm of distilled water is then added into that same test-tube.
4. Then that test-tube is sealed with rubber.
5. The mixture in the sealed test-tube is then shaken vigorously and contents are
allowed to settle for 5 minutes.
6. This solution then tested with ph paper.
7. With reference to colours chart, the corresponding ph values is read and recorded.


 The pH value of the soil sample used is 7.0, which is consider as neutral and
suitable for the growth and development for most the plants species.


1. Barium Sulphate is used to ensures flocculation of colloidial clay.


 The PH value of soil sample that used in this experiment is 7.0

The Importance of Soil Organisms

Soil organisms (biota) carry out a wide range of processes that are important for the
maintenance of soil health and fertility in both natural and managed agricultural soils.
The total number of organisms, the diversity of species and the activity of the soil biota
will fluctuate as the soil environment changes. These changes may caused by natural or
imposed systems.

An acre of living topsoil approximately 900 pounds of earthworms, 2400 pounds of

fungi, 1500 pounds of bacteria, 133 pounds of protozoa, 890 pounds of arthropods and
algae, and even small mammals in some cases. Therefore, the soil can be viewed as a
living community rather than an inert body. Soil organic matter also contains dead
organisms, plant matter and other organic materials in various phases of decomposition.
Humus, the dark-coloured organic material in the final stages of decomposition, is
relatively stable. Both organic matter and humus serve as reservoirs of plants nutrients,
they also help to build soil structure and provide other benefits.

The type of healthy living soil required to support humans now and far into the future
will be balanced in nutrients and high in humus, with broad diversity of soil organisms. It
will produce healthy plants with minimal weed, disease, and insect pressure. To
accomplish this, we need to work will the natural processes and optimize their functions
to sustain our farms.

Considering the natural landscape, you might wonder how native prairies and forests
function in the absence of tillage and fertilizers. These soils are tilled by soil organisms,
not by machinery. They are fertilized too, but the fertility is used again and never leaves
the site. Native soils are covered with a layer of plant litter and/ or growing plants
throughout the year. Beneath the surface litter, a rich complexity of soil organisms
decompose plant residue and dead roots, then release their stored nutrients slowly over
time. In fact, topsoil is the most biologically diverse part of the earth. Soil-dwelling
organisms release bound-up minerals, converting them into plant-available forms that are
then taken up by the plants growing on the site. The organisms recycle nutrients again
and again with the death and decay of each new generation of plants.

There are many different types of creatures that live on or in the topsoil. Each has a role
to play. These organisms will work for the farmer’s benefit if we simply manage for their
survival. Consequently, we may refer to them as soil livestock. While a great variety of
organisms contribute to soil fertility, earthworms, arthropods, and the various micro-
organisms merit particular attention.

Figure 3.0 The soil is teeming with organisms that cycle nutrients from soil to plant and
back again.


Earthworm burrows enhance water infiltration and soil aeration. Fields that is ‘tilled’ by
earthworm tunnelling can absorb water at a rate 4 to 10 times that of fields lacking worm
tunnels. This reduces water runoff, recharges groundwater, and helps store more soil
water for dry spells. Vertical earthworm burrows pipe air deeper into the soil, stimulating
in high numbers, the tillage provided by their burrows can replace some expensive tillage
work done by machinery.

Worms eat dead plant material left on top of the soil and redistribute the organic matter
and nutrients throughout the topsoil layer. Nutrient-rich organic compounds line their
tunnels allow, which may remain in place for years if not disturbed. During droughts
these tunnels allow for deep plant root penetration into subsoil region of higher moisture
content. In addition to organic matter, worms also consume soil and soil microbes. The
soil clusters they expel from their digestive tracts are known as worm casts or castings.
These range from the size of a mustard seed to of a sorghum seed, depending on the size
of the worm.

The soluble nutrient content of worm casts is considerably higher than of the original
soil (Table 3.0).A good population of earthworms can process 20,000 pounds of topsoil
per year-with turnover as high as 200 tons per acre having been reported in some
exceptional cases. Earthworms also secrete a plant growth stimulant. Reported increases
in plant growth following earthworm activity may be partially attributed to this
substance, not just too improved soil quality.

Nutrient Worm casts (Lbs/ac) Soil (Lbs/ac)

Carbon 171,000 78,500
Nitrogen 10,720 7,000
Phosphorus 280 40
Potassium 900 140
From Graff. Soil had 4% organic matter.

Table 3.0 Selected nutrient analyses of worm casts compared to those of the
surrounding soil.

Earthworms thrive where there is no tillage. Generally, the less tillage are the better and
the shallower the tillage the better. Worm numbers can be reduced by as much as 90% by
and frequent tillage. Tillage reduces earthworm population by drying the soil, burying the
plant residue they feed on and making the soil more likely to freeze. Tillage also destroys
vertical worm burrows and can kill cut up the worms themselves. Worms are dormant in
the hot part the summer and in the cold of winter.

Young worms emerge in spring and fall-they are most active when farmers are likely to
be tilling the soil. Table 3.01 shows the effect of tillage and cropping practices on
earthworm numbers.

Crop Management Worms/foot2

Corn Plow 1
Corn No-till 2
Soybean Plow 6
Soybean No-till 14
Bluegrass/clover --- 39
Dairy pasture --- 33
From Kladivko.

Table 3.01 Effect of crop management on earthworm population

As a rule, earthworm numbers can be increased by reducing eliminating tillage

(especially fall tillage), not using a mouldboard plow, reducing residue particle size
(using a straw chopper on the combine), adding animal manure and growing green
manure crops. It is beneficial to leave as much surface residue as possible year-round.
Cropping system that typically have the most earthworms are (in descending order)
perennial cool-season grass grazed rotationally, worm-season perennial grass grazed
rotationally, and annual croplands using no-till.

Ride-till and strip tillage will generally have more earthworms than clean tillage
involving plowing and disking. Col season grass rotationally grazed is highest because it
provides an undisturbed (no-tillage) environment plus abundant organic matter from the
grass roots and fallen grass litter. Generally speaking, worms want their food on top, and
they want to be left alone.

Earthworms prefer a near-neutral soil ph, moist soil condition, and plenty of plant
residues on the soil surface. They are sensitive to certain pesticides and some
incorporated fertlizers. Carbamate insecticides, including Furadan, Sevin and Temik, are
harmful to earthworms, notes worm biologist Clive Edwards of Ohio State University.
Some insecticides in the organophosphate family are mildly toxic to earthworms, while
synthetic pyrethroids are harmless to them. Most herbicides have little effect on worms
expect for the triazines, such as Atrazine, which are moderately toxic. Also, anhydrous
ammonia kills earthworms in the injection zone because it dries the soil temporarily
increases the ph there. High rates of ammonium-based fertilizers are soil also harmful.


In addition to earthworms, there are many other species of soil organisms that can be
seen by the naked eye. Among them are sowbugs, millipedes, centipedes,slugs, snails and
springtails. There are the primary decomposers. Their role is to eat shred the large
particles of plant and animal residues.

Some bury residue, bringing it into contact with other soil organisms that further
decompose it. Some members of this group prey on smaller soil organisms. The springtail
are small insects that eat mostly fungi. Their waste is rich in plant nutrients released after
other fungi and bacteria decompose it. Also of interest are dung beetles, which play a
valuable in recycling manure and reducing livestock intestinal parasites and flies.


Bacteria are the most numerous type of soil organisms : Every gram of soil contains at
least a million of these tint one-celled organisms. There are many different species of
bacteria, each with its own role in the soil environment. One of the major benefits
bacteria provide for plants is in making nutrients available to them. Some species release
nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus and trace elements from organic matter. Other break down
soil mineral, release potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and iron. Still other
species make release plant growth hormones, which stimulate root growth.

Several species of bacteria transform nitrogen from a gas in the air to forms available for
plant use and from these forms back to a gas again. A few species of bacteria fix nitrogen
in the roots of legumes, while other fix nitrogen independent of plant association.
Bacteria are responsible for converting nitrogen from ammonium to nitrate and back
again, depending on certain soil condition. Other benefits to plants provided by various
species of bacteria include increasing the solubility of nutrients, improving soil structure,
fighting root diseases and detoxifying soil.


Fungi come in many different species, sizes and shapes in soil. Some species appear as
thread-like colonies, while others are one-celled yeasts. Slime molds and mushrooms are
also fungi. Many aid plants by breaking down organic matter or by releasing nutrients
from soil minerals. Fungi are generally quick to colonize larger pieces of organic matter
and begin the decomposition process. Some fungi produce plant hormones, while others
produce antibiotics including penicllin. There are even species of fungi that trap harmful
plant-parasitic nematodes.

The mycorrhizae (my-cor-ry’-zee) are fungi that live either on or in plant roots and act to
extend the reach of root hairs into the soil. Mycorrhizae increase the uptake of water and
nutrients, especially phosphorus. They are particularly important in degraded or less
fertile soils. Roots colonized by mycorrhizae are less likely to be penetrated by root-
feeding nematodes, since the pest cannot pierce the thick fungal network. Mycorrhizae
also produce hormones and antibiotics that enhance root growth and provide disease
suppression. The fungi benefit by taking nutrients and carbohydrates from the plant roots
they live in.


Actinomycetes (ac-tin-o-my’-cetes) are thread-like bacteria that look like fungi. While
not as numerous as bacteria, they too perform vital roles in the soil. Like the bacteria,
they help decompose organic matter into humus, releasing nutrients. They also produce
antibiotics to fight disease of roots. Many of these same antibiotics are used to treat
human disease. Actinomycetes are responsible for the sweet, earthy smell noticed
whenever a biologically active soil is tilled.


Many different species of algae live in the upper half-inch of the soil. Unlike most other
soil organisms, algae produce their own food thought photosynthesis. They appear as a
greenish film on the soil surface following a saturating rain. Algae improve soil structure
by producing slimy substance that glue soil together into water-stable aggregates. Some
species of algae (the blue-greens) can fix their own nitrogen, some of which is later
released to plant roots.


Protozoa are free-living micro-organisms that crawl or swim in the water between soil
particles. Many soil protozoa are predatory eating other microbes. One of the most
common is an amoeba that eats bacteria. By eating and digesting bacteria, protozoa speed
up the cycling of nitrogen from the bacteria, making it more available to plants.


Nematodes are abundant in most soils, and only a few species are harmful to plants. The
harmless species eat decaying plant litter, bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa and other
nematodes. Like other soil predators, nematodes speed the rate of nutrient cycling.

Soil Organisms and Soil Quality

All these organisms- from the tiny bacteria up to the earthworm and insects- interact with
one another in a multitude of way in the soil ecosystem. Organisms not directly involved
in the other substances they release. Among the substances released by the various
microbes are vitamins, amino acids, sugars, antibiotics, gums and waxes.

Roots can also release into the soil various substance that stimulate soil microbes. These
substances serve as food for select organism. Some scientists and practitioners theorize
that plants use this means to stimulate the specific population of micro-organisms capable
of releasing or otherwise producing the kind of nutrition needed by the plants.

Research on life in the soil has determined that there are ideal ratios for certain key
organisms in highly productive soils. The Soil Foodweb Lab, located in Oregon, tests
soils and makes fertility recommendations that are based on this understanding. Their
goal is to alter the makeup of the soil microbial community so it resembles that of a
highly fertile and productive soil. There are several different ways to accomplish this goal
depending on the situation.

Because we cannot see most of the creatures living in the soil and may not take time to
observe the ones we can see, it is easy to forget about them. See Table 3.02 for estimates
of typical amounts of various organisms found in fertile soil.

Organisms Pounds of live weight/acre

Bacteria 1000
Actinomycetes 1000
Molds 2000
Algae 100
Protozoa 200
Nematodes 50
Insects 100
Worms 1000
Plant roots 2000
From Bollen.

Table 3.02 Weights of soil organisms in the top 7 inches of fertile soil.

How does Agriculture Influence Soil Biota Activity ?

Any factor that changes the soil environment will impact on the activity and diversity of
soil biota. Different soil environments support different types and numbers of biota,
example soils under a legume have a higher lever of rhizobia which fix nitrogen for that
legume, after a canola crop soil will have a lower level of root disease fungi because of
the fungicidal compounds released by the decomposing canola residues.

Agricultural production can result in increased soil carbon inputs from retained crop
residues, root residues and increased nutrient levels from fertility. These increase
biological activity. Where organic matter declines, biological activity will also decline.
Different plant residues will contain varying quantities and availability of carbon
(energy), nitrogen ratio C:N ratio, the more readily it is broken down. Consequently, this
will also influence the soil biological activity.

Cultivation alters the physical, chemical and biological components of the soil system.
No-till/direct-drill system result in significant differences in soil organism activity
compared to conventional tillage.

Agricultural inputs, such as fertilisers have been shown to have both a positive and
negative effect on soil biological activity. High levels of nitrogen or phosphorus reduce
the impact of the symbiotic fixing of these nutrients by Rhizobium (nitrogen) and
mycorrhiza (phosphorus), but provide nutrients for non-symbiotic organisms.

Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides may be directly toxic to soil organisms or

influence the ‘predator-prey’ interactions. The effect on non-target organisms will depend
on whether the product is applied to the bare soil, rate of herbicide decomposition and
leaching away from the site of the organisms.

Herbicides applied to stubble cover, as opposed to bare soil, have been shown to persist
longer. Continued use of some herbicides, example paraquat, has been shown to
significantly depress some groups of micro-organisms. This is usually a short term effect
with levels recovering 20 days after herbicide application. Nitrifying bacteria are the
most sensitive to herbicide application.

The impact of insecticides on soil biota is more questionable than herbicides, as they are
designed to kill fauna. However, the majority of insecticides are applied to plants rather
than to the soil.

Similarly the concentration of fungicides is generally low in the soil. New products,
example Impact(?) in furrow change this and more research is required to observe the
long term impact on the food-web. The frequency of use will also change the balance of
the food-web favoring organisms that are able to live by breaking down the chemical

The challenge for agriculture is to minimize nutrient losses and to maximize internal
nutrient cycling. Agricultural practices usually alter more than one soil environmental
factor making it difficult to isolate which change is the most significant.

A decline in the total and specific population size is considered detrimental to soil health
i.e nutrient status, disease resistance, structure and stability and long term productivity.

EXPERIMENT 3.1 Extraction of Soil ORGANISMS USING Tullgren Funnel

Purpose: To extract soil organisms using Tullgren Funnel


 Tullgren Funnel
 Beaker
 Hand lens
 Retort stand with its clamps
 60W light source


 4% formalin solution
 soil sample


1. Soil sample is collected around the roots part of the plants

2. Tullgren Funnel is arranged as shown in the figure 3.10.
3. The soil sample is then gently placed on the mesh screen inside the Tullgren Funnel.
4. 50ml of 4% formalin solution is then poured into the beaker and the beaker is then
placed directly below the funnel.
5. This unit is placed in a place which will not be disturbed. 60W light source which are
placed above the funnel are then turned on.
6. Leave the unit for 2 days before the formalin in the beaker is examined for any trace
of organism.
7. The soil organism that found in the formalin solution the beaker is then identified
and recorded in the table 3.10.

Figure 3.10 Tullgren Funnel arrangement


Type of Organism Common Name Appearances

Phylum arthropodo Ant

Class Insecta

Phylum annelida Earthworm

Class Oligochaetae (Pheretima sp.)

Phylum arthropodo Milipede

Class Diplopoda (Lulus sp.)

Table 3.10 Types of soil Organism Extracted by using Tullgren Funnel.


1. Not all soil found contain soil organism inside it. Getting soil sample which contain
sufficient amount of soil organism to be studied is almost hard to do. Suggested that
the soil sample from the fertile land which has excess of humus is suitable to be
studied in this experiment. Humus is known as common nutrient of soil organism.
Other than that most of the soil organism prefers cold, dark and wet places as their
habitat, which means soil sample also can be taken from the land part which is
shaded from the direct sun light besides over the plants roots which supply sufficient
nutrient for soil organism.
2. The Tullgren Funnel technique is based on the negative responses of the soil
organism towards bright light, high temperature and low moisture. These 3 factor
forces the soil organism leave the soil sample and they eventually fall into the
beaker which contain formalin solution.
3. Broken up soil sample will increases the surface area that exposed to the light and
heat. This makes the movement of slow-moving organism a lot easier.


 Type of organism that extracted from the soil sample by using Tullgren
Funnel are known as macrofauna which is fairly large soil organism
including ants, earthworm and millipedes.

EXPERIMENT 3.2 Extraction of Soil Organism using Bearmann Funnel

Purpose :To extract soil organisms using Bearmann Funnel

*Muslin bag
*Rubber tubing
*Filter funnel
*Light microscope
*Retort stand with its clamps
*60 W light source
*Microscope slides
*Screw clamps

*4 % formalin solution
*Soil sample


1. Apparatus of the Bearmann funnel is prepared as show in the figure 3.20.

2. Rubber tubing is attached to the funnel stem and the end of the tube is blocked
with screw clamps.
3. The funnel is supported with the help of retort stand. The height of the clamps
which holds the filter funnel is adjusted in order the tubing hangs free.
4. Soil sample which taken from appropriate type of land is wrapped with the
muslin bag and tied up with the length of rope. The rope is determined to be
longer than the diameter of the funnel.
5. The clamps at bottom of the tubing are close before the funnel is filled with
6. Soil sample that wrapped with muslin bag is then placed inside the filter
funnel which is filled with water.
7. More water is add to the funnel until the soil sample that wrapped with muslin
bas is just barely submerged.
8. 60 W of light source which placed at the top of the filter funnel is turned on.
This unit is left untouched for 12 hour.
9. The clamps at the bottom of the tubing are open in order to drawn small
volume of water into a beaker.
10. Using the dropper,a small drop of water is place over the microscope slide and
the cover slip is carefully placed at the water drop.
11. These slide then placed under the light microscope, any present of soil
organism is observed.Each organism is identified and recorded.

Figure 3.20 Bearmann Funnel arrangement


Common Name
Type Of Organism Appearances
Kingdom Animalia Larva
Phylum arthropodo (Addis fly)
(Class Insect)

Kingdom Animalia Nematode

Phylum nematode

Kingdom Prototista Amoeba sp.

Phylum rhizophoda

Kingdom Prototista Paramecium sp.

Phylum ciliophora

Table 3.20 Types of soil Organism Extracted by using Bearmann Funnel


1. The soil sample that wrapped with muslin bag is just barely submerged into the water in
the funnel to allow the diffusion of oxygen into the soil sample.
2. This technique is based on the fact that some aquatic soil organism such as nematodes and
Amoeba sp. Are denser that water.The higher temperature and light intensity in the upper
layer when compare to the bases of the funnel, causes these aquatic soil organism to leave
the soil sample and gather at the stem of the funnel. When the clamps are opened,these
soil organism fall into the beaker containing formalin and can be identified.

Precaution Steps

*The rubber tubing to the funnel is must be tight fit to prevent any leakage.


*Type of organism that extracted from the soil sample by using Bearmann funnel are know
as microfauna such as larva,Amoeba sp. Paramecium sp. And nematodes.

4.0 Community Analysis using the Quadrat Sampling Technique

Quadrats refer to a community patch especially of plants, which has a specified standard
sizes,bound by the four sides of a square or a circle. The simplest type of record is a list and
the number of individual species bound by the quadrate.In this technique,number of quadrate
taken systematically or at random must distribute all over a specific area so that composition
of a community can be determined quantitatively.

The quadrat size depends on the sizes and density of the plants that need to be sampled. The
quadrats must be large enough so that effective number can be obtained and small enough so
that the individual organism can be separate.

For efficient quadrat sampling,suitable quadrat shape is very important.For low plants
communities,circular quarates can be used. Other than that,square quadrats which are made
from metal or stakes on the ground surrounded by string also can be used. By using quadrate
sampling technique density,relative density,coverage,relative coverage,relative density,
coverage,relative courage,frequency and relative frequency of plant species can be detemine.

Density refers to the number of individuals of a species per unit area (or volume )of a specific
area (habitat).Density can be calculated as follows:

Density = Total number of individuals of a species in all quadrate

Total number of quadrates X area of each quadrate

Relative Density refers to the percentage of density of the species compared to the total
density of all species living in the same area.Relative density can be calculated as follow:

RelativeDensity = Density of a species x 100%

Total density of all species

Coverage refers to ratio of land area occupied by the vertical projection into air space for
each individual species.It is normally stated in percentage units and calculated as
follow :

Coverage = Total base area or area coverage (cm2) of all quadrate x 100 %
Total numbers of quadrate sampled X quadrate area

Relative Coverage refers to the coverage by the species when compared to the total
coverage of the entire quadrate by all species. Relative coverage can be calculated as

follow :

Relative Coverage = Coverage by a species x 100 %

Total coverage by all species

Frequency which refers to the degree of dispersion of each species in a specific area I stated
in percentage units and can be calculated as follow :

Frequency = Number of quadrates containing the species x 100 %

Total number of quadrate

Relative Frequency,which refers to the frequency value of the species compared to the total
frequency value of all species,is stated in percentage units and calculated as follow:

Relative Frequency = Frequency value of the species x 100 %

Total frequency value of all species

The data obtained from quadrats sampling the must be recorded in suitable tables to facilitate
our study and analysis.


Quadrat is not natural sampling units, the size and shape of quadrat must always
decide.The resulting index of dispersion and the spatial pattern obtained depends on
quadrat size and shape.

Chosen the shape of quadrat is important from the aspects of:

(a) convenience in laying down the frame of quadrat
(b) convenience in setting up the plots.
(c) effectiveness of sampling.
Quadrat strictly means a four-sided figurebut in practice mean any sampling unit,
whether square, rectangular, circular, hexagonal,oval,or even irregular in outline some of
the common shapes of quadrat are:

(a) Square quadrat: The frame are made from metal (iron or aluminium), strips
of wood, or rigid plastic which are tied, glued, welded or bolted together in a
square. Shape or it can simply be stakes and surrounded by a string on the
ground. (This is used within habitats such as scrub areas or woodlands,
where it is not possible to physically lay quadrat frames down because tree
trunksand shrubs get in the way.) For aquatic macrophytes a wood or plastic
frame will float and also can be used for emergent vegetation on the water
surface or sample of floating.
(b) Circular quadrat: This quadrat is used for the place where have low plant
community.It is a wooden pole and place in the center. By using-radius
string.(From measuring tape) of various length a circular quadrat of
different size can be set up quickly and easily.

(c) Rectangular quadrat: This quadrat can enables a ore effective and also can
accurate analysis of the composition at a community if compared to the
usage of same number of square quadrats which are having the same size as
the rectangular quadrat.

(d) Point quadrat: The uses of a point frame are to obtain the point samples for
estimate cover and it is a device. Set up the frame over the vegetation
and lowered down the needles through the plant canopy. A “hit” is recorded
with the species name every time when the point of the needle touches the
plant. Before the needles eventually touch the round surface, it can touch
several plants. Point sampling method is a method that only can give an
accurate estimate of absolute cover of each species in multi-stratose
vegetation and hence an estimate of total leaf area species. All other method
gives relative percentage cover. It is however, a very time consuming method.

(c) Rectangular quadrat

Figure 4.10 Shape of Quadrates

EXPERIMENT 4.1 Quadrate Sampling Techniques

Purpose: To determine the percentage of the relative species cover,relative species


And relative species frequency in a habitat.

Quadrate measuring 1 m2


1. It would be waste of time and energy for each group to conduct the quadrat sampling
technique in ten different locations.
2. Therefore,our class is divided into ten groups so that we can out quadrat sampling
technique in ten different locations at same time.


1. Each of the groups has to make a square quadrat.

2. Optionally,a sturdier quadrat can be made using four pieces of PVC pipe and four
elbow joints to connect them.
3. Then,a thread on the quadrat for ever 0.1 m is tide.
4. A location is randomly chosen to place the quadrat within the area of school.
5. Quadrat size is determined so that more eight species of plants can be studied.
6. Quadrate in the same measuring are prepared to be used in the various determined
7. The overall species of plants in every quadrate is calculated and written in an
appropriate table to estimate the density of plants species.
8. The number of quadrat in which a species occur is calculated to determine the
frequency of the plants species.
9. The percentage of relative density and relative coverage is also calculated.


Student’s name : Muhamad, Chin Tat, Chia Meng, Tze Tze and Yen Sheng
Habitat : Field

Location : School
Type of Plants : Grass
Quadrat Size : 1 m2
Date : 14th December 2006

NO Name of plant Presence of plant species in quadrat. Number of Percentage Percentage

species (put a tick (√) if present) quadrat with Frequency, of Relative
plant species, [n/10×100%] frequency
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
n (%)
1 Rumput Kerbau √ 1 10 3.6
2 Fimbristylis √ √ √ 3 30 10.7
piphylla /Common
3 Cyperus zollinger √ √ √ √ √ √ √ 7 70 25.0
4 Pick-A-Back √ √ √ √ √ 5 50 17.6
(Phyllanthus sp)
5 Echinochloa √ √ 2 20 7.1
6 Dactyloctenium √ 1 10 3.6
7 Cyperus √ √ 2 20 7.1
8 Sporobolus indius √ 1 10 3.6

9 Eragrostis √ 1 10 3.6
malayana stapt
10 Crytococoum √ √ √ √ √ 5 50 17.9
TABLE 4.10: Measurement of frequency of each plant species in quadrat sampling.

NO Name of plant Number of individuals of plant species in quadrat Total Density Percentage
species number of [N/10×1] of Relative
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 individuals m-2 Density (%)
of plant
species in
10 quadrats,
1 Rumput Kerbau 23 - - - - - - - - - 23 2.3 5.5
2 Fimbristylis 18 32 17 - - - - - - - 67 6.7 16.0
3 Cyperus 1 9 - 21 15 19 18 - 1 - 84 8.4 20.1
4 Pick-A-Back 11 - - 6 - - 23 - 9 2 51 5.1 0.1
(Phyllanthus sp)
5 Echinochloa - - 1 - - - - - - 3 4 0.4 1.0
6 Dactyloctenium - - 5 - - - - - - - 5 0.5 1.2
7 Cyperus - - 2 - - - - 7 - - 9 0.9 2.2
8 Sporobolus - - 30 - - - - - - - 30 3.0 7.2
9 Eragrostis - - - - 7 - - - - - 7 0.7 1.7
malayana stapt
10 Crytococoum - 40 - - 35 - - 31 12 20 138 13.8 33.0

TABLE 4.11: Measurement of density of each plant species in quadrat sampling.

Students’names: Muhamad, Chia Meng, Chin Tat, Tze tze, Yen Shen
Habitat: Grassland

Location / Place : SMK Telok Datok
Type of plant: Grass
Quadrat size: 1m2
Total number of quadrat: 10
Date : 2 November 2006

Name of Species cover (aerial) in quadrat/m2 Total Percentage Percentage

plant species species cover, of
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 cover for [a/10×) Relative
NO 10 ×100]% cover
quadrats, (%)
a (m2)
1 Rumput Kerbau 0.07 - - - - - - - - - 0.070 0.70 2.82
2 Fimbristylis 0.04 0.08 0.08 - - - - - - - 0.200 2.00 8.05
3 Cyperus zollinger 0.06 0.10 - 0.17 0.15 0.26 0.04 - 3.50 - 0.815 8.15 32.81
(zollinger’s ×
cyperus) 10-2
4 Pick-A-Back 0.05 - - 0.09 - - 4.50 - 0.06 0.07 0.315 3.15 12.68
(Phyllanthus sp) ×
5 Echinochloa - - 7.40 - - - - - - 0.26 0.334 3.34 13.45
colonum ×
6 Dactyloctenium - - 6.50 - - - - - - - 0.065 0.65 2.62
aegyptium ×
7 Cyperus - - 0.05 - - - - 0.13 - - 0.180 1.80 7.25
8 Sporobolus indius - - 6.50 - - - - - - - 0.065 0.65 2.62
9 Eragrostis - - - - 0.14 - - - - - 0.140 1.40 5.64
malayana stapt
10 Crytococoum - 4.50 - - 0.04 - - 0.10 0.07 4.50 0.300 3.00 12.08
oxyphllum × ×
10-2 10-2

TABLE 4.12: Measurement of each species cover in quadrat sampling.


1. The plants which is not exactly in the quadrat frame (not fully inside quadrat
frame) can be consider as :

• Included if the plants species has its roots spreading more than half inside the
quadrat (can be considered as one individual plants).

• Excluded if the plants species has its roots spreading more than half out of
the quadrat.

2. But for certain types of plants species the definition of the arbitrary can be varies
depends on the plants species.


• From the analysis, Axonopus compressus is determined to have the highest

density and relative density with 6.2 per m2 and 15.94% while Bruchiaria
pospaloides has the lowest density with 3.0 per m2 and lowest relative density
with 7.71%.

• From the data in the table 4.11,we can estimate that Cyperus radians have the
highest frequency which is 70% and 13.73%.Plant species which have lowest
frequency and relative frequency is Fimbristylis Globulosa which is 40% and

• Plants species with highest relative coverage is Axonopus Compressus with 6.2%
while Plants species with relative coverage 3.0% and also considered has the
lowest relative Coverage is Bruchiaria Pospaloides.

4.2 Community analysis using the transect technique.

Transect refer to a line that cuts across a community in which the plant types are represent

By suitable symbols. Usually used in areas where there are many types of plants whish quarats
sampling technique can not be used. Transect forms uniform sequential zones representing
different communities.

The division into zones is usually related to the uniform variation in physical factors in that
habitat along the that are perpendicular to the zones.Transect can show the progressive
invasion of plants into the community from one side without causing any change in that

An advantage of transect charts is that they can show a range of specific plants. Charting these
transect at suitable time intervals,ensure us to detect any progressive change plant area include
composition, extrapolation,individual occurrence of different species.Transect can be divided
to three types which is :

1.Line transects
*Simplest and easiest to use.
*Can be prepared by placing a measuring tape (15-30 m)along a desired line and marking
the location of individual plants that touch one or both side of the tape.
*These plants ate than named and given suitable symbol on one or both sides of the line
drawn on a scaled paper.

2.Strip transect
*A strip of uniform width,(e g: 1m)marked by the parallel measuring tapes that run across
the area under study.
*For large tree,strip with 5m width will needed.
*Strip transect have advantage seen in both transect techniques and are specifically created
to illustrate detailed changes of plants along the transect lines.

3.Profile transect
*Profile or plants draw according to a specific scale to show the relative height of different
plants measured from ground level.
*This is based on line transect and is complementary to strip transect.
*Strip transect illustrate distribute in two dimensions.
*Can prepared by running a measuring tape along the length of a line transect and the
measuring the heights from the ground surface must also be shown.

EXPERIMENT 4.2 Sampling Technique using Line Transect

Purpose: To determine the frequency,relative frequency,coverage and relative

Coverage of the plants species.
Rope (15.30 meters )


1. A base line along the border of the area under investigation is determined.
2. A series of points along this base line either randomly or systematically is chosen.
3. These points are used as the starting point for this transect line to run across the area
being investigated.
4. Only the plans which toughes the line as seen vertically above or below the tansect
line is recorded.
5. 10 lines are placed randomly in the area to provide enough samples to investigate the
6. Percentage cover,relative percentage and frequency of each plant species is then


Student name :

Date : 14th December 2006
Habitat : Field
Location: SMK Telok Datok
Type of plants : Grass
Distance of each Interval : 1m
Total number of Internal : 10
Total length of Line Transect : 10 m

NO Name of plant Presence of plant species in quadrat. Number of Percentage Percentage

species (put a tick (√) if present) quadrat with Frequency, of Relative
plant species, [n/10×100%] frequency
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
n (%)
1 Rumput Kerbau √ 1 10 3.6
2 Fimbristylis √ √ √ 3 30 10.7
piphylla /Common
3 Cyperus zollinger √ √ √ √ √ √ √ 7 70 25.0
4 Pick-A-Back √ √ √ √ √ 5 50 17.6
(Phyllanthus sp)
5 Echinochloa √ √ 2 20 7.1
6 Dactyloctenium √ 1 10 3.6
7 Cyperus √ √ 2 20 7.1
8 Sporobolus indius √ 1 10 3.6

9 Eragrostis √ 1 10 3.6
malayana stapt
10 Crytococoum √ √ √ √ √ 5 50 17.9

TABLE 4.13: Measurement of frequency of each plant species in quadrat sampling.

Name of Species cover (aerial) in quadrat/m2 Total Percentage Percentage
plant species species cover, of
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 cover for [a/10×) Relative
NO 10 ×100]% cover
quadrats, (%)
a (m2)
1 Rumput Kerbau 0.07 - - - - - - - - - 0.070 0.70 2.82
2 Fimbristylis 0.04 0.08 0.08 - - - - - - - 0.200 2.00 8.05
3 Cyperus zollinger 0.06 0.10 - 0.17 0.15 0.26 0.04 - 3.50 - 0.815 8.15 32.81
(zollinger’s ×
cyperus) 10-2
4 Pick-A-Back 0.05 - - 0.09 - - 4.50 - 0.06 0.07 0.315 3.15 12.68
(Phyllanthus sp) ×
5 Echinochloa - - 7.40 - - - - - - 0.26 0.334 3.34 13.45
colonum ×
6 Dactyloctenium - - 6.50 - - - - - - - 0.065 0.65 2.62
aegyptium ×
7 Cyperus - - 0.05 - - - - 0.13 - - 0.180 1.80 7.25
8 Sporobolus indius - - 6.50 - - - - - - - 0.065 0.65 2.62
9 Eragrostis - - - - 0.14 - - - - - 0.140 1.40 5.64
malayana stapt
10 Crytococoum - 4.50 - - 0.04 - - 0.10 0.07 4.50 0.300 3.00 12.08
oxyphllum × ×
10-2 10-2

TABLE 4.14: Measurement of each species cover in quadrat sampling.


• The plant species which have the highest frequency is identified as Cyperus
• The plant species which have the lowest frequency is identified as Cleome icosandra.
• While,the plant species with the highest percentage of coverage is Cyperus
• And the plant species with lowest percentage of coverage is Eleusine indica.


Soil management involves stewardship of the soil herd. The primary factors affecting organic
matter content, build-up, and decomposition rate in soils are oxygen content,
nitrogen content, moisture content, temperature, and the addition and removal of organic
materials. All these factors work together all the time. Any one can limit the others. These
are the factor that affect the health and reproductive rate of organic matter decomposer
organisms. Managers need to be aware of these factors when making decisions about their
soils. Let’s take them one at a time.

Increasing oxygen speeds decomposition of organic matter. Tillage is the primary way
Extra oxygen enters the soil. Texture also plays a role, with sandy soils having more aeration
that heavy clay soils. Nitrogen content is influenced by fertilizer additions. Excess nitrogen,
with out the addition of carbon, speeds the decomposition of the organic matter. Moisture
content affects decomposition rates.

Soil microbial populations are most active over cycles of wetting and drying. Their
populations increase following wetting, as the soil dries out. After the soil becomes dry,
their activity diminishes. Just like humans, soil organisms are profoundly affected by
temperature. Their activity is highest within a band of optimum temperature, above and
below which their activity diminished.

Adding organic matter provides more food for microbes. To achieve an increase of soil
organic matter, additions must be higher than removals. Over a given year, under average
conditions, 60 to 70 percent of the carbon contained in organic residues added to soil is lost as
carbon dioxide. Five to ten percent is assimilated into the organisms that decomposer the
organic residues, and the rest becomes ‘new’ humus.

It takes decades for new humus to develop into stable humus, which imparts the nutrient-
Holding characteristic humus is know for. The end result of adding a ton of residue would be
400 to 700 pounds of new humus. One percent organic matter weighs 20,000 pounds per acre.
A 7-inch depth of topsoil over an are weighs 2 million pounds. Building organic matter is a
slow process.

It is more feasible to stabilize and maintain he humus present, before it is lost, than to try
to rebuild it. The value of humus is not fully realized until it is severely depleted. If your soils
are high in humus now, work hard to preserve what you have. The formation of new humus is
essential to maintaining old humus, and the decomposition of raw organic matter has, any
benefits of its own.

Increased aeration caused by tillage coupled with the absence of organic carbon in fertilizer
materials has caused more than a 50 %decline in native humus levels an many U.S farms.
Appropriate mineral nutrition needs to be present for soil organisms and plants to prosper.
Adequate levels of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and the trace
elements should be present, but no in excess.

The base saturation theory of soil management helps guide decision-making toward achieving
optimum levels of these nutrients in the soil. Several books have been written on balancing soil
mineral levels, and several consulting firms provide soil analysis and fertility
recommendation services based on this theory.

Commercial fertilizers have their place in sustainable agriculture. Some appear harmless
to soil livestock and provide nutrients at times of high nutrient demand from crops. Anhyrous
ammonia and potassium chloride cause problems, however. As noted above, anhydrous kills
soil organisms in the injection zone.

Bacteria and Actinomycetes recover within a few weeks, but fungi take longer. The increase
in bacteria, fed by highly available nitrogen from the anhydrous, speeds the decomposition of
organic matter. Potassium chloride has a high salt index, and some plants and soil organisms are
sensitive to chloride.

Topsoil is the farmer’s capital. Sustaining agriculture means sustaining the soil. Maintaining
ground cover in the form of cover crops, mulch, or crop residue for as much of the annual
season as possible achieves the goal of sustaining the soil resource. Any time the soil is tilled
and left bare it is susceptible to erosion.

Even small amounts of soil erosion are harmful over time. It is not easy to see the effects of
erosion over a human lifetime; therefore, erosion may go unnoticed. Tillage for production of
annual crops not created most of the erosion associated with agriculture. Perennial grain crops
not requiring tillage provide a promising alternative for drastically improving the sustainability
of future grain production.

Understanding soil water holding capacity and the factors affecting the plant available soil
water are necessary for good irrigation management. Information is readily available from
Cooperative Extension and the Soil Conservation Service to help growers assess the conditions
specific to their own fields and crops.

Several different techniques are available which can be used to effectively monitor or directly
measure soil water content. Some are extremely simple and are well worth the investment of
time and labor. Many irrigation scheduling consultants are using these different

The cost of keeping track of the soil water on your own or by using a service can be paid back
through the benefits of effective water management. Included among these benefits are energy
saving, water savings, water quality improvement, and quite often improved crop quality and

Successful implementation of any of the methods evaluated requires careful attention

installation, operation, and maintenance requirement discussed. Soil type and irrigation regime
are important parameters affecting the choice of a method or technique which will yield the
best results.

A routine sampling schedule should be implement to obtain the most information from any
these methods. The difference in soil water content at a given location from one sampling time
to the next often provides more information than random space and time measurements. Soil
water should be measured or monitored in at least two depths in the expected crop root zone at
several locations in a field to obtain a field average. Sub area within fields having different soil
textures or other characteristics should also be monitored.

Soil faces many threats throughout the world. Deforestation, overgrazing by livestock and
agricultural practices that fail to conserve soil are three main cause of accelerated soil loss.
Other acts of human carelessness also damage soil. These include pollution from agriculture
pesticides, chemical spills, liquid and soil wastes and acidification from the fall of acid rain.

Loss of green spaces, such as grassland and forested areas, in favor of impermeable surfaces,
such as pavement, buildings, and developed land, reduces the amount of soil and increase
pressure an what soil remains. Soil is also compact by heavy machinery and off-road vehicles.
Compaction rearranges soil particles, increasing the density of the soil and reducing porosity.
Crusts form on compacted soils, preventing water movement into the soil increasing runoff

With the world’s population now numbering upwards of 6 billion people-a figure that may rise
to 10 billion or more within three decades –humans will depend more than ever on soil for the
growth of the food crops. Yet the rapidly increasing population, the intensity of agriculture,
And the replacement of soil with concrete and buildings all reduce the capacity of the soil to
fulfill this need.

As a result of an increased awareness of soil’s importance may changes are being made to
protect soil. Recent interest in soil conservation holds the promise that humanity will take
better care of this precious resource.

Summary of Sustainable Soil Management Principles

• Soil livestock cycle nutrients and provide many other benefits.

• Organic matter is the food for the soil livestock herd.
• The soil should be covered to protect it form erosion and temperature extremes.
• Tillage speeds the decomposition of organic matter.
• Excess nitrogen speeds the decomposition of organic matter; insufficient nitrogen
slows down organic matter decomposition and starves plants.
• Moldboard plowing speeds the decomposition of organic matter, destroys earthworm
habitat, and increase erosion.
• To build soil organic matter, the production or addition of organic matter must exceed
the decomposition of organic matter.
• Soil fertility levels need to be within acceptable ranges before a soil-building program
is begun.