Soil and Land Use Study Guide

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soils-1There can be many uses of the word “soil”, depending upon the context. For example, soil can be thought of as an engineering material for road construction, as dirt on clothing, as a mixture of ingredients for growing potted plants, or what the farmers plow every spring.

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For the purposes of the regional Envirothon, “Soil is the collection of natural bodies on the earth’s surface, in places modified or even made by man of earthy materials, containing living matter and supporting or capable of supporting plants out-of-doors.” Soil is thus considered both a product of nature and a critical part of natural systems. This definition also allows soils to be collectively grouped into a classification system, as used in making soil surveys.

Soils “begin” as parent material, and then the process of weathering occurs. Weathering eventually causes a differentiation into distinct horizons. A soil and its profile show the effects of five soil forming factors: Climate, Living Organisms, and Topographic Relief, Parent material and Time (it may help to remember the word “CLORPT”). Soils can be considered as “young”, “mature” or “old”, depending upon their extent of weathering and horizon development. Soils in NY State are relatively young or mature, but not old – their parent material was exposed or deposited during the relatively recent retreat of glaciers, some 10 to 15 thousand years ago.

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