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Soil Soil is the crumbly layer that covers much of the rocky surface of the Earth. Soil consists mainly of grains of rock mixed with humus – the broken-down remains of plants and animals. Solid rock is worn away by weathering and erosion. © Diagram Visual Information Ltd. The top layer is now fine enough for plants to take root in. The remains of dead plants and animals mix with the rock particles, enriching the soil. Plant roots break down the rocks further.