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Topic 2052
Anna Blight
What is soil?
• Soil is the product of the rocks from which
it was derived after weathering
• The top layer of the earth’s crust
• Renewable natural resource that supports
What does soil do?
• Storehouse for nutrients
• Allows for aeration
• Holds water
• Anchors the plant
• 24” of soil just below the earth’s surface
• Living micro-organisms interact with plant
• Urban trees have 80% of their roots in the
top 12” of soil
• What happens to soil at this level is
important for plant health
Soil Quality
• Plants need suitable biotic habitat for
beneficial micro-organisms to live
• Inhibit degradation by
- not allowing compaction from heavy
- protect soil from run-off or flooding
• Add organic matter to improve quality
• A group of beneficial fungi associated with
roots of plants in healthy soil
• Aid roots in nutrient absorption from soil
Soil Texture
Percentage of sand, silt and clay
SAND is the largest particle, course texture
SILT is medium textured
CLAY is the smallest particle and is very
fine textured
Soil texture affects:
Ease of tillage
Water holding capacity
Nutrient holding capacity
Soil Structure
• Particles group into aggregates
• CLAY helps bind, but too much clay will
form a barrier to drainage
• SAND aids drainage and aeration, but too
much sand causes water to drain too fast
and makes soil dry out
• Excessive tillage destroys structure
Ideal soil composition
• 45% sand, silt and clay mixture
• Pore spaces
25% air and 25% water
• 5% organic matter
Soil and Water
• Depending on soil type, it takes between
200-1000 pounds of water for formation of
1 pound dry matter of plant material
• Amount of water passed through one acre of
corn plants is equal to 16 inches of rain
Soil in nature
• Outdoors, soil is made up of organic matter,
sand, silt and clay
• Different proportions of each will form
different soil textures
• Ideal soil is not too sandy or too much clay
Indoor Soil Mixtures
• Soil less mixtures are usually a mix of peat,
perlite, vermiculite and bark
• Perlite is white and aids in drainage
• Vermiculite is gold - copper color and looks
like an accordion, which makes it useful in
retaining water in the mix
• Integrated Plant Health Management Training Program for
Landscape Maintenance Providers, MSU Nursery and
Landscape Team