To yield abundant crops, an agrarian has to seed the right plant, at the right time, and in the right place. The right place is determined not only by the geographic location and climate peculiarities but types of soil as well.
Each of them has their advantages and disadvantages, and different types of soils are suitable for growing different crops in regard to:
- Nutrient content: is it sufficient for plants or do you have to provide additional fertilizing?
- Tilling: how easily is the land cultivated? Thus, you can plant crops that either need frequent cultivation or do not.
- Watering/irrigation: how quickly does water seek and drain? Correspondingly, will additional water supply be required or just on the contrary, irrigation to take extra moisture away?
Managing these key agricultural activities you can make the best of the situation.
But to do so, you need to know what particular type you deal with.
What are the types of soil – key features that make the difference
When it comes to soil types classifications, there is no unanimous opinion. There exist several approaches depending on the primary distinguishing feature. Most frequently, however, the paradigm is based on composition. It should be noted as well that different industries have their own classifications.
Soil type definitions commonly explain the elements the substance consists of: sand, clay, and silt. Thus, there three main materials to build up different soil types with their strong and weak sides. Trying to understand what makes the difference, we should pay attention to the size of particles. The smallest ones are characteristic of clay. The smaller the particles, the less air remains between them, and the closer they stick to each other.
Let’s compare the advantages and disadvantages of each component in the basic types.
|Sand (size of particles 0.05-2 mm)||Clay (size of particles < 0.002 mm)||Silt (size of particles 0.002 – 0.05 mm)|
|Easy to till||Difficult to till||Easy to till|
|Poor in nutrients||Rich in nutrients||Contains enough nutrients|
|Dries quickly||Dries slowly but cracks when dry||Dries not too quickly but cracks when dry and requires tilling for better air circulation|
|Warms up fast after winter||Warms up slowly after winter||Warms up fast after winter|
|Retains water poorly
Intake rate* (0.6 inch/hour)
Field capacity* (0.1%)
|Retains water too long
Intake rate (0.1 inch/hour)
Field capacity (0.357%)
|Drains well but retains sufficient moisture
Intake rate (0.3 inch/hour)
Field capacity (0.255%)
*Intake rate is the time soil requires to absorb the amount of water.
*Field capacity is the percentage of moisture in soil when extra water is gone.
It seems that silt is the optimal composition for agricultural needs as it has the ‘wisest’ combination of all parameters. The ‘initial data’ mean a lot yet are not decisive. With extra temperatures and no water supply, you can experience failure. However, if you mix your sandy soil with silt or peat, you have all chances to achieve the best results. In the case of clay, it would be good to mix it with sand.
Silt seems to be the best option so far but as appears, not necessarily.
Alongside sand, clay or silt soils, there exist three more types: peat, chalk, and loam.
- Peat soils are rich in organic matter (manure) and can be found on river banks and marshlands or forests.
- Chalk soils contain lime or calcium carbonate. They are highly alkaline and are not suitable for growing plants that need acid soils. However, if you acidify such lands or grow species that require alkaline soils, you still have all the chances to succeed. Speaking in terms of gardening, a lemon tree or azalea requires highly-acid soils, so all your attempts to grow them on chalk soils would be a complete fiasco. On the other hand, regulating PH with fertilizers (increasing it in this case), you can grow plants that would be quite comfortable with that.
- Loam soils seem to be the jackpot for all farmers. They include clay, sand, and silt and is the best possible combination of all negative and positive features. It is regarded as the best type of soil and is more gardener-friendly than any others as it does not require any additional investments. As for its composition proper, it consists of 40% silt, 40% sand, 20% clay.
3 types of soil in construction: what provides work safety
The classification of types of soils for planting differs from corresponding classifications in other fields of activity. When the paramount parameter in agriculture is the soil capacity to produce high crops, other industries are guided by safety management requirements.
Thus, they fall into soil type a b c, and the main indicator is the cohesive feature. It determines the ‘safety’ of the area for escalating and trenching. The key aspect of this classification is the land’s ability to collapse and slip. When it comes to the safety of human lives, only a competent person should estimate the situation and say definitely, what type of soil is in question.
Solid rock is ideal in this regard – it does not fall and does not seek water. Yet, the three types of soil are most common:
- type A soil is the most cohesive and the most reliable;
- type B soil positions in the middle;
- type C soil is the least safe.
How many types of soil are there – does the definite number exist?
As there are various parameters of classification, there is no definite answer to this question. If we speak of construction and building – there are 3 of them (a, b, c). If we take into account the soil composition, we can distinguish 6 main types: sand, clay, silt, chalk, peat, and loam.
How to determine soil type: simple but informative tricks
There are several basic and quick tests to understand the types of soil structure. To make it more precise, you need to separate big and heavy particles from it, for example, stones and gravels, and to previously mix samples from different field areas.
1. Ball. Make a ball of wet (but not soaking wet) substance and throw it approximately half a meter high. Catch it. If it falls apart, it is too sandy. If it still sticks together – it means that it contains much clay. Another option is just to squeeze it. If it breaks, it is sandy. If it sticks to your hands – it is made up mostly of clay.
2. Grain of pea. Take a small amount of soil and rub it with your fingers. If the substance is as if oily to touch, sticks to your fingers and spreads smoothly – it is clay. If it is gritty and does not spread easily, it is sand.
3. Stick. Make a stick of damp soil by rolling it between your hands. Put it up. If it erects without crushing – it has enough clay. If not, it mainly consists of sand.
4. Jar (bottle). This option involves little math and physics. Put a handful or two of soil into a bottle and fill it with water. Shake it properly. The experiment will result in different layers according to their weight. Measure them and calculate the ratio. Note, that clay may fall for several days. The sequence of elements depends on their weight. The heaviest is sand, it will be on the bottom. Silt will be in the middle. The lightest is clay – it will be on the top.
Agricultural software and soil type maps as the most precise method to determine the soil type
These tests are but approximate and can give you just a general idea. They are easy to conduct and are suitable as school experiments in science. If you want to know for sure and seek for professional advice, you can rely on satellites. They can provide you with a soil types map estimating the earth’s surface radiation.
Different types of soil emit different signals (aka temperatures) that are distinguished and recorded by satellites. Special software available at agricultural platforms interprets the signal and gives you the ready high-precision results.
Soil Types in Crop Monitoring
The Platform provides a soil type mapping function. To accomplish this, let’s imagine the following: a farmer draws a particular field on the map, he / she selects ‘Soil Type’ and gets the requested map to proceed with their farming practices. Then, depending on the type of soil, the farmer makes an informed decision on which crop to sow based on this data. The Platform also provides recommendations on which fertilizers can be used to maintain and/or enhance soil productivity.
Another useful feature in Crop Monitoring is the ability for farmers to see the history of vegetation development of any specific field for the past 5 years. This feature is employed to compare the state of fields of previous years and determine which factors influence the development of a particular type of crop. Thus, they are able to decide on fertilizers, temperature and moisture levels, as well as other requirements to meet the needs of a particular soil type.
What type of soil is best for farming – how to make the right choice?
There is no single recipe for success when it comes to the proper type of soil for plants, yet loam soils seem to be a perfect match.
Even if the grass seems to be greener behind the fence, your neighbor is most likely to have the same type of soil as you do. It rarely happens that different soil types occur in the same vicinity. The most precise answer could be given by online software for farm management – satellites can monitor the area, process the data and give a definite answer with a specific soil type chart of your fields.
It should be also noted that ‘pure’ types are seldom met – most likely, you have to deal with mixtures like sandy clay, silty clay, loamy clay, silty loam, loamy sand, etc.
Besides, types of soil pollution should be taken into consideration as well. Alongside natural ‘inclusions’ like manures and excreta produced by animals and humans, there are radioactive pollutants and urban and industrial wastes to impact the soil composition and general quality.
So, the main trick to succeed in farming here is to know your particular soil type and to produce plants that are most suitable for the case.
types of soil are most common