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Soil Classification

Ind|v|dua| So||s
O Soils vary greatly even across small distances. This diversity was
represented theoretically in the idea of natural bodies, first posited
by the Russian scientist V.V. Dukocheav in the 1880s.
4 This idea recognizes the existence of individual soils that, on
the one hand, can be organized into groups that share
common features and on the other, be recognized as varying
slightly from these other soils.
4 If you were to dig a whole series of soil pits in a field, you
would find that the profiles in each varied slightly.
Technically, each of these individual soils need to be
organized somehow. So, how do you go around organizing all
these individual soils?
4 A hexagonal unit was therefore created as the foundational
unit in soil classification. This is called the pedon.
@ don
O The pedon is the smallest sampling unit of soil.
4 It can range in size from about one meter to 10 meters
squared of land area.
4 A pattern of pedons is overlain covering a landscape.
4 A number of these pedons, closely associated with each
other, are grouped together into a polypedon, this is seen as
being sufficiently large in area to be recognized as a
landscape component termed a soil individual. So it is a
polypedon that is recognized as a soil individual and not the
subtly varying pedons that form the polypedon.

@ o|ypdon

So|| S|s vs So|| C|ass|f|cat|on
O One approach to organizing of soils into differentiated groups or
classes, is the soil series.
4 All soil individuals in the world that have a common suite of
soil profile properties and horizons that fall within a particular
range are said to belong to the same soil series.
4 A soil series is a class of soils.
O Hierarchical soil classification systems group soils into classes at
increasing levels of generality.
4 A number of such systems have been developed including
O Many cultures have developed classification methods, based on
descriptions, that reflect the peoples common knowledge of their
soil resources.
4 A study by Barrera-Bassols in 2006 of 62 ethnic groups
generated a list of characteristics used to describe soil
4 The most common of these characteristics was colour
followed by texture, consistence, soil moisture, and organic
4 Traditional classification focuses on characteristics seen at the
surface whereas `scientific systems tend to focus on
subsurface horizons.
4 The study of traditional soil classification is called
So|| @axonomy
O Soil taxonomy provides a hierarchical grouping of natural soil
4 The system is based on soil properties that can be objectively
measured rather than on presumed mechanisms of soil
formation. Most of the chemical, physical, and biological
properties already covered are criteria for soil taxonomy.
4 The system is also based on the properties of soils as they are
found today.
O The taxonomy is based upon the presence or absence of what are
termed diagnostic soil horizons
4 There are two sets of such diagnostic soil horizons:
diagnostic surface horizons and diagnostic subsurface
|agnost|c Sufac no|zons
O Diagnostic surface horizons are called epipedons.
4 These include the upper part of the soil darkened by the
presence of organic matter, the upper eluvial horizons, or
both. It may also include parts of the B horizon if it is
sufficiently altered by organic matter.
O There are eight epipedons. Five occur naturally over large
areas. These are:
4 Mollic epipedon
4 Umbric epipedon
4 Orchric epipedon
4 Melanic epipedon
4 Histic epipedon
,o|||c p|pdon
A thick (>25cm), dark-coloured (due to high levels of organic matter)
mineral horizon with a high base saturation level and strong structure;
soft to touch even when dry; found under grasslands.
Umb|c p|pdon
Same as a Mollic epipedon except it has a low base saturation level; is found
in areas of higher rainfall and has lower content of magnesium and calcium.
Cc|c p|pdon
Too light-coloured or too thin a horizon and low in organic matter to be a
Mollic or Umbric; can be hard and massive when dry.
,|an|c p|pdon
Thick, black, and high in organic material; developed from volcanic ash;
often more than 30cm thick, extremely light and fluffy.
n|st|c p|pdon
Is a 20 to 60cm layer of organic soil materials overlying a mineral soil;
formed in wet areas, it is a layer of peat or muck.
In add|t|on to ts f|v t a two ot p|pdons tat av su|td fom
po|ongd uman act|v|t|s
O nthropic epipedon - human-modified Mollic-like horizon, high in
available phosphorous
O !aggen epipedon - human-made, sod-like horizon created by
years of manuring
O %hese can be found where and has been used for many

O oistic epipedon - consists of an organic horizon that is saturated
for less than 30 days annually
|agnost|c SubSufac no|zons
@ a 18 d|st|nct d|agnost|c subsufac o|zons usd to ogan|c so||s Svn of t
mo common g|oba||y a:
O rgiic horizon - characterized by the accumulation of silicate
clays that have moved downwards from the upper horizons
O atric horizon - also has silicate clays but with more available
sodium in the soil and a columnar or prismatic structure; found in
arid and semi-arid regions
O andic horizon - high in iron and aluminum and low-activity clays
(e.g. kaolinite)
O ic horizon - highly weathered, high in iron, aluminum, and low-
activity clays (e.g. kaolinite); physically stable, crumbly and not
sticky; found in humid tropical and sub-tropical regions
O $podic horizon - illuvial horizon characterized by an accumulation
of colloidal organic matter and aluminum oxide; generally found in
highly leached forest soils of cool, humid regions, typically on
sandy-textured parent materials
O $ombric horizon - illuvial horizon, dark in colour due to high
organic matter accumulation; low degree of base saturation; found
in cool, moist soils of high plateaus and mountains in tropical and
subtropical areas
O bic horizon - light-coloured eluvial horizon, low in clays and
oxides of iron and aluminum
So|| @mpatu kg|ms
A soil temperature regime is used to classify soils at some of the lower levels
of the taxonomy. These include:
O Frigid
O Mesic
O Thermic
Catgo|s of So|| @axonomy
@ a s|x |ac|ca| catgo|s of c|ass|f|cat|on
O Order - the highest, or broadest, category
O Suborder
O Great group
O Subgroup
O Family
O Series - the most specific category
@ |ow catgo|s a nstd |n t |g catgo|s
O Each order has several suborders which has several great groups
and so on.
So|| Cds
At the top of the pyramid are the Orders. All soils fit into these Orders.
These are differentiated on the basis of soil properties that reflect a major
course of development as reflected by the presence or absence of the
diagnostic soil horizons.
O Soil with a Mollic epipedon are thought to have been formed by the
same general generic processes, but it is because of the properties
they share that they are placed in the same order: Mollisols.
O Note that these orders come from the diagnostic horizons describe
O To some degree, most of these soil orders occur in climatic regions
that can be described by moisture and temperature regimes.
@ 12 Cds
O Alifsols
O Andisols
O Aridisols
O Entisols
O Gelisols
O Histosols
O Inceptisols
O Mollisols
O Oxisols
O Spodosols
O Ultisols
O Vertisols
@s ods can b ogan|zd |n tms of t| matu|ty
O Histosols, Gelisols, Inceptisols, and Andisols are the least matured,
with only slight degrees of weathering and soil formation
O Alfisols, Aridisols, Vertisols, and Mollisols are seen as intermediate
stages of soil formation and weathering.
O Oxisols, Spodosols, and Ultisols are seen as the most mature soils.
O Entisols are recent soils just beginning the process of weathering
and soil formation.
now do I know w a so|| f|ts?
@ |s a 12stp pocss you can fo||ow Ask yous|f
1. Does the soil have permafrost within 100cm or cryoturbation and
permafrost within 200cm of the surface? If YES, it is a Gelisol.
2. Does the soil have organic soil materials extending down to an
impermeable layer or with an organic layer that is more than 40cm
thick and without andic properties? If YES, it is a Histosol.
3. Does the soil have a spodic horizon within two meters of the surface
and is without andic properties? If YES, it is a Spodosol.
4. Does the soil have andic properties? If YES, it is an Andisol.
5. Does the soil have an oxic horizon within 150cm of the surface? If
YES, it is an Oxisol.
6. Does the soil have 30% or more clay to a depth of 50cm with
shrinking and swelling properties? If YES, it is a Vertisol.
7. Does the soil have an aridic soil moisture regime and some B
horizon development or a salic horizon? If YES, it is an Aridisol.
8. Does the soil have an argillic or kandic horizon? If YES, it is a
9. Does the soil have a Mollic epipedon and a base saturation of
greater than 50%? If YES, it is a Mollisol.
10. Does the soil have an argillic, kandic, or natric horizon or
fragipan with clay skins? If YES, it is an Alfisol.
11. Does the soil have a cambic, sukfuric, calcic, gypsic,
petrocalcic,or petrogypsic horizon, or with a Mollic, Umbric or Histic
epipedon, or with an exchangeable sodium percentage of less than
15%, or a fragipan? If YES, it is an Inceptisol.
12. Does the soil not fit into any of the above orders? If YES, it is an