Here is a compilation of term papers on ‘Soil’. Find paragraphs, long and short term papers on ‘Soil’ especially written for school and college students.
Term Paper on Soil
Term Paper Contents:
- Term Paper on the Introduction to Soil
- Term Paper on the Characteristics of Soil
- Term Paper on Soil Structure
- Term Paper on Soil Classification
- Term Paper on the Factors Affecting Soil Formation
- Term Paper on the Organic Matter in Soil
- Term Paper on Soil Solutions
- Term Paper on the Uses of Soil
- Term Paper on Soil Degradation
Term Paper # 1. Introduction to Soil:
Soil is the naturally occurring, unconsolidated or loose covering on the Earth’s surface. Soil is composed of particles of broken rock that have been altered by chemical and environmental processes including weathering and erosion. Soil is different from its parent rock(s) source(s), altered by interactions between the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and the biosphere.
It is a mixture of mineral and organic constituents that are in solid, gaseous and aqueous states Soil particles pack loosely, forming a soil structure filled with pore spaces. These pores contain sol solution (liquid) and air (gas).
Accordingly, soils are often treated as a three state system. Most soils have a density between 1 and 2 g/cm3. Soil is also known as earth- it is the substance from which our planet takes its name. Little of the soil composition of the earth is older than Tertiary and most no older than Pleistocene.
Term Paper # 2. Characteristics of Soil:
Soil colour is often the first impression one has when viewing soil. Striking colors and contrasting patterns are especially memorable. The Red River (Mississippi watershed) carries sediment eroded from extensive reddish soils like Port Silt Loam in Oklahoma. The Yellow River in China carries yellow sediment from eroding loessal soils. Mollisols in the Great Plains are darkened and enriched by organic matter.
Podsols in boreal forests have highly contrasting layers due to acidity and leaching. Soil color is primarily influenced by soil mineralogy. The extensive and various iron minerals in soils are responsible for many soil colors. The development and distribution of colour within a soil profile result from chemical weathering, especially redox reactions.
As the primary minerals in soil parent material weather, the elements combine into new and colourful compounds. Iron forms secondary minerals with a yellow or red colour, organic matter decompose into black and brown compounds, and manganese forms black mineral deposits.
These pigments produce various colour patterns as a result of the affects by the environment during soil formation- aerobic conditions produce uniform or gradual colour changes, while reducing environments result in disrupted colour flow with complex, mottled patterns and points of colour concentration.
Soil colour results from chemical and biological weathering. As the primary minerals in parent material weather, the elements combine into new and colourful compounds. Iron forms secondary minerals with a yellow or red colour; organic matter decomposes into brown compounds; and manganese, sulfur and nitrogen can form black mineral deposits.
Soil structure is the arrangement of soil particles into aggregates. These may have various shapes, sizes and degrees of development or expression Soil structure affects aeration, water movement, resistance to erosion, and plant root growth. Structure often gives clues to texture, organic matter content, biological activity, past soil evolution and human use, and chemical and mineralogical conditions under which the soil formed.
Soil texture refers to sand, silt and clay composition. Sand and silt are the product of physical weathering while soil is the product of chemical weathering. Soil content is influential on soil behavior, affecting the retention capacity for nutrients and water. Sand and silt are the products of physical weathering, while clay is the product of chemical weathering.
Clay content is influential on soil behavior because it has retention capacity for nutrients and water. Clay soils resist wind and water erosion better than silty and sandy soils, because the particles are more tightly joined to each other. In medium textured soils, clay often is often translocated downward through the soil profile and accumulates in the subsoil.
The electrical resistivity of soil can affect the rate of galvanic corrosion of metallic structures in contact with it. Higher moister content or increased electrolyte concentration can lower the resistivity and thereby increase the rate of corrosion. Soil resistivity values typically range from about 2 to 1000 Ohm, but more extreme values are not unusual.
The naming of soil horizons is based on the type of material the horizons are composed of; these materials reflect the duration of the specific processes used in soil formation. They are labeled using a short hand notation of letters and numbers.
They are described and classified by their color, size, texture, structure, consistency, root quantity, pH, voids, boundary characteristics, and if they have nodules or concretions Any one soil profile does not have all the major horizons covered below, soils may have few or many horizons.
The exposure of parent material to favourable conditions produces initial soils that are suitable for plant growth. Plant growth often results in the accumulation of organic residues; the accumulated organic layer is called the O horizon. Biological organisms colonize and break down organic materials, making available nutrients that other plants and animals can live on, and after sufficient time, a distinctive organic surface layer forms with humus which is called the A horizon.
Term Paper # 3. Soil Structure:
Soil structure is defined as the mutual arrangement, orientation and organisation of particles in the soil. It describes the overall arrangement or combination of primary soil separates into secondary groupings called aggregates or peds. Soil conditions and characteristics such as water movement, heat transfer, aeration and porosity are influenced by structure.
Types of Soil Structure:
Since the arrangement of soil particles is, generally, too complex to permit any simple geometric characterisation, there is no practical way to measure soil structure directly. Therefore, the concept of soil structure is used in qualitative sense.
Four principal types of soil structure are recognized:
The peds (aggregates) are arranged in relatively thin horizontal plates. This structure is found in surface horizons of some virgin soils, but may also present in subsoil.
The vertical axis of peds is longer than their horizontal axes. When the top of prism is round the term columnar is used and when flat, prismatic. They usually occur in subsoil horizons in arid and semiarid regions.
All the three dimensions of the peds are more or less equal. They are cube-like with flat or round faces. When the faces and edges are mainly rounded they are called sub-angular blocky. They are usually confined to subsoil.
Rounded peds or aggregates are placed in this category. They usually lie loosely and separated from each other. Relatively nonporous aggregates are called granules and the pattern granular. When the granules are especially porous, the term crumb is used.
Formation and stability of soil aggregates depend largely on the quantity and state of clay and on the presence of various forms of organic matter. Organic compounds excreted by plant roots help bin soil particles together into aggregates.
Microbial decomposition of organic residues produces organic materials that interact with clay and cement the soil particles. Various inorganic cements, such as irreversibly dehydrated colloids of iron and aluminium oxides as well as calcium carbonate and especially stable organic resins (humus) resulting from organic residue decomposition appear to impart stability to soil aggregates.
Structural Management of Soils:
When the clay is deflocculated, as under the influence of exchangeable sodium, the soil aggregates generally collapse. Aggregates are also vulnerable to the effect of water-swelling and shrinkage, beating action of raindrop and scoring action of runoff.
Cultivation when the soil is too wet or dry, excessive tillage and soil compaction also cause breakdown of soil aggregates. Close growing perennial plants with extensive root system such as grasses promote soil aggregation. Synthetic soil conditioners when added to the soil in relatively small quantities can cement and stabilise aggregates.
Unlike soil texture and specific surface, which are more or less constant for a given soil, structure is highly dynamic and may change gradually from time to time in response to changes in natural conditions, biological activity and soil management practices. Soil structure can be of decisive importance in determining soil productivity, since it greatly affects the water, air and heat regimes in the field.
Soil structure also influences the soil mechanical properties, which may in turn affect seed germination, seedling establishment and root growth. Soil structure can affect the performance of agricultural operations such as tillage, irrigation and drainage.
Term Paper # 4. Soil Classification:
Soil is classified into different groups or categories so that relationships are better understood between different soils. The different groupings help determine the usefulness of any soil for any particular use. One of the first classification systems was developed by the Russian scientist Dokuchaev around 1880, it was modified a number of times by American and European researches and developed into the system commonly used until the 1960’s.
It was based on the idea that soils have a particular morphology based on the materials and factors that form them. In the 1960’s a different classification system began to emerge that stressed just soil morphology and relied less on soil parental materials and soil forming factors. Since then it has undergone further modifications.
Orders are the highest category of soil classification, order types end in the letters sol.
In the US classification system there are ten orders:
i. Entisol – are recently formed soils that lack well developed horizons. Commonly found on unconsolidated sediments like sand, some have an A horizon on top of bedrock.
ii. Vertisol – are inverted soils, they tend to swell when wet and shrink upon drying, often forming deep cracks that surface layers can fall into.
iii. Inceptisol – are young soils, they have subsurface horizon formation but show little eluviation and illuviation.
iv. Aridisol – are dry soils forming under the desert conditions. They include nearly 20 per cent of soils worldwide. Soil formation is slow, and accumulated organic matter is scarce. May have a subsurface zone (calcic horizons) where calcium carbonates have accumulated from percolating water. Many have well developed Bt horizons showing clay movement from past periods of more moisture.
v. Mollisol – are soft soils.
vi. Spodosol – are soils that are the product of podsolization. They are typical soils of coniferous and deciduous forests in cooler climates.
vii. Alfisol – soils with aluminium and iron. They have horizons of were clay accumulates and form where there is enough moisture and it is warm enough for at least three months of plants growth.
viii. Ultisol – are soils that are heavily leached.
ix. Oxisol – soil with heavy oxide content.
x. Histosol – organic soils.
Other order schemes may include:
i. Andisols – volcanic soils, tend to be high in glass content.
ii. Gelisols – permafrost soils.
Term Paper # 5. Factors Affecting Soil Formation:
Soil formation, or pedogenesis, is the combined effect of physical, chemical, biological, and anthropogenic processes on soil parent material. Soil genesis involves processes that develop layers or horizons in the soil profile. These processes involve additions, losses, transformations and translocations of material that compose the soil.
Minerals derived from weathered rocks undergo changes that cause the formation of secondary minerals and other compounds that are variably soluble in water, these constitutes are moved (translocated) from one area of the soil to other areas by water and animal activity.
The alteration and movement of materials within soil causes the formation of distinctive soil horizons. The weathering of bedrock produces the parent material that soils form from. An example of soil development from bare rock occurs on recent lava flows in warm regions under heavy and very frequent rainfall. In such climates plants become established very quickly on basaltic lava, even though there is very little organic material.
The plants are supported by the porous rock becoming filled with nutrient bearing water, for example carrying dissolved bird droppings or guano. The developing plant roots themselves gradually break up the porous lava and organic matter soon accumulates. But even before it does, the predominantly porous broken lava in which the plant roots grow can be considered a soil.
How the soil “life” cycle proceeds is influenced by at least five classic soil forming factors that are dynamically insert-wined in shaping the way soil is developed, they include- parent material, regional climate, topography, biotic potential and the passage of time.
i. Parent Material:
The material from which soils form is called parent material, they include – weathered primary bedrock, secondary material transported from other locations, e.g. colluvium and alluvium, deposits that are already present but mixed or altered in other ways – old soil formations, organic material including peat or alpine humus, anthropogenic materials – like landfill or mine waste.
Few soils form directly from the underlying rocks they develop on. The soils that do form directly from the breakdown or weathering of rocks are often called “residual soils” and they have the same general chemistry as their parent rocks.
Most soils are derived from materials that have been transported from other locations by the wind, water and gravity. Some of these materials may have moved many miles or only a few feet. Windblown material called loess is common in the Midwest of North America and in Central Asia and other locations.
Glacial till is a component of many soils in the northern and southern latitudes and those formed near large mountains, and are the product of glacial ice moving over the ground, ice can break rock and larger stones into smaller pieces; it also can sort material into different sizes.
As glacial ice melts, the melt water also moves and sorts material and deposits it varying distances from its origin. The deeper sections of the soil profile may have materials that are relatively unchanged from when they were deposited by water, ice, or wind.
Weather is the first stage in the transforming of parent material into soil material. In soils forming from bedrock, a thick layer of weathered material called saprolite may form. Saprolite is the result of weathering processes that include- hydrolysis (the replacement of a mineral’s cations with hydrogen ions), chelation from organic compounds, hydration – the absorption of water by minerals, dissolution by solution – where minerals are dissolved by water and physical processes that include freezing/thawing or wetting/ drying.
The mineralogical and chemical composition of the primary bedrock material, plus physical features, including grain size and degree of consolidation plus the rate and type of weathering transforms it into different soil materials.
Soil formation is greatly dependent on the climate, and soils from different climate zones show distinctive characteristics Temperature and moisture affect weathering and leaching. Wind moves sand and other particles from one location to another, especially in arid regions where there is no or little plant cover. The type and amount of precipitation influence soil formation by affecting the movement of ions and particles through the soil, aiding in the development of different soil profiles.
Seasonal and daily temperature fluctuations affect the effectiveness of water in weathering parent rock material and affect soil dynamics, freezing and thawing is an affective mechanism to break up rocks and other consolidated materials. Temperature and precipitation rates affect biological activity, rates of chemical reactions, and types of vegetation cover.
Slope and surface orientation affect the moisture and temperature of soil and affect the rate of weathering of parent material. Steep slopes facing the sun are warmer. Steep land areas may erode faster than soil formation process or deposition rates add material, causing a net loss of topsoil. Low areas receive deposits from areas up slope, often producing deeper soils.
Topography effects erosion and depositional rates; water moves materials from steep higher elevations to lower, flatter locations. Sediments along river banks, on flood plains and deltas have different textures, dependent on the rate and duration of water flow; fast moving water can move larger material along with fine material, while slow moving water moves finer material only.
Water in rivers and wind with strong enough currents leave gravel, rocks, and sand behind while removing smaller sized particles which are deposited when the currents slow down. Bodies of water like lakes, ponds and shallow seas leave fine textured material, which form fine textured sediments like clay and silt.
iv. Biological Factors:
Plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and humans affect soil formation. Animals and micro-organisms mix soils and form burrows and pores allowing moisture and gases to seep into deeper layers. In the same way, plant roots open channels in the soils, especially plants with deep taproots which can penetrate many meters through the different soil layers bringing up nutrients from deeper in the soil. Plants with fibrous roots that spread out near the soil surface; have roots that are easily decomposed, adding organic matter.
Microorganisms, including fungi and bacteria affect chemical exchanges between roots and soil and act as a reserve of nutrients. Humans can impact soil formation by removing vegetation cover which promotes greater erosion and they can mix the different soil layers freely, restarting the soil formation process as less weathered material is mixed with and diluting the more developed upper layers.
Soil factors such as soil density, depth, chemistry, and Ph; plus temperature, and moisture levels greatly affect the type of plants that can grow in any given location. Dead plants and dropped leaves and stems of plants fall to the surface and decompose on the soil, where organisms feed on them and mix it with the upper soil layers; these organic compounds become part of the soil formation process, ultimately shaping the type of soil formed.
Time is a factor in the interactions of all the above factors as they interplay to develop varying types of soils. Over time, soils evolve features dependent on the other forming factors, and soil formation is a time responsive process dependent on how the other factors interplay with each other, as such soils are always in a state of development or change. For instance, recently deposited material from a flood exhibits no soil development because there has not been enough time for soil forming activities.
The underlining soil surface and horizons have become buried and the time clock resets for these soils. Soil is always changing. The long periods over which change occurs and the multiple influences of change mean that simple soils are rare, resulting in the formation of soil horizons.
While soil can achieve relative stability in properties for extended periods of time, the soil life cycle ultimately ends in soil conditions that leave it vulnerable to erosion. Despite the inevitability of soils retrogression and degradation, most soil cycles are long and productive.
Soil forming factors continue to affect soils during their existence, even on “stable” landscapes that are long enduring, some for millions of years. Materials are deposited on top of them and materials are blown or washed away from the surface.
With additions, removals, and alterations – soils are always subject to new conditions and whether these are slow or rapid changes, depending on climate, landscape position, and biological activity, soils are always in a dynamically dependent state of change.
Term Paper # 6. Organic Matter in Soil:
Most living things in soils, including plants, insects, bacteria and fungi’s are dependent on organic matter for nutrients and energy. Soils often have varying degrees of organic compounds in different states of decomposition. Many soils, including desert and rocky-gravel soils, have no or little organic matter; while soils, such as peat (Histosols), that are all organic matter are infertile.
Humus refers to organic matter that has decomposed to a point where it is resistant to further breakdown or alteration. Humic acids and fulvic acids are important constituents of humus and typically form from plant residues such as foliage, stems and roots. After death, these plant residues begin to decay, starting the formation of humus.
Humus formation involves changes within the soil and plant residue, there is a reduction of water soluble constituents including cellulose and hemicellulose; as the residues are deposited and break down, humin, lignin and lignin complexes accumulate within the soil; as microorganisms live and feed on the decaying plant matter, an increase in proteins occurs.
Lignin is resistant to breakdown and accumulates within the soil; it also chemically reacts with amino acids which add to its resistance to decomposition, including enzymatic decomposition by microbes. Fats and waxes from plant matter have some resistance to decomposition and persist in soils for a while.
Proteins normally decompose readily but when bound to clay particles they become more resistant to decomposition, clay particles also absorb enzymes that would break down proteins, thus clay soils often have higher organic contents that persist longer than soils without clay.
The addition of organic matter to clay soils can render the organic matter and any added nutrients inaccessible to plants and microbes for many years, since they can bind strongly to the clay. High soil tannin (polyphenol) content from plants can cause nitrogen to be sequestered by proteins or cause nitrogen immobilization, also making nitrogen unavailable to plants.
Humus formation is a process dependent on the amount of plant material added each year and the type of base soil; both are affected by climate and the type of microorganisms present. Soils with humus can vary in nitrogen content but have 3 to 6 percent nitrogen typically; humus as a reserve of nitrogen and phosphorus, is a vital component effecting soil fertility.
Humus also adsorbs water, acting as a moisture reserve that plants can utilize; it also expands and shrinks between dry and wet states, providing pore spaces. Humus is less stable than other soil constituents, because it is affected by microbial decomposition, and over time its concentration decreases without the addition of new organic matter.
Climate and Organics:
The production and accumulation or degradation of organic matter and humus is greatly depended on climate conditions. Temperature and soil moisture are the major factors in the formation or degradation of organic matter, they along with topography, determine the formation of organic soils. Soils high in organic matter tend to form under wet conditions and/or where there is enough precipitation to sustain thick plant growth.
Term Paper # 7. Soil Solutions:
Different soils, under varying conditions, have diverse colloidal solutions. These solutions exchange gases with the soil atmosphere. These solutions can contain dissolved sugars, fulvic acids and other organic acids, plant micronutrients such as zinc, iron and copper, plus other metals, ammonium plus a host of others.
Some soils have sodium solutions that great impact plant growth, calcium is common in forest soils. Soil pH effects the type and amount of anions and cations that soil solutions contain and exchange with the soil atmosphere and biological organisms.
Biogeography is the study of special variations in biological communities. Soils are restricting factor as to what plants can grow in which environments. Soil scientist’s survey soils in the hope of understanding controls as to what vegetation can and will grow in a particular location.
Geologists also have a particular interest in the patterns of soil on the surface of the earth. Soil texture, color and chemistry often reflect the underlying geologic parent material and soil types often change at geologic unit boundaries. Buried paleosols mark previous land surfaces and record climatic conditions from previous eras.
Geologists use this paleopedological record to understand the ecological relationships in past ecosystems. According to the theory of biorhexistasy, prolonged conditions conducive to forming deep, weathered soils result in increasing ocean salinity and the formation of limestone.
Geologists use soil profile features to establish the duration of surface stability in the context of geologic faults or slope stability. An offset subsoil horizon indicates rupture during soil formation and the degree of subsequent subsoil formation is relied upon to establish time since rupture.
Due to their thermal mass, rammed earth walls fit in with environmental sustainability aspirations. A homeowner sifts soil made from his compost bin in background. Composting is an excellent way to recycle household and yard wastes.
Soil examined in shovel test pits is used by archaeologists for relative dating based on stratigraphy (as opposed to absolute dating). What is considered most typical is to use soil profile features to determine the maximum reasonable pit depth than needs to be examined for archaeological evidence in the interest of cultural resources management.
Term Paper # 8. Uses of Soil:
This article requires expansion with – examples of uses of soil as a material and uses involving soil as a natural resource. Soil is used in agriculture, where it serves as the primary nutrient base for the plants. The types of soil used in agriculture (among other things, such as the purported level of moisture in the soil) vary with respect to the species of plants that are cultivated.
Soil material is a critical component in the mining and construction industries. Soil serves as a foundation for most construction projects. Massive volumes of soil can be involved in surface mining, road building, and dam construction. Earth sheltering is the architectural practice of using soil for external thermal mass against building walls.
Soil resources are critical to the environment, as well as to food and fiber production. Soil provides minerals and water to plants. Soil absorbs rainwater and releases it later thus preventing floods and drought. Soil cleans the water as it percolates. Soil is the habitat for many organisms. Waste management often has a soil component. Septic drain fields treat septic tank effluent using aerobic soil processes. Landfills use soil for daily cover.
Soils filter and purifying water and effect its chemistry. Rain water and pooled water from ponds, lakes and rivers percolated through the soil horizons and the upper rock strata, and thus becomes groundwater. Pollutants such as viruses, oils, metals, excess nutrients, and sediments are filtered out by the soil and soil organisms.
Term Paper # 9. Soil Degradation:
Land degradation is a human induced or natural process which impairs the capacity of land to function. Soils are the critical component in land degradation when it involves acidification, contamination, desertification, erosion, or salination.
While soil acidification of alkaline soils is beneficial, it degrades land when soil acidity lowers crop productivity and increases soil vulnerability to contamination and erosion. Soils are often initially acid because their parent materials were acid and initially low in the basic cations (calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium). Acidification occurs when these elements are removed from the soil profile by normal rainfall or the harvesting of crops. Soil acidification is accelerated by the use of acid-forming nitrogenous fertilizers and by the effects of acid precipitation.
Soil contaminations at low levels are often within soil capacity to treat and assimilate. Many waste treatment processes rely on this treatment capacity. Exceeding treatment capacity can damage soil biota and limit soil function. Derelict soils occur where industrial contamination or other development activity damages the soil to such a degree that the land cannot be used safely or productively.
Remediation of derelict soil uses principles of geology, physics, chemistry, and biology to degrade, attenuate, isolate, or remove soil contaminants and to restore soil functions and values. Techniques include leaching, air sparging, chemical amendments, phytoremediation, bioremediation, and natural attenuation.
Desertification is an environmental process of ecosystem degradation in arid and semi-arid regions, or as a result of human activity. It is a common misconception that droughts cause desertification. Droughts are common in arid and semiarid lands. Well-managed lands can recover from drought when the rains return.
Soil management tools include maintaining soil nutrient and organic matter levels, reduced tillage and increased cover. These help to control erosion and maintain productivity during periods when moisture is available. Continued land abuse during droughts, however, increases land degradation. Increased population and livestock pressure on marginal lands accelerates desertification.
Soil erosional loss is caused by wind, water, ice, movement in response to gravity. Although the processes may be simultaneous, erosion is distinguished from weathering. Erosion is an intrinsic natural process, but in many places it is increased by human land use. Poor land use practices include deforestation, overgrazing, and improper construction activity.
Improved management can limit erosion using techniques like limiting disturbance during construction, avoiding construction during erosion prone periods, intercepting runoff, terrace-building, use of erosion suppressing cover materials and planting trees or other soil binding plants.
A serious and long-running water erosion problem is in China, on the middle reaches of the Yellow River and the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. From the Yellow River, over 1.6 billion tons of sediment flow each year into the ocean. The sediment originates primarily from water erosion (Gully erosion) in the Loess Plateau region of northwest China.
Soil piping is a particular form of soil erosion that occurs below the soil surface. It is associated with levee and dam failure as well as sink hole formation. Turbulent flow removes soil starting from the mouth of the seep flow and subsoil erosion advances up gradient. The term sand boil is used to describe the appearance of the discharging end of an active soil pipe.
Soil salination is the accumulation of free salts to such an extent that it leads to degradation of soils and vegetation. Consequences include corrosion damage, reduced plant growth, erosion due to loss of plant cover and soil structure, and water quality problems due to sedimentation. Salination occurs due to a combination of natural and human caused processes. Aridic conditions favor salt accumulation.
This is especially apparent when soil parent material is saline. Irrigation of arid lands is especially problematic. All irrigation water has some level of salinity. Irrigation, especially when it involves leakage from canals, often raise the underlying water table. Rapid salination occurs when the land surface is within the capillary fringe of saline groundwater. Salinity control involves flushing with higher levels of applied water in combination with tile drainage.