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What is Soil?

Geography | 7-14 yrs | Reading Pod

Soil is the essence and foundation of life on planet Earth. Without soil there can be no life.

Definition of Soil

Soil is a complex mixture of minerals, water, air, organic matter and many decaying organisms and living creatures. It is the immediate surface of the earth that supports plant life. Soil is the vintage earth material that has seen changes over billions of years. It has been subjected to environmental changes, catastrophe and temperature effects.

How is Soil formed?

Soil Formation – Process and Factors

The formation of soil is a long and slow process. Soil is constantly being eroded and formed. It is said that soil formation takes 500 to 1000 years! Geology, topography, biology, climate and time are the key factors that help in soil formation. Stone does not become soil until it is further broken down into tiny pieces of dirt.

Geology or the landscape where many stony surfaces, over thousands of years, break by the forces of weather, wind, rain, earthquakes, volcanoes and get deposited as piles of dirt, form into sand, silt or clay. This is known as the pulverizing stage.

Time is an important factor. A newly exposed surface will have very little soil in it as compared to old surfaces which will have rich, deeper soil.

Biology comes when Algae and fungus called Lichens start depositing on the pulverised dirt. The algae capture sunlight and change it to sugar and oxygen. Lichens further break down the rocks with the acid formation. They work to store the nutrients and water required for growth of plants on soil. Later, animals such as snakes, earthworms, ants, dig into the soil and provide nutrients in the form of decay. They give richness to soil.

Climate is one of the major factors affecting the formation of soil. Where temperatures are warm and water content is high, soil formation speeds up. Where temperatures are cooler and precipitation is less, soil formation slows down. Thus, warm and humid regions have richer soil and abundant greenery.

Thus ups and downs in hills and mountains are the topographic factors. In flat, a plain area the soil tends to get deeper and doesn’t erode easily. Steep slopes are subject to more soil erosion. Drainage also affects soil formation, i.e., how quick the soil is to get rid of the extra water. Most locations become water logged which hinders soil formation.

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