Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Booneville, Arkansas » Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #397518

Research Project: Sustainable Small Farm and Organic Grass and Forage Production Systems for Livestock and Agroforestry

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Title: Soil Morphology

item Owens, Phillip
item Libohova, Zamir

Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Soils in the Environment
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/6/2022
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Field soil descriptions are a major part of soil surveys. They provide valuable information about soils and their abilities to support all human activities like agriculture, environment, infrastructure, construction etc. For example, darker colors for most soils are associated with high organic matter content, which is important for soil health. Fine soils with large amounts of silt and clay can hold more water compared to sandy soils. Soil scientists record these properties in the field and combine them with laboratory analysis to create maps of soils, their properties and functions/interpretations for multiple purposes. The book chapter describes some of the most commonly used methods and tools for describing soils in the field.

Technical Abstract: Soil morphology as a sub discipline of soil science is a technique that focuses on standardizing descriptions of soil properties and features in the field. Although often qualitative and empirical, these descriptions offer insights about soils and aid in the interpretation of other soil properties measured in the laboratory through chemical, biological and physical methods. Additionally, soil morphology is the foundation for Soil Taxonomy and many soils can be classified by using the morphologic description. Soil morphology in the past has relied mostly on human sensors to detect different soil features like color, consistency, texture, layers/horizons, roots, pores, etc., and related the properties to taxonomy and/or function. However, the development of digital sensors has given rise to remote and proximal sensing disciplines that offer soil scientists other more sophisticated tools to describe soils. In this chapter, we provide brief descriptions of morphological concepts and tools used by soil scientists under field and laboratory conditions.