Guideline Index

Chapter 4: Soil Properties

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For plants to grow to their full potential, the soil must provide a satisfactory environment for plant growth. Find out why the composition of soils, the soil profile, and soil properties are all important to fertiliser decisions.

4.1 Introduction

A soil’s properties are largely determined by its parent material and weathering during its formation. Plant growth is influenced by the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil. Although discussed separately, soil properties are interdependent. Understanding soil properties is essential for nutrient planning and land-use decisions.

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4.2 Physical properties

Physical properties of a soil including soil texture and soil structure are important to plant growth. Soil texture affects the soils ability to hold nutrients and water. Soil structure affects aeration, water holding capacity, drainage and penetration of roots. Find out how to classify soil texture, and the importance of having the right balance of soil, air and water to plant growth.

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4.3 Chemical properties

Chemical properties of the soil are important to soil fertility and plant growth. Find out how chemical and physical properties of the soil interact to affect the soil’s capacity to store and release nutrients, and understand how soil chemistry can affect soil structure. Also find out about the soil solution and what this means to soil pH and soil salinity.

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4.4 Biological Properties

Biological properties include the living organisms and the organic matter in the soil. The interactions between soil biology and other soil properties are complex, but important. This section introduces soil biology and some of these interactions; however it is covered in much greater detail in Chapter 5.

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4.5 The soil profile

A soil profile describes the various layers within the soil and can be seen as a vertical section through the soil. Pastures and crops therefore prefer deep well drained soils with good texture and structure. Soil profiles are used to classify soils.

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4.6 Soil formation

Understanding the soil formation and composition of your soil is important, as the parent material will dictate how the soil will behave. Understanding soil formation also helps in understanding which parts of the landscape certain soil types are likely be found. Having this understanding can help to guide land-use decisions and management.

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4.7 Summary

Soils are composed of weathered minerals, organic matter, living organisms and pore spaces.

A soil’s texture describes the amount of sand, silt and clay particles in the soil. A soil’s structure is determined by the size and arrangement of aggregates and pores. A healthy soil is stable and friable and contains a reasonable level of organic matter and a large and varied population of soil organisms.

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4.8 References

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