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Soil Profile Description

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1 Soil Profile Description
Otto Spaargaren ISRIC – World Soil Information Wageningen The Netherlands

2 Why soil profile descriptions ?
In surveys: as typical example of soil mapping unit or of one of its components For research: as baseline record to illustrate the environmental setting and relationships between the soil attributes For land resource development: as base for building geo-referenced land information systems

3 Guidelines FAO Guidelines for Soil Profile Description. 3rd Edition.
1990 – English 1993 – French

4 Purpose of the FAO Guidelines
To enhance standardization and uniformity of soil profile descriptions, in order to facilitate cross-references and comparison between soil descriptions To contribute, through the objective description and recording of soil properties, both to the understanding of the land of which the soil forms part, and to the reliable transfer of technology

5 Sources for the FAO Guidelines
USDA Soil Survey Manual Revised Legend of the Soil Map of the World Keys to Soil Taxonomy Australian Soil and Land Survey Field Handbook

6 Content of the FAO Guidelines
General information about the soil, both administratively and environmentally Description of the individual soil horizons Linkage to computerized information systems, in particular the FAO-ISRIC Soil Database (SDB)

7 General Information Section
Registration and location Soil classification Landform and topography Land use and vegetation Parent material Surface characteristics Soil-water relationships

8 General information (1) : Registration and location
Profile number Soil profile description status Date of description Author(s) Soil unit Location Elevation Map sheet number and grid reference Coordinates

9 General information (2) : Soil classification
Soil taxonomic classification WRB reference group name FAO Legend (1974) and Revised Legend (1988) Soil Map of the World Soil Taxonomy (1999) National Soil climate

10 General information (3) : Landform and topography
Land element Position Slope Micro-topography Soil-landscape sequential relationships

11 General information (4) : Land use and vegetation
Human influence Vegetation

12 General information (5) : Parent material
Unconsolidated material Rock type Effective soil depth

13 General information (6) : Surface characteristics
Rock outcrops Surface coarse fragments Erosion Surface sealing Surface cracks Other surface characteristics

14 General information (7) : Soil-water relationships
Drainage class Internal drainage External drainage Flooding Groundwater Moisture conditions of the soil

15 Soil horizon description
Horizon designation and dimensions Soil colour Primary constituents Organization of the constituents Voids (porosity) Concentrations Biological activity Soil reaction Samples

16 Soil horizon description (1) : Designation and dimensions
Horizon symbol – H, O, A, E, B, C and R master horizon nomenclature, and the subordinate characteristics within master horizons and layers Horizon boundary – depth, distinctness and topography

17 Soil horizon description (2) :
Master horizon designation (1) Organic horizons: H or O H = wet O = dry

18 Soil horizon description (3) :
Master horizon designation (2) Mineral horizons: A (organic matter) E (eluviation) B (illuviation) C (parent material, unconsolidated)

19 Soil horizon description (4) :
Master horizon designation (3) Mineral horizons: R (parent rock)

20 Soil horizon description (5) :
Subordinate characteristics of master horizons (1): c Concretions or nodules f Frozen soil g Gleying evidenced by mottling h Accumulation of organic matter j Jarosite mottling k Accumulation of carbonates m Cementation or induration

21 Soil horizon description (6) :
Subordinate characteristics of master horizons (2): n Accumulation of sodium o Residual accumulation of sesquioxides p Ploughing or other disturbance q Accumulation of silica r Strong reduction s Illuvial accumulation of sesquioxides t Accumulation of silicate clay

22 Soil horizon description (7) :
Subordinate characteristics of master horizons (3): v Occurrence of plinthite w Development of colour or structure x Fragipan character y Accumulation of gypsum z Accumulation of salts more soluble than gypsum

23 Soil horizon description (8) : Soil colour
Matrix colour – hue, value and chroma, both dry and moist, according to the Munsell Soil Color Charts, or the Revised Standard Soil Color Charts Mottling – abundance, size, contrast, boundary and colour (dry and moist)

24 Soil horizon description (9) : Primary constituents
Texture of the fine earth fraction – sand, loamy sand, sandy loam, loam, silt loam, silt, silty clay loam, silty clay, clay loam, sandy clay loam, sandy clay, clay Rock fragments – gravel, stones, boulders

25 Soil horizon description (10) : Organization of soil constituents
Soil structure – grade, size and type Types: single grain, massive, granular, prismatic, columnar, angular blocky, subangular blocky, platy, rock structure, stratified structure Consistence – dry, moist and wet

26 Soil horizon description (11) : Voids (porosity)
Voids include all space in the soil. They are described in terms of Type Size Abundance Continuity Orientation

27 Soil horizon description (12) : Concentrations
Cutanic features – clay, humus, pressure faces, slickensides, iron coatings Cementation and compaction – continuity, structure, nature, degree Mineral nodules – abundance, kind, size, shape, hardness, nature, colour

28 Soil horizon description (13) : Biological activity
Roots – abundance and size Biological features – abundance and kind

29 Soil horizon description (14) : Soil reaction
Presence of carbonates – non-calcareous, slightly calcareous, moderately calcareous, strongly calcareous and extremely calcareous (tested with 10% HCl) Field pH – Hellige test, field pH meter, NaF test for volcanic soils

30 Soil horizon description (15) : Samples
Basically, there are two methods of collecting soil samples: Sampling in equal proportions over the whole horizon (recommended method) Sampling in equal proportions within a depth of 20cm, either from the centre of the horizon, or at balanced intervals if the horizon exceeds 50cm thickness

31 Linkages (1) : FAO-ISRIC Soil Database (SDB)
Permits storage and retrieval of large amounts of field and analytical data Provides a flexible coding system to accommodate local needs Can be linked to geographical information systems (GIS), automated land evaluation packages, or statistical programs

32 Linkages (2) : FAO-ISRIC Soil Database (SDB)
The following data sets can be stored in the SDB: Field descriptions: coded information on site and profile characteristics Standard soil analytical results: chemical analyses, soluble salts Soil physical analytical results: infiltration and water retention data

33 New developments In 2002, a new “Field Book
for Describing and Sampling Soils” (Version 2.0) was issued by the National Soil Survey Center of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service

34 New developments In 2003, a “Students Guide for Soil Description, Soil Classification and Site Evaluation” was prepared by R. Jahn, H.-P. Blume and V.B. Asio, for workshops and international seminars in Poland and The Philippines

35 New developments In 2003, FAO and CSIC issued “The Multilingual
Soil Profile Database” (SDBm Plus), an upgraded and expanded Windows version of the SDBm software, which had replaced the DOS- based version of SDB

36 The USDA Field Book Very comprehensive, with numerous useful diagrams and illustrations Introduces new descriptive elements, such as “redoximorphic features”, “soil crusts”, and “odor” Provides little linkage to the FAO Guidelines (e.g. no comparison between particle size classes of USDA and FAO)

37 The Student Guide Builds strongly on the 1990 Guidelines, with elements of the “Kartieranleitung” (Germany, 1994), SOTER (1995), WRB (1998), and Soil Taxonomy (1999) Links observation to interpretation Biased towards soil conditions in temperate regions

38 SDBm Plus (1) Re-designed and re-written as Windows application
Multilingual (English, French, Spanish, German) Detailed soil profile characterization

39 SDBm Plus (2) Possibility of monitoring the temporal variability of analytical, physical and hydraulic soil properties Metadata facility for describing analytical methods and procedures used Linkage between database and land evaluation/geographical information systems (LES/GIS)

40 Conclusions (1) There is a need to update the 1990 FAO Guidelines for Soil Profile Description, in order to accommodate new knowledge and needs for recording soil properties The new USDA Field Book and the Student Guide provide good practical material to be incorporated in a 4th Edition of the Guidelines, enhancing the interpretative value

41 Conclusions (2) Special attention should be paid to the consequences of changes with respect to the older versions of the Guidelines (see, for example, the change in textural boundaries in 1990) Care should be taken that presented methods are valid worldwide, or that users are cautioned for the limited validity of methods given

42 Afterthought “In view of the high costs of soil survey, soil profile descriptions should be made as detailed and comprehensive as possible, so that they can serve multiple purposes.”

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