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Why are soils important and what will we learn?
Soils are composed of solid mineral particles, organic matter, humus, living roots and organisms, and spaces holding air and water (pores). Soil is one of Virginia’s basic natural resources. We are dependent upon the soil as a primary resource of supporting food, fuel, and fiber production. Soils supply nutrients (elements or compounds) necessary for vigorous plant growth for plant growth. Soil moisture affects air pollution and vegetation cover that prevents erosion. Soils are necessary as a base for buildings and roads. Most new houses rely on onsite septic system drain fields to dispose of and treat septic waste through the soil nearby. Soils store carbon and water, clean the water of pollutants and excess nutrients, provide a rooting zone and structural support for plants, and offer habitat to microbes and animals.
The basic and applied knowledge in this guide will provide a base for understanding soils and how to use them properly. Readers will learn to use soil and site properties to identify suitability for production of food or fiber. They will also learn how to rate the erosion, infiltration and runoff, and natural soil drainage class. Observed soil and site properties are used to rate a soil for agricultural and non-agricultural land uses such as foundations, septic tank drain-field systems, or landscaping (e.g. shrubs and flower gardens). Using this guide provides users an opportunity to better understand soils as an important resource.
Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
January 25, 2018