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Chapter 4

GGR107 Chapter 4.docx

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Sarah Wakefield

Chapter 4: Soils and Agriculture • Soil – complex plant-supporting system consisting of disintegrated rock, organic matter, water, gases, nutrients and microorganisms; it is an ecosystem • Parent Material – base geological material in a particular location o Ie. lava, rock, sediment deposits, dunes, bedrock • Soil formation occurs as a results of weathering, erosion and deposition/decomposition of organic matter • Weathering – describes the physical, chemical and biological processes that break down rocks and minerals o Physical: wind, rain, temperature variations, water expansion (ice) o Chemical: chemical changes in parent material such as acidity o Biological: living things break down parent material  Ie. lichens or trees • Erosion – movement of soil from one area to another • Factors affecting soil formation: o Climate: faster in warm wet climates o Organisms: bugs/insects mix and aerate soil and plants add nutrients o Topographical Relief: hills/valleys affect exposure to sun, wind; steep slopes result in runoff o Parent material o Time • Topsoil – portion of soil that is most nutritive for plants and therefore most vital to ecosystems and agriculture • Soil colour indicates composition and fertility o Ie. dark colour means organic matter is present while red colouring means there is iron present • Soil texture refers to the type of particle present such as clays, silts and sands o Clay retains water and is harder to warm o Sand provides light, easy drainage and is easy to warm o Loam is a mix of sand, clays and silts • Soil depth is vital; deeper soil makes for a larger reservoir of nutrients and the like while shallow soils cannot carry enough moisture, sufficient nutrients or support root development • Nutrients for soils are usually in the form of fertilizers (organic/inorganic) o Primary macro nutrients: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous o Secondary macro nutrients: calcium, magnesium, sulfur o Micro nutrients: boron, copper, iron, chloride, manganese, molybdenum, zinc • Soil structure refers to the “clumpiness” of the soil and can be negatively impacted by repeated tillage where the soil is compacted and becomes impenetrable to water • Cropland – land used to raise plants for human use • Rangeland – land used for grazing livestock • Extensification – expansion of agriculture into new areas • Soil Degradation – damage to or loss of soil around the glove has resulted from forestry removal, cropland agriculture and overgrazing of livestock and thus we must learn to farm in sustainable ways that are gentler on the land and that maintain the integrity of the soil • Hunter-gatherers depended on wild plants and animals until the ice melted and they could grow plants from seeds • Hunter-gatherers likely brought wild fruit, grains and nuts to their camps and disposed of the seeds which grew to bear the larger and delicious fruits they had picked •
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