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Soil Textural Triangle

Soil Textural Triangle diagramThe simplified soil textural triangle devised by University of Alberta soil scientist John Toogood is based on three basic mineral components of soil: silt, sand and clay. Other descriptions of soil characteristics; chernozem, and podzolic, for example, are based on a soil’s organic components and other characteristics.

Under the soil textural triangle classification, each of the three textural components is plotted along one side of a triangle, with their percentage in the soil ranging from zero to 100 percent.

Detailed description of any soil using the textural triangle is done by analyzing the smallest mineral particles in a particular soil sample area. Under this system, a soil with no clay or sand particles would be classified as silt (or loam), while a soil with no sand or silt is clay, and a soil with no silt or clay is sand. However, since many soils, even those sampled from various plots in the same region, contain a mixture of those three basic mineral particles, they have to be described in combinations as sandy clay loam, clay loam, etc. Clay loam, for example, is described as "soil material that contains 27 to 40 percent clay and 20 to 45 percent sand," in the Canadian Soil Information System.

The soil textural triangle has important applications in agribusiness. The mixture of these three basic mineral components can be an indicator of a soil’s permeability, as well as its suitability for certain crops. Heavy clay soils may not be suitable for crops which need to establish deep root systems, while crops which have shallow root systems may not grow well in light sandy soils.

Key agricultural resources like fertilizers and herbicides have to be tested against their ability to easily permeate the soil, and analysis based on the textural triangle can help agribusiness companies adapt their products to different market areas. The soil textural triangle also has important applications for soil conservation and farming practices; sandy soils tend to be more vulnerable to wind erosion, and agricultural techniques, especially tilling and preserving cover, have to incorporate that information.

Understanding Nutrient Cycling in Soils

The Heritage Community Foundation is pleased to present this feature article, courtesy of Alberta Ingenuity.

While Dr. John Toogood’s research led to a better understanding of soil permeability, the research of another soil researcher at the University of Alberta, Dr. Lucero Mariani, is leading to a greater understanding of how animal mnure breaks down and provides nutrients for the soil Read more about Dr. Mariani’s work by clicking on the link to the Alberta Ingenuity website. Read

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