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Soil is natural body on the earth's surface that is characterized by horizons or layers, and the ability to support rooted plants in a natural environment.

Welcome to the Soils and Land Use section of the West Virginia Envirothon. Soils play five key roles in any ecosystem. First, soil supports the growth of higher plants by providing a medium for plant roots and supplying essential nutrients. Second, soils control the fate of water in the hydrologic system. Soil properties affect water loss, utilization, contamination, and purification. Third, soils function as nature's recycling system. Waste products from plants, animals, and humans are assimilated into the soil, and their basic elements are made available for reuse by the next generation. Fourth, soils provide habitats for a myriad of living organisms from microscopic cells to tiny insects to small mammals to reptiles. Fifth, soil plays an important role as an engineering medium. Soil provides the foundation for virtually every road, airport, and house or other structure built by humans. Soil also is used as a building material in terms of earth fill and bricks.

The following topics provide information regarding the learning objectives of this section as well as summaries of topics that will be included on the examination. The examination will be divided into three parts. The first part will include questions regarding the soil pit and the landscape at the site of the examination. Students will be expected to answer these questions by observing a soil profile and the surrounding landscape. The second part of the examination will include questions regarding general knowledge about soil science from the information presented for each topic summarized below, which may be geared towards soils questions pertaining to the fith topic.

Learning Objectives
  1. To recognize soil as an important natural resource and to understand its place in the ecosystem.

  2. To be able to describe the general processes of soil formation, including factors of soil formation and general processes of soil horizon formation.

  3. To understand the properties of master and subordinate horizons.

  4. To be able to understand and identify the different types of soil parent materials.

  5. To be able to describe basic properties of a soil profile and the landscape, including texture class, structure, permeability, color, landscape position, slope gradient, thickness of horizons, and soil drainage class.

  6. To understand soil drainage classes and their relationships to hydric soils and wetlands.

  7. To understand the concepts of Prime Farmland and the Land Use Capability System.

  8. To understand the concept of soil health and to be able to list indicators of soil health.

  9. To be able to use soil survey reports to find key information regarding soil properties and land-use interpretations.

  10. To be able to identify the West Virginia State Soil.
Getting Started!
Soil maps, soil properties, and soil interpretations are available Nationwide at:http://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/HomePage.htm. A click by click description of how to access infomration from this web site is available under the subheading "Soil Survey".

The idea is to find soil maps and identify the soil types in the general area where the Envirothon is located. You can also access tables, and thematic maps,(colored interpretation maps), which list soil properties, and soil interpretations for specific uses. Many test questions will lean towards 5th topic themes.

Additional Resources
The following references are listed as additional sources of information:

Soil Texture Flow Chart (PDF)

Common Soil Horizons and Soil Horizon Suffixes

Understanding the Soil Map Unit and MUD

From the Surface Down Document: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/sites/default/files/2022-11/from-the-surface-down.pdf

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/soils/health/ Click on Learning Resources under the "dig a little - LEARN A LOT" image on the sidebar.

USCOE Wetland Delineation Manual

Available Water Capacity

Comparing Landform and Soil Properties


https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/sites/default/files/2022-10/AgHandbook296_text_low-res.pdf   This year's WV contest is in MLRA 147 (starts on p. 497), Northern Appalachian Ridges and Valleys. (Sorry, it's a large file.)

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