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Laboratory Manual for Introductory Soils

Author(s): Ray R Weil

Edition: 9

Copyright: 2014

Pages: 218

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The exercises in this manual are designed to encourage the quantitative investigation of soil properties, as well as to give you a "feel" for what soils are and how they behave.  You will have opportunities to see, touch and manipulate soil in the lab and in the field.  This should help you develop a more in-depth understanding of the soil system than could be conveyed by lectures and readings alone. Some of these exercises are really demonstrations of important soil science concepts.  Experimental conditions are set up to study the effect of various factors on certain soil properties.  It is hoped that "seeing is believing" and that these exercises will reinforce principles learned in lecture.

A unifying thread throughout the lab manual is the repeated use of your own soil which you should sample carefully and thoughtfully at the start of the course. By the end of the course you will have built up a substantial body of information about the soil you sampled. The lab work will therefore be most meaningful to you if you make an effort in the beginning to obtain your soil sample from a place with which you interact and in which you have a real interest - e.g. your home garden, your uncle's farm, your research site, or your parent's back yard. Wherever it's from, be sure that you sample a natural, mineral soil - not an artificial soil mix.

Another feature that will help your lab experience have meaning is the "Comments" column that is adjacent to the "Procedural step" in each exercise. This format is intended to explain the "why" of what you are doing, as you are doing it. In their haste to complete a lab activity, students often fall into the trap of carrying out the procedural steps in cookbook fashion without stopping to consider why they are doing each step and what it means. You will be amazed at how much more meaningful each exercise can become if you constantly ask yourself (or better, yet, ask your lab partner) why am I doing this step and what does it mean?

            In addition, many of the techniques and approaches employed throughout these exercises will introduce you to some of the basics of scientific instrumentation and the scientific method of investigation.  The skills you will learn include: Acquisition and use of online soil survey information; performance of chemical titrations; use and calibration of electronic measuring instruments, e.g. pH meter and spectrophotometer; creation and use of standard curves; ability to estimate soil texture by "feel"; recognition and description of soil properties in the field.  Enjoy!

Acknowledgments
Preface
About the author
General Objectives of this study of Soil Science
Soil Science Lab Safety Guideline
Suggested Schedule of Laboratory Exercises
Exercises
1 Chemical Weathering of Plant Nutrients in Rocks and Minerals
2 Parent Materials For Soils: Rock and Minerals
3 Some Field Skills: Texture “By Feel” and Color by Munsell Charts
4 Using a Pit to Study the Soil Profile
5 Use of Soil Survey Information in Land Planning
6 Getting to Know a Catena in the Field
7 Soil Texture: Mechanical Analysis of Particle Size
8 Soil Density, Porosity and Structural Stability
9 Investigating Capillary Rise
10 Effect of Soil Composition on Percolation and Retention of Water
11 Using a Tensiometer to Monitor Soil Moisture Status
12 Effect of Cations on Flocculation
13 Cation Exchange Properties of Soils
14 Soil Acidity (pH)
15 Microbial Activity Related to Decomposition and Nitrogen Transformation
16 Buried Slide for Observation of Soil Microorganisms
17 Determination of Soil Organic Matter Content
18 Active Fraction Carbon and Soil Health
19 Movement of Phosphorus and Nitrogen in Soils
20 Test for Plant-Available Phosphorus in Soil


Appendices
A Obtaining a Representative Soil Sample for Analysis
B Water Needed to Bring Soil to 60% Saturation for Aerobic Incubations
C Guide to Estimation of Available Water Holding Capacity Based on Soil Texture
D Determination of Soil Moisture Content
E Using Moles and Equivalents
F Using a Spectrophotometer
G Soil Characterization Project

Ray R Weil

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ISBN 9781524933197

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