Soils are defined as the unconsolidated organic and mineral matter on the surface of the earth that is capable of supporting plants. The upper limit of the soil is air or shallow water, the lower limit is either bedrock or the limit of biological activity. Most of us recognize the importance of soils within the context of food production. However, the use of soils is as varied as the use of land. Webster’s Dictionary describes land as, “ground or soil of a specific situation, nature or quality.”

The soil can be thought of as the land itself and because soils are highly variable, the relative suitability for land use and ability to support plant communities and wildlife can differ greatly. The object of the soils section is to provide the students with an understanding of the concepts of soil variability, suitability, limitations, and behavior as an integral part of ecosystems and the ability to apply this knowledge toward economically sound land management.

Topics covered in the soil section of the Envirothon Guide include (but not limited to):
soil formation, parent material movement of soils from place to place, soils in Massachusetts, climate, horizons, profile development, texture, field methods, soil types, color charts and drainage.


2020-21 Video presentations MA Soils 1    MA Soils 2     MA Soils in the Field

Deerfield Soil Health Project video

Soils Training Powerpoint Presentations:
Soils Overview Part 1
Soils Overview Part 2
Soils Overview Part 3
Redox Reactions
Hydric Soils
UMass Soils Handout
Wheaton Soil Presentation by Glenn Stanisewski

Hydric Soils of New England
R.W. Tiner Jr., and P.L.M. Veneman. 1987 University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension Amherst, MA

Deliniating Bordering Vegetated Wetlands
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Wetlands and Waterways. 1995
Written by Scott Jackson. University of Massachusetts, Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management

Soil Survey Manual
By Soil Survey Staff, Chapter 3: Examination and Description of Soils in the Field – revised 1993 – U.S. Department of Agriculture

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Soil Information for New England

For more information, please contact Maggie Payne State Soil Scientist for Massachusetts and Vermont