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Edaphology is one of two main divisions of soil science
Soil science
Soil science is the study of soil as a natural resource on the surface of the earth including soil formation, classification and mapping; physical, chemical, biological, and fertility properties of soils; and these properties in relation to the use and management of soils.Sometimes terms which...

, the other being pedology
Pedology (soil study)
Pedology is the study of soils in their natural environment. It is one of two main branches of soil science, the other being edaphology...

. Edaphology is concerned with the influence of soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

s on living things, particularly plants. The term is also applied to the study of how soil influences man's use of land for plant growth as well as man's overall use of the land. General subfields within edaphology are agricultural soil science
Agricultural soil science
Agricultural soil science is a branch of soil science that deals with the study of edaphic conditions as they relate to the production of food and fiber. In this context, it is also a constituent of the field of agronomy.-History:...

 (known by the term agrology
Agrology is the branch of soil science dealing with the production of crops. The use of the term is most active in Canada. Use of the term outside of Canada is sporadic but significant...

 in some regions) and environmental soil science
Environmental soil science
Environmental soil science is the study of the interaction of humans with the pedosphere as well as critical aspects of the biosphere, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, and the atmosphere...

. (Pedology deals with pedogenesis, soil morphology, and soil classification.)

In Russia, edaphology is considered equivalent to pedology, but is recognized to have an applied sense consistent with agrophysics
Agrophysics is a branch of science bordering on agronomy and physics,whose objects of study are the agroecosystem - the biological objects, biotope and biocoenosis affected by human activity, studied and described using the methods of physical sciences....

 and agrochemistry outside of Russia.


Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

 (431–355 BC), and Cato
Cato the Elder
Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman statesman, commonly referred to as Censorius , Sapiens , Priscus , or Major, Cato the Elder, or Cato the Censor, to distinguish him from his great-grandson, Cato the Younger.He came of an ancient Plebeian family who all were noted for some...

 (234–149 BC), were early edaphologists. Xenophon noted the beneficial effect of turning a cover crop into the earth. Cato wrote De Agri Cultura
De Agri Cultura
De Agri Cultura , written by Cato the Elder, is the oldest surviving work of Latin prose. Alexander Hugh McDonald, in his article for the Oxford Classical Dictionary, dated this essay's composition to about 160 BC and noted that "for all of its lack of form, its details of old custom and...

 ("On Farming") which recommended tillage
Tillage is the agricultural preparation of the soil by mechanical agitation of various types, such as digging, stirring, and overturning. Examples of human-powered tilling methods using hand tools include shovelling, picking, mattock work, hoeing, and raking...

, crop rotation
Crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

 and the use of legumes in the rotation to build soil nitrogen. He also devised the first soil capability classification
Land use capability map
Land use capability maps are maps created to represent the potential uses of a "unit" of land. They are measured using various indicators, although the most common are five physical factors...

 for specific crops.

Jan Baptist van Helmont
Jan Baptist van Helmont
Jan Baptist van Helmont was an early modern period Flemish chemist, physiologist, and physician. He worked during the years just after Paracelsus and iatrochemistry, and is sometimes considered to be "the founder of pneumatic chemistry"...

 (1577–1644) performed a famous experiment, growing a willow tree in a pot of soil and supplying only rainwater for five years. The weight gained by the tree was greater than the weight loss of the soil. He concluded that the willow was made of water. Although only partly correct, his experiment reignited interest in edaphology.

Agricultural soil science

Agricultural soil science is the application of soil chemistry, physics, and biology dealing with the production of crops. In terms of soil chemistry
Soil chemistry
Soil chemistry is the study of the chemical characteristics of soil. Soil chemistry is affected by mineral composition, organic matter and environmental factors.-History:...

, it places particular emphasis on plant nutrients
Plant nutrition
'Plant Nutrition is the study of the chemical elements that are necessary for growth. In 1972, E. Epstein defined 2 criteria for an element to be essential for plant growth:# in its absence the plant is unable to complete a normal life cycle or...

 of importance to farming and horticulture
Horticulture is the industry and science of plant cultivation including the process of preparing soil for the planting of seeds, tubers, or cuttings. Horticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of plant propagation and cultivation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic...

, especially with regard to soil fertility and fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...


Physical edaphology
Soil physics
Soil physics is the study of soil physical properties and processes. It is applied to management and prediction under natural and managed ecosystems. Soil physics deals with the dynamics of physical soil components and their phases as solids, liquids, and gases. It draws on the principles of...

 is strongly associated with crop irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

 and drainage
Drainage is the natural or artificial removal of surface and sub-surface water from an area. Many agricultural soils need drainage to improve production or to manage water supplies.-Early history:...


Soil husbandry is a strong tradition within agricultural soil science. Beyond preventing soil erosion and degradation in cropland, soil husbandry seeks to sustain the agricultural soil resource though the use of soil conditioner
Soil conditioner
A soil conditioner, also called a soil amendment, is a material added to soil to improve plant growth and health. A conditioner or a combination of conditioners corrects the soil's deficiencies in structure and-or nutrients.-Purpose:...

s and cover crop
Cover crop
Cover crops are crops planted primarily to manage soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife in agroecosystems , ecological systems managed and largely shaped by humans across a range of intensities to produce food, feed, or fiber.Cover crops are of...


Environmental soil science

Environmental soil science studies our interaction with the pedosphere
The pedosphere is the outermost layer of the Earth that is composed of soil and subject to soil formation processes. It exists at the interface of the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. The sum total of all the organisms, soils, water and air is termed as the "pedosphere"...

 on beyond crop production. Fundamental and applied aspects the field address vadose zone
Vadose zone
The vadose zone, also termed the unsaturated zone, is the portion of Earth between the land surface and the top of the phreatic zone i.e. the position at which the groundwater is at atmospheric pressure . Hence the vadose zone extends from the top of the ground surface to the water table...

 functions, septic drain field
Septic drain field
Septic drain fields, also called leach fields or leach drains are used to remove contaminants and impurities from the liquid that emerges from the septic tank. A septic tank, the septic drain field, and the associated piping compose a complete septic system. The septic drain field is effective for...

 site assessment and function, land treatment of wastewater
Wastewater is any water that has been adversely affected in quality by anthropogenic influence. It comprises liquid waste discharged by domestic residences, commercial properties, industry, and/or agriculture and can encompass a wide range of potential contaminants and concentrations...

, stormwater
Stormwater is water that originates during precipitation events. It may also be used to apply to water that originates with snowmelt that enters the stormwater system...

, erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

 control, soil contamination
Soil contamination
Soil contamination or soil pollution is caused by the presence of xenobiotic chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment....

 with metals and pesticides, remediation of contaminated soils, restoration of wetlands, soil degradation, and environmental nutrient management
Nutrient management
Nutrient management is a system used by farmers to manage the amount, form, placement, and timing of the application of nutrients to plants...

. It also studies soil in the context of land use
Land use
Land use is the human use of land. Land use involves the management and modification of natural environment or wilderness into built environment such as fields, pastures, and settlements. It has also been defined as "the arrangements, activities and inputs people undertake in a certain land cover...

 planning, global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

, and acid rain
Acid rain
Acid rain is a rain or any other form of precipitation that is unusually acidic, meaning that it possesses elevated levels of hydrogen ions . It can have harmful effects on plants, aquatic animals, and infrastructure. Acid rain is caused by emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen...