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Soil Horizons

• O Horizon

– The top, organic layer of soil, made up mostly of leaf

litter and humus (decomposed organic matter).

– O horizons are subdivided according to the degree of

organic material decomposition. These horizons are
not common and are mostly restricted to moist or cool

– Not always present!

Soil Horizons
• A Horizon

– The layer called topsoil; it is found below the O

horizon and above the E horizon. Seeds germinate
and plant roots grow in this dark-colored layer..

– Consists of one or more surface mineral horizons with

some accumulation of organic materials (less than O
horizons). A horizons are usually darker than
underlying horizons but they may also be horizons
that are lighter colored or have a lower content of clay
when compared to underlying horizons.
Soil Horizons
• E Horizon (aka A2)

– This eluviation (leaching) layer is light in color; this

layer is beneath the A Horizon and above the B
Horizon. It is made up mostly of sand and silt, having
lost most of its minerals and clay as water drips
through the soil (in the process of eluviation).

– The A2, has less organic matter, sesquioxides or clay

than the horizons above or below. It is a pale horizon,
and various degrees of bleaching are recognized with
white or near white layers being referred to as
sporadically or conspicuously bleached depending on
its extent.

– Not always present!

Soil Horizons
• B Horizon
– Also called the subsoil - this layer is beneath the E
Horizon and above the C Horizon. It contains clay and
mineral deposits (like iron, aluminum oxides, and calcium
carbonate) that it receives from layers above it when
mineralized water drips from the soil above.

• They have one or more of the following:

– concentration of clay, iron, aluminum or organic material;
– a structure or consistence unlike the A horizon above
and different to the horizons below; or
– stronger colors than the horizons above or below.
– The B1 horizon is a transitional layer between the A and
B horizons but it is more like the B horizon. Similarly, a
B3 horizon is a transitional layer to the underlying
Soil Horizons
• C Horizon

– Also called regolith: the layer beneath the B

Horizon and above the R Horizon. It consists
of slightly broken-up bedrock. Plant roots do
not penetrate into this layer; very little organic
material is found in this layer.
Soil Horizons
• R Horizon

– The un-weathered rock (bedrock) layer that is

beneath all the other layers.
Determining Horizons
• Notice 3 things within a soil pit
– Color change
– Texture change
– Structure change
Illinois Soils
Drummer Tama
Flanagan Bluford
Stronghurst Traer
Hoyleton Bloomfield
Muscatine Ava
Fayette Sable