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What is soil?

There may be as many definitions of soil as there are people with an opinion about it. The following goes beyond the purely physical to a more functional understanding of soils.

Soil is a living, dynamic resource that supports plant life. It is made up of different size mineral particles (sand, silt, and clay), organic matter, and numerous species of living organisms. Soil has biological, chemical, and physical properties that are always changing. (from National Soil Survey Center et al.)

Dirt is often called soil out of place, but dirt does not have the ability to support plants, or the intricate interplay of biology and physio-chemistry that makes soil unique.

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Publications

Publication Number: p2822
Publication Number: IS0873
Publication Number: P1466

News

Filed Under: Soils, Soil Testing May 25, 2017

New manager of operations Keri Jones recently joined the Mississippi State University Extension Service Soil Testing Laboratory, and she's ready to enhance the unit's efficiency."

"My primary goal is to provide accurate soil analysis in a timely manner," said Jones, an Extension associate who has worked in the MSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences since 2016. "I hope to improve the overall efficiency of the lab as well as update soil nutrient application recommendations."

Eddie Stevens, farm supervisor at Mississippi State University’s R. R. Foil Plant Science Research Center in Starkville, was applying a liquid fertilizer to a corn field on April 5, 2016. Correct application of nutrients is a key part of environmental stewardship and efficient farm management. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: Soils April 13, 2016

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- One major cost of producing a good crop is ensuring plants are fertilized well, an operational expense that may consume a significant part of farm budgets.

Bryon Parman, an agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said nutrient application and replenishment may consume more than 13 and 14 percent of total operating expenses for cotton and soybeans.

“For crops with high nutrient demand such as corn, this nutrient cost may comprise more than 40 percent of variable costs,” Parman said.

Larry Oldham, Mississippi State University soil specialist, samples soil in a Delta field on Oct. 17, 2014. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kat Lawrence)
Filed Under: Crops, Soils, Soil Health May 21, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi farmers should not take the state’s rich soil for granted, but the question of the best way to treat this valuable resource sparks debate.

“Soil can be thought of as a living organism that must be kept healthy to provide some of the crop requirements and make efficient use of inputs, especially fertilizer,” said Larry Oldham, soil specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Poor weather conditions often stretch out Mississippi's row crop planting season as overly wet or cool fields keep planters in the barn. (File Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Scott Corey)
Filed Under: Farming, Crops, Soils April 17, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Seeing planters in the field is an expected part of spring in rural areas, but a lot of effort goes into making sure they run at the right time.

Planting season in Mississippi begins with corn in late February to early March and often runs into July as the last of the soybeans are planted after wheat harvest. The long planting window allows producers the opportunity to get a crop in the ground even when the weather is not ideal at typical peak planting times.

More than 50 junior high and high school students across the state participated in the Mississippi FFA/4-H State Land Judging Contest March 24, 2015. The competition was held at the Mississippi State University Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Newton, Miss. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: Soils, Soil Health March 27, 2015

NEWTON, Miss. -- More than 50 junior high and high school students gathered inside a freshly dug pit at the Mississippi State University Coastal Plain Branch Experiment Station as part of an educational competition to teach them the roles that soil plays in farming and construction.

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RICE PRODUCTION SOIL FERTILITY AND NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT FOR RICE,SOYBEAN AND CORN
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Soil Health, Soil Fertility, Nutrient Management, Soil Conservation and Management, Certified Crop A