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How are Soils Different from Each Other?

In this worksheet, students will look at the main differences that can occur in soils, and what causes them.

'How are Soils Different from Each Other?' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:   Chemistry: Earth and Atmosphere

Curriculum subtopic:   Rock Cycle and Formation

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

  cactus in a desert landscape, northern argentina. - stock photo 

 

When you think of a cactus where do you imagine it growing? In the desert, right? Or at least somewhere dry and warm, unlike the United Kingdom!

 

So, why is it that certain plants will only grow in certain places? What is it about the soils that is so good for some plants yet so bad for another? There are many things that can affect plant growth and here are just a few.  You can also have a think about the questions in orange before you start the activity.

 

Moisture Levels   Large childlike cartoon character: little girl with a big smile holding an umbrella and playing in the rain by stepping into a puddle with her rubber boots. - stock photo

The amount of rainfall in a given environment can differ greatly, with some soils receiving a vast water supply and other soils receiving very little. This can have a huge impact on the diversity of plants found in that ecosystem.

Iris and papyrus are just two examples of plants that thrive in wet flooded soil, yet cannot withstand drought conditions.

Can you find out the names of any plants that grow in areas of low moisture?


 

Pollution Levels   Illustration of Industrial Wastes resulting to Water Pollution - stock vector

The pollution of soil is becoming more and more of a problem, with polluted water draining into streams, rivers, riverbanks and the soil itself.  Many plants have managed to adapt to survive in polluted soil; however, there are still many plants that cannot.  

What kind of plants do you think might grow in polluted soil? 


 

Soil pH   Testing soil pH

The pH of soil is extremely important. Farmers looking to grow different vegetables need to keep a close eye on the pH of their soils, as even the slightest change could destroy a whole crop. 

Acidic Soil -  Most vegetables prefer slightly acidic soil. A pH of around 5.5 - 6.5 is the prime pH for the growth of carrots, potatoes and peas etc... 

Most vegetable crops are unable to grow below pH 5.  Farmers often add lime to the soil to bring the pH back up closer to neutral.  

Alkaline Soil - Many herbs prefer soil that is slightly alkaline, with parsley growing well at pH 7.5 - 8.    

Again, crops will not grow well in soil that is too alkaline (i.e. pH >8).   

What could farmers do to the soil if it was too alkaline? 


So how can the pH of soil change?

There are many reasons why soil may become acidic or alkaline such as rainfall, the decay of organic materials and the harvesting of crops.

 

Use this activity to find out more about soils and how important they are to life on our planet.

Which of the following will have an affect on plant growth in a specific type of soil?

 

Tick four boxes.

moisture levels

sea levels

colour of soil

acidity of soil

alkalinity of soil

pollution levels

Farmers often add lime to soil in order to alter its pH.

 

Is lime acidic or alkaline?

acidic

alkaline

Four soil samples were taken from different areas and their pH was tested.  Here are the results:

 

Area Soil pH
A 5.6
B 9.3
C 4.0
D 7.5

 

Which area has the best conditions for growing herbs such as parsley which grow best in slightly alkaline soils?

A

B

C

D

Four soil samples were taken from different areas and their pH was tested.  Here are the results again:

 

Area Soil pH
A 5.6
B 9.3
C 4.0
D 7.5

 

Which area has the best conditions for growing potatoes, which prefer slightly acidic soils in order to grow well?

A

B

C

D

Four soil samples were taken from different areas and their pH was tested.  

 

Area Soil pH
A 5.6
B 9.3
C 4.0
D 7.5

 

In which areas would a farmer consider adding lime? Tick two boxes.

A

B

C

D

Three students are investigating the pH of a dry brown soil sample using different methods.

 

Student A adds universal indicator to the sample and compares the colour to a pH colour chart.

Student B mixes the dry sample with some water, filters out the soil and tests the clear liquid with universal indicator, comparing the colour to a pH colour chart.

Student C sits a piece of pH paper on top of the dry sample and waits for it to change colour.   

 

Which of the above do you think would be the best scientific method of testing the pH of soil?

Student A

Student B

Student C

Is the following statement true or false?

 

Acidic soil is only produced due to acid rain.

true

false

  • Question 1

Which of the following will have an affect on plant growth in a specific type of soil?

 

Tick four boxes.

CORRECT ANSWER
moisture levels
acidity of soil
alkalinity of soil
pollution levels
EDDIE SAYS
The things that will affect plant growth the most are moisture and pollution levels, as well as the pH of the soil (acidity or alkalinity), and plants will have to adapt to different levels in order to grow successfully.
  • Question 2

Farmers often add lime to soil in order to alter its pH.

 

Is lime acidic or alkaline?

CORRECT ANSWER
alkaline
EDDIE SAYS
Lime (which, chemically, is calcium hydroxide) is used to neutralise soil that is too acidic, therefore is must be alkaline. You will learn that oxides and hydroxides of metals are usually alkaline. There - chemistry can be useful!
  • Question 3

Four soil samples were taken from different areas and their pH was tested.  Here are the results:

 

Area Soil pH
A 5.6
B 9.3
C 4.0
D 7.5

 

Which area has the best conditions for growing herbs such as parsley which grow best in slightly alkaline soils?

CORRECT ANSWER
D
EDDIE SAYS
Herbs grow best in neutral to slightly alkaline soil, so D is best at pH7.5, which is just the alkaline side of neutral.
  • Question 4

Four soil samples were taken from different areas and their pH was tested.  Here are the results again:

 

Area Soil pH
A 5.6
B 9.3
C 4.0
D 7.5

 

Which area has the best conditions for growing potatoes, which prefer slightly acidic soils in order to grow well?

CORRECT ANSWER
A
EDDIE SAYS
Vegetables such as potatoes grow well in slightly acidic conditions, so A is best as pH5.6 is slightly acidic whereas pH4.0 is getting on for vinegar-level acidity (where acid rain makes soils this acidic, trees die and ponds are lifeless).
  • Question 5

Four soil samples were taken from different areas and their pH was tested.  

 

Area Soil pH
A 5.6
B 9.3
C 4.0
D 7.5

 

In which areas would a farmer consider adding lime? Tick two boxes.

CORRECT ANSWER
A
C
EDDIE SAYS
Lime is used by farmers to increase the pH of soil, making it more neutral. Soils A & D are acidic and, depending on what the farmer was intending to grow, these might need to have their pHs raised by adding an alkali such as lime.
  • Question 6

Three students are investigating the pH of a dry brown soil sample using different methods.

 

Student A adds universal indicator to the sample and compares the colour to a pH colour chart.

Student B mixes the dry sample with some water, filters out the soil and tests the clear liquid with universal indicator, comparing the colour to a pH colour chart.

Student C sits a piece of pH paper on top of the dry sample and waits for it to change colour.   

 

Which of the above do you think would be the best scientific method of testing the pH of soil?

CORRECT ANSWER
Student B
EDDIE SAYS
As the soil itself is brown in colour it cannot simply be tested using universal indicator, as an accurate colour change will not be visible, which means that A will not work.
In C, the pH paper could not be used as the sample is dry. The indicator only works in solution. As student B added water to the soil sample and filtered the soluble substances out, ready to test, they will get a reasonable result.
  • Question 7

Is the following statement true or false?

 

Acidic soil is only produced due to acid rain.

CORRECT ANSWER
false
EDDIE SAYS
There are many things that can cause a change in soil pH. Acidic rainfall is one but it could also be caused by harvesting crops and decaying organic material.
---- OR ----

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