Authors

Module(s)

Agriculture

Abstract

Soil, dirt, sediment, what’s the difference? Depending upon whom you ask, you might get a radically different answer. Some sources state that the only difference between them has to do with their location: soil is the unconsolidated material on the ground, dirt is that same matter on your hands or clothes, and sediment is the same material on the bottom of a river or lake. Others define the differences based upon the size and shape of the material grains. For the purposes of this activity, we are going to define things the following ways. Soil is a complex, unconsolidated mixture of inorganic, organic, and living material that is found on the immediate surface of the earth that supports plant life. Dirt is any fine-grained, unconsolidated mixture that comes from the ground. Sediment is granular material that has been eroded by the forces of nature. Thus, soil can be considered dirt, and it can consist of sediments, but dirt and sediments are not necessarily soil. It is this last part of the definition of soil that is so important to us. Without soil, there would be no plant life on the surface of the land. Without plant life, we would not exist. We need it for food. We need it for oxygen. We need it for clothing and shelter. We need it for energy. There is a vital interplay between soil and plants, which makes it vitally important that we understand the fragile nature of soils.