The main purpose of this publication is to teach students and others how to recognize important soil and landscape properties and to consider these properties in deciding how to use soils without harming them. It represents an extensive revision of Understanding and Judging Indiana Soils (ID-72), last printed in 1996. This book will serve as a text for high school soils courses and as a manual for soil evaluation career development events (soil judging contests) which stimulate learning about soils in the field. Contests, organized through FFA and 4-H programs, have helped many young people learn about soils since the first one in Indiana was held in Wayne County in 1949. The book also will help those who live in houses not served by sewers understand how their onsite wastewater disposal system works and how to take care of it.

Chapter I, Soil Formation, explains how soils relate to their environment and how they form. The main change in Chapter II, Soil and Landscape Properties, is the introduction of soil parent material as a property to be determined in the field. Previously, several kinds of parent material had to be recognized to identify certain landforms and limiting layers, but no guidelines were given to identify the materials. Identifying them more specifically using the guidelines presented will help soil evaluators determine limiting layers and landforms. Also, the land use is noted on the scorecard because it is a factor considered when determining whether wet soils should be preserved as wetlands or drained for farming.

Chapter III has a new title, Soils, Agriculture, and Environment, to show that the chapter is much more concerned with the environment than were previous editions of the manual. It presents the potentials for soil erosion by wind and water, for soil compaction, and for water pollution; emphasizes conservation buffers; recognizes the importance of preserving wetlands; and acknowledges that soils can have fertility levels that are too high as well as too low.

Chapter IV, Soils and Homesites, deals with soil and landscape properties that are important to consider when building a house, especially in a location not served by a sewer system. It presents several methods of onsite wastewater disposal that are currently little used in Indiana but have potential for more extensive use. We expect that readers will be seeing more of these systems in the future.

Chapter V, Soil Evaluation Contests and Resources, provides guidelines for conducting contests and how to obtain resources for studying soils. Chapter VI, Soil Erosion and Compaction, provides greater detail about soil erosion and compaction processes. It explains the details about how soil properties were used to write the rules for various practices mentioned in Chapter III.

The Glossary, Chapter VII, is greatly expanded and will help readers understand the terminology of soil science, soil management, and use of soils to absorb wastewater. An Index has also been added to this edition.

We appreciate the help of many people in preparing this publication. Lou Jones, Department of Agronomy, drew many of the figures. Cathy Myers, Education Coordinator, Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District, reviewed an earlier version and suggested revisions to help make it more readable for students. She also wrote much of the Glossary. Several high school teachers and soil scientists provided suggestions after using previous versions in clinics and contests last year. Other contributions are acknowledged at the end of several chapters.

Questions about Indiana soils and their use should be addressed to any of the authors, Department of Agronomy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907.

The authors:
Donald P. Franzmeier

Gary C. Steinhardt
(765) 494-8063

Brad D. Lee

September 2009

Contact Information

Gary C. Steinhardt
(765) 494-8063

Purdue University
Purdue Agronomy