By James Tababa
Soil texture is the proportion of sand, silt, and clay in soil. It is important to determine soil texture because it gives the farmer crucial information like a soil’s water retention and aeration capabilities, which is useful in determining the crops to plant. Specific soil texture makes it easier to grow certain plants.
Laboratory soil testing takes time and money. That is why it is more practical to determine the soil texture by conducting the feel and ribbon method. It is easy and quick to do.
The feel and ribbon method
First, take a handful of soil and break it up in your hand. Add water, and knead the mixture into a ball. The mixture should have the consistency of putty. Make a ribbon by pressing the ball of soil between your thumb and forefinger. Take note of how long you can make the ribbon before it breaks.
Soils high in sand feel gritty and poorly form a ribbon if it is high in clay. Soils high in silt feel smooth or floury. Depending on the clay content, they may also form a short ribbon of varying lengths. Soils high in clay can be rolled out into very thin ribbons.
After that, take a pinch of soil from your texture ball. Place it in the palm of your hand and add water. Rub the soil and make a muddy puddle in your palm. Determine the level of grittiness.
Feel the amount of grittiness of sand, the smoothness of silt, and the stickiness of clay. Sand gives a grinding sound when held close to the ear. Grittiness indicates sandy soil. Silt is smooth and velvety. Clay is sticky.
Sand or loamy sand. When dry, it is loose, single-grained, gritty, and forms no or very weak clods; When moist, it is gritty, forms easily crumbled balls, and does not ribbon; When wet, it lacks stickiness but may show faint clay stains when it is loamy sand. Individual grains can be both seen and felt under all moisture conditions.
Sandy loam. When dry, the clods break easily. When moist, it is moderately gritty to gritty, it forms balls when carefully handled, and it forms ribbons very poorly. When wet, it stains fingers with clay particles. It may have faint smoothness or stickiness, but grittiness dominates. Individual grains can be seen and felt under nearly all conditions.
Loam. It is the most difficult texture to place since the characteristics of sand, silt, and clay are all present, but none predominates. When dry, the clods are slightly difficult to break and somewhat gritty. When moist, it forms a firm ball, ribbons poorly, and may show poor fingerprint marks. When wet, it is gritty, smooth, and sticky all at the same time, and it stains the fingers.Silt or silt loam. When dry, it clods moderately difficult to break and ruptures suddenly to a floury powder that clings to fingers and shows fingerprint marks. When moist, it has a smooth, slick, velvety, or buttery feel, forms a firm ball, may ribbon slightly before breaking, and shows good fingerprint marks. When wet, it is smooth with some stickiness from the clay and stains fingers. The grittiness of sand is well masked by other separates.
Sandy clay loam. When dry, the clods break with some difficulty. When moist, it forms a firm ball that is moderately hard upon drying, forms ½ inch ribbons that hardly sustain its weight, and may show poor to good fingerprint marks. When wet, sand’s grittiness and clay’s stickiness are about equal, masking the smoothness of silt and stains the fingers.Clay loam. When dry, the clods break with difficulty. When moist, it forms a firm ball that is fairly hard upon drying, and it forms ribbons fairly well, but the ribbons barely support its weight and show a fair to good fingerprint marks. When wet, it is moderately sticky, with stickiness dominating the grittiness and smoothness, and it stains the fingers.
Silty clay loam. It resembles silt loam but with more stickiness of clay. When dry, the clods break with difficulty. When moist, it shows good fingerprint marks, forms a firm ball, and ribbons to ½ inch that can be fairly thin. When wet, it stains the fingers and has a sticky-smooth feel with a bit of grittiness of sand.
Sandy clay. When dry, often cloddy; clods are broken only with extreme pressure. When moist, it forms a very firm ball, shows fingerprint marks, and squeezes to a thin, long, fairly gritty ribbon. When wet, it stains the fingers, clouds the water, and is fairly sticky and plastic but has some grittiness present.
Silty clay. When dry, it is similar to sandy clay. When moist, it forms a very firm ball, becomes fairly hard upon drying, shows fingerprint marks, and squeezes out to a thin, long, smooth ribbon. When wet, it stains the fingers, clouds water, the stickiness dominates over smoothness, and the grittiness is virtually absent.Clay. When dry, it is cloddy, and the clods often cannot be broken even with extreme pressure. When moist, it forms a firm, easily molded ball that is very hard upon drying, and squeezes out to a very thin ribbon 2 to 3 inches long. When wet, it stains the fingers, clouds the water, is usually very sticky with stickiness, masking both smoothness and grittiness, and wets slowly.
The feel and ribbon method is an easy way to determine the soil texture. Using this method, farmers can determine the physical properties of their soil and help them decide what to plant. With enough practice, the feel and ribbon can give an accurate result.