The ground you walk over sets the stage for the food chain that feeds us all. That ground is teaming with millions of tiny microbes that help increase energy and soil fertility. It is one of the four elements we cannot live without – soil is essential for life. There are tens of thousands of different soils on every continent.
Without soils, life on earth as we know it would not exist. The condition of soil ecosystems affects carbon sequestration, the quantity and quality of fresh water, the productivity and nutritional value of plants growing in soil, the impacts of invasive organisms, the health of bays and estuaries, and the availability of new medicines for human health.
We base the condition of soil ecosystems off the soil profile. Describing a soil involves understanding of physical, chemical, and biological components. It also involves an artistic eye to identify color. A book of standard color chips is used to classify the color of soil. These chips are comparable to those at a paint store but follow the Munsell System of Color Notation, which has been used for more than 55 years for color classification.
In Illinois, most of our soils are a fine-silty, mixed, super active, mesic Typic Endoaquoll, also known as Drummer soils. The Drummer soil series was established in Ford County, Illinois, in 1929 and are the most extensive soils in the state covering over 1.5 million acres, according to the NRCS. It was named for Drummer Creek in Drummer Township. It consists of very deep, poorly drained soils that formed in 40-60 inches of loess or other silty material and in the underlying stratified, loamy glacial drift. These soils formed under prairie vegetation.
Today, drummer soils sustain the life required to grow corn and soybeans which in turn feeds the world.
As Aldo Leopold once said, “Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.”
Not from Illinois? Find your state’s soil here.