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Unearthing Facts About Arizona’s Climate and Impact on Soil

Fascinating Facts About Soil

  • There is a common saying: “We owe our existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact it rains.”
  • Soil is considered the “skin of the earth.” Forming the surface of land, soils are complex mixtures of minerals, water, air, organic matter, and organisms that are the decaying remains of once-living things.
  • Rich Arizona soil
    Rich Arizona soil

    The main particles that make up soil are categorized into three groups by size: sand, silt, and clay.

  • Soils consist of vertical layers referred to as “horizons” that consist of humus or organic matter, topsoil, eluviated (transported) materials into lower horizons, subsoil horizons, parent material, and bedrock.
  • A quarter of a tablespoon of soil, or one gram, can host up to 10 billion bacterial organisms consisting of approximately 10,000 different species. This same amount of soil contains at least one million actinomycetes organisms and one million fungal organisms. Soil is literally alive!
  • Only about 1% of the microorganism species found in soil have been identified.
  • Soil is one of the largest reservoirs of microbial diversity on earth; this includes many single-celled organisms, such as bacteria and archaea, as well as certain fungi.
  • 95% of food production relies on the soil.
  • Soils store more carbon than the atmosphere, and all the world’s plants and forests combined.
  • Earthworms are heroes of soil for aeration and more.
  • Soil serves as a medium for the growth of plant life.
  • Soil modifies the atmosphere by emitting and absorbing gases (carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and the like) and dust.
  • Soil absorbs, holds, releases, alters, and purifies most of the water in underground systems.
  • Soil is a living filter to clean water before it moves into an aquifer.
  • The relative proportions of sand, silt, and clay form the soil texture.

    Alfalfa Harvest
    Sierra Farming Arizona alfalfa harvest

Specific to Arizona

  • Arizona soils are geologically young, fertile, and extremely productive if they are reclaimed and managed from excessive salt and sodium, which is a natural part of desert soils, and sufficient water is provided by irrigation.
  • The State Soil of Arizona is the Casa Grande sandy loam that is commonly found in alluvial areas of Pinal, Pima, and Maricopa Counties.

Arizona’s Climate and Impact on Soil

  • Arizona's higher temperatures are ideal for certain crops like cotton which thrives in the hottest months of an Arizona summer
    Arizona’s higher temperatures are ideal for certain crops like cotton which thrives in the hottest months of an Arizona summer

    Arizona has 300-plus days of sunshine allowing us to extend our growing season.

  • In Arizona, farmers plant and harvest every month of the year.
  • While the Arizona climate let’s us grow year-round, our sun can burn up the soil’s organic matter making farmers’ efforts to incorporate organic matter more challenging but doable.
  • Our higher temperatures are ideal for certain crops, for example, cotton, that gains much of its growth in the hottest months of an Arizona summer.
  • Due to Arizona’s mild winters, Yuma became the Winter Lettuce Bowl Capital of the Nation.

Sources: Dr. Jeff Silvertooth of the University of Arizona and The Soil Science Society of America.


Homeowner Handbook Outdoor Living | #AZClimateAndAgriculture


The Arizona Farm Bureau’s Julie Murphree’s guest is Dr. Jeffrey Silvertooth, University Of Arizona Professor & Extension Specialist in Agronomy/Soil Science.  Arizona’s climate and soil composition gives us a huge advantage in year round crop production. Dr. Silvertooth discusses how pushing for greater efficiency even under climate changes results in high yields and quality crops.

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