The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Improving Lives, Communities and the Economy

CSI: Investigating Your Soil

CSI: Investigating Your Soil

You arrive at the scene and take it all in. Broken branches, wilted leaves and sap is everywhere. What happened? Looking the plant over there are no obvious symptoms of disease and no signs of pests under the limp leaves. Could the cause be underground? Maybe it’s time to investigate the soil.

Soil provides plants with many things necessary for healthy growth. Root systems expand into the surrounding soil anchoring the plant, while the tiny root hairs concentrated at the growing tips absorb water and essential elements. Loose crumbly soil allows air, water and roots to move easily. Soil microorganisms are important partners in creating the channels and pore spaces of loose healthy soil. When pore spaces fill with water, essential elements like nitrogen change to ions which can then be absorbed by roots. Sometimes soil can become toxic to plants especially when elements or chemicals are concentrated. Over fertilization, herbicide drift or a well-meaning weed control method of salt water can be harmful to plants. Investigating the feel and look of soil is not always enough, a soil test may be required.

See the attached links below to the follow resources to help investigate and learn more about soil:
University of Arizona Publications:
United States Department of Agriculture: