A simple guide for describing soils

Page last updated: Wednesday, 29 June 2022 - 2:15pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

This guide helps users to describe the most important parts of a soil profile and provide an easy way to understand and explain the diversity of our soils. By using this guide, you will be able to describe and record the soils you see with consistent, professional and easily understood terms – in other words, the language of soil.

Using the simple guide for describing soils

This guide can:

  • help people inexperienced with soil to understand and communicate soil information
  • guide and support industry and community to capture soil information in a consistent and standardised manner.

The guide provides step-by-step information on:

  • the basic soil properties to describe
  • how to describe the soil properties
  • the tools to make basic soil classifications.

The nine basic soil properties described in the guide are:

  1. depth of profile or depth to a (perceived) root-limiting layer
  2. identifying and naming soil horizons or layers
  3. texture of each layer, including texture change through the soil profile
  4. coarse fragments
  5. colour
  6. basic chemistry (pH and salinity)
  7. calcareous (lime) layer/s
  8. structure
  9. water regime.

Who is this guide for?

This guide is for anyone wanting to describe soils, and those interested in understanding the basics of soil morphology, characteristics and description. The guide can be a stepping stone to more advanced understanding of soils.

For more advanced standard descriptions and classifications of soil, see the Soil Groups of Western Australia and The Australian Soil Classification (Isbell & National Committee on Soil and Terrain 2016).

For more information

You can download A simple guide for describing soils, email Soil.Data@dpird.wa.gov.au, or use the contact information below.