Description of Soils


Soil is one of the more important components of the natural environment. Its quality has a very big influence on the development and geographical distribution of civilization. Poland is one of few countries which have prepared a detailed spatial plan of their soils. We possess a full inventory of soil values and detailed maps of soil-nature and soil-agriculture.

 Apart from the cartographic compilations we also have registries that contain information about the quantitative and qualitative state of the soil cover in the scale of the whole country, as well as smaller administrative units (voivodship, community, village). Studies of soil conditions and the changes of their properties are done systematically.The average quality of Polish soil is fairly low. Only about 23% of ploughland soils can be considered good or very good (classes IñIIIb), while the poorest soils (classes VñVI) cover over 30% of Polish ploughland. Even more unfavourable is the arrangement of the soil quality classes of grassland where soils in classes IñIII cover only about 15%, IV class ñ 38%, while classes VñVI as much as 47% of the total surface of grassland. Over 65% of forests grow on poor sandy forest habitats (MAP illustrating the quality of Polish farmland).

 The value and usefulness of soils for agriculture as well as forestry in many Western European countries such as France, Belgium, Holland and the western part of Germany, which lay in the Atlantic climate zone is about 25% higher than the quality of Polish soils (with more favourable climatic conditions for agriculture). The soil cover of Poland is characterized by large variability in terms of surface and vertical cross-section. In some regions it is even mosaic-like, with stretches of very good and very poor soils next to each other on an area not bigger than 1 ha. (MAP illustrating the assessment of natural conditions for agriculture)

 Surface geological deposits of different ages are the parent rock for Polish soils. The largest areas (over 75% of the territory of the country) are occupied by Pleistocene formations, mostly boulders, clay and sand. The initial glacial material of Pleistocene formations was to a certain extent washed out and sorted by glacial waters. Further segregation and mixing of postglacial deposits occurred under the influence of geological processes in the periglacial period. As result of these processes, differentiation of the parent rock and, in effect, the soils also, took place (TABLE with information on types of Polish soils).

 Different genetic types and subtypes of soils were created on particular kinds of rock. This happened under the influence of soil creation processes, which were caused by such factors as climate, surface features, water conditions and plant cover.

 In the taxonomy of Polish soils, several dozen genetic units of soils were distinguished. These genetic-typology units are usually the main element of soil maps in small scales, which is the case with the map included with this work (MAP illustrating genetic classification of soils). It should be stressed that the character of dominating process or processes shaping the typology and the properties of soils is, to a large extent, dependent on the kind of parent rock.