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What Soil Temperature?

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Soil temperature is an important plant growth factor like air, water and

nutrients. Soil temperature affects plant growth directly and also indirectly by

influencing moisture, aeration, structure, microbial and enzyme activities, rate of

organic matter decomposition, nutrient availability and other soil chemical

reactions. Specific crops are adapted to specific soil temperatures. Apple grows

well when the soil temperature is about 18C, maize 25C, potato 16 to 21C, and

so on.

Sources of soil heat

The sources of heat for soil are solar radiation (external), heat released

during microbial decomposition of organic matter and respiration by soil

organisms including plants and the internal source of heat is the interior of the

Earth - which is negligible. The rate of solar radiation reaching the earth’s

atmosphere is called as solar constant and has a value of 2 cal cm-2 min-1

. Major

part of this energy is absorbed in the atmosphere, absorbed by plants and also

scattered. Only a small part of it reaches soil. Thermal energy is transmitted in the

form of thermal infrared radiation from the sun across the space and through the

atmosphere.

Factors affecting soil temperature

The average annual soil temperature is about 1C higher than mean annual

air temperature. Soil temperature is influenced by climatic conditions. The factors

that affect the transfer of heat through the atmosphere from sun affect the soil

temperature also.

Environmental factors

Solar radiation: The amount of heat received from sun on Earth’s surface is 2 cal

cm-2 min-1

. But the amount of heat transmitted into soil is much lower. The heattransmission into soil depends on the angle on incident radiation, latitude, season,

time of the day, steepness and direction of slope and altitude. The insulation by air,

water vapour, clouds, dust, smog, snow, plant cover, mulch etc., reduces the

amount of heat transferred into soil.

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