What is Soil Texture?

beach ball, golf ball and bb show relative sizes of sand, silt and clay.

Comparison of relative soil particle sizes. Image credit: Francisco Arriaga, University of Wisconsin

The particle size distribution and relative proportion of sand, silt and clay in the mineral component of soils. The percentage of sand, silt, and clay can affect available water capacity, compaction, structure, bulk density, and porosity as well as other non-physical soil properties.Do you have an excellent resource that isn’t listed here? Submit it for consideration.

Regional Educator ResourcesOther Educator ResourcesTechnical Resources
Title Source Resource type and date Short Summary
Soil Health Demonstration: Soil Texture Soil Health Nexus How-to Video and Lesson Plan

May 2019

Leslie Johnson from University of Nebraska Extension talks about an activity to explain soil texture and water infiltration.Lesson Plan

Soil Physical Properties Fact Sheet North Dakota State University Extension Factsheet

Not Dated

Soil physical properties affect the behavior of soil and the functional processes required to meet environmental and human needs
Guide to Texture by Feel USDA-NRCS Government Webpage

Not Dated

Flow diagram for teaching soil texture by feel.
Soil Health Assessments: Grass Soil Pit and Row Crop Soil Pit Soil Health Nexus How-to Videos

May 2019

Using soil pits can show many properties of soil. In the video above, Gene Campbell with the NRCS assesses a grass soil pit. In the video below, Travis Harper with University of Missouri Extension assesses a row crop soil pit.

Soil Health Assessment: Soil Core Test Soil Health Nexus How-to Video

May 2019

Todd Lorenz with University of Missouri Extension shows how to use a core sampler instead of a soil pit.

Youth Soil Quality Lessons and Videos – Using the Soil Textural Triangle University of Nebraska Extension Website
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The quality of soil depends upon a variety of factors. NRCS has developed Soil Quality Kit Guides, fact sheets and materials for teachers to integrate into their soils curriculum. In addition, a curriculum has been developed to use in the classroom. These materials were created with funds provided by the Nebraska Environmental Trust. YouTube videos supplement these curricula as well.

Soil Texture Purdue Soil Health Education website How-to Video
Sep 2017

Dr. John Graveel, Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University covers the basics of soil texture highlighting the soil texture triangle, etc.

Title Source Resource type and date Short Summary
Soil texture fact sheet Cornell University Extension Factsheet

Dec 2016


Defines soil texture, relates to soil function and provides a protocol on how to measure.

Soil and Water Relationships Noble Research Institute Blog post from an independent research institute

Sep 2001


Soil texture and structure greatly influence water infiltration, permeability, and water-holding capacity. Soil porosity refers to the space between soil particles, which consists of various amounts of water and air. Porosity depends on both soil texture and structure.

Soil Quality Information Penn State Extension Webpage

Aug 2012


Healthy soils yield healthy crops, But what is healthy soil and how do we achieve it?

Title Source Resource type and date Short Summary
The Effects of Soil Health Management on Soil and Water Relations USDA-NRCS Extension Whitepaper

Not Dated


Soil and water relationships can be described by soil porosity, water infiltration, permeability, and available water capacity

Particle Size Analysis for Soil Texture Determination (Hydrometer Method) Michigan State University, LTER Protocol

Jul 2008


This method quantitatively determines the physical proportions of three sizes of primary soil particles as determined by their settling rates in an aqueous solution using a hydrometer.

This page reviewed by Liz Schultheis, Joe Rorick, and Walt Sell.

Last reviewed 10/1/19