Soil Moisture

How soil feels and looks at various soil moisture levels

Soil moisture level Fine sand, loamy fine sand Sandy loam, fine sandy loam Sandy clay loam, loam, silt loam Clay loam, clay, silty clay loam
0 – 25% available soil moisture Appears dry; will not retain shape when disturbed or squeezed in hand. Appears dry; may make a cast when squeezed in hand but seldom holds together. Appears dry. Aggregates crumble with applied pressure. Appears dry. Soil aggregates separate easily, but clods are hard to crumble with applied pressure.
25 – 50% available soil moisture Slightly moist appearance. Soil may stick together in very weak cast or ball. Slightly moist. Soil forms weak ball or cast under pressure. Slight staining on finger. Slightly moist. Forms a weak ball with rough surface. No water staining on fingers. Slightly moist; forms weak ball when squeezed, but no water stains. Clods break with applied pressure.
50 – 75% available soil moisture Appears and feels moist. Darkened color. May form weak cast or ball. Leaves wet outline or slight smear on hand. Appears and feels moist. Color is dark. Forms cast or ball with finger marks. Will leave a smear or stain and leaves wet outline on hand. Appears and feels moist and pliable. Color is dark. Forms ball and ribbons when squeezed. Appears moist. Forms smooth ball with defined finger marks; ribbons when squeezed between thumb and forefinger.
75 – 100% available soil moisture Appears and feels wet. Color is dark. May form weak cast or ball. Leaves wet outline or smear on hand. Appears and feels wet. Color is dark. Forms cast or ball. Will smear or stain and leaves wet outline on hand; will make weak ribbon. Appears and feels wet. Color is dark. Forms ball and ribbons when squeezed. Stains and smears. Leaves wet outline on hand. Appears and feels wet; may feel sticky. Ribbons easily; smears and leaves wet outline on hand. Forms good ball.

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