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Touch test : to estimate the soil texture

This test involves rubbing some soil between your fingers and noting its characteristics
Photo: Pat Dumas (JerseyRed)
Touch test for soil

The touch test is one of the methods used to roughly assess a soil's texture. This test involves rubbing a bit of dry or moist soil between your fingers and noting its characteristics. Here is the classification of soil groups and the characteristics to observe.

Touched test (approximated method)

Soil texture Dry soil Moist soil
Sandy soil
  • Grains of sand are visible to the naked eye.
  • The soil runs between your fingers like sugar.
  • The soil is very gritty and rough.
  • The soil doesn’t clump together easily, and breaks apart when prodded with a finger.
  • The soil isn’t sticky between your fingers; it is rough and gritty.
Silty soil
  • The soil looks powdery or floury.
  • The soil feels soft.
  • The soil is very soft and slippery, like soap.
  • It can be rolled into a coil, which breaks apart if you try to bend it.
  • The soil isn’t very sticky.
Clay soil
  • The soil contains very hard lumps that are difficult to break apart.
  • The soil is very sticky; it is smooth and shiny.
  • The soil is easy to mould; it can be rolled between the fingers into a long, flexible coil.
  • The soil is a bit gritty.
  • The clumps will not break if handled carefully.
  • The soil is slightly sticky and gritty.
  • If rolled between the fingers, the soil will form a coil that cracks slightly.

You can also use the jar of water test method to roughly determine the texture of a soil yourself. To get more detailed and precise information on the soil (texture, nutrients, pH and organic matter level), it is better to turn to a laboratory analysis.

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