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Loam Soil vs Topsoil

Many people confuse loam soil with topsoil, but the truth is that there is a difference between the two. What is the difference?

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When you hear the word “topsoil”, it refers to any kind of soil that is on top. What you are walking on, riding your bike on, or turning with your shovel is known as topsoil. Topsoil is basically different kinds of organic matter that has decayed with the passage of time. There are all kinds of organic matter like decayed food, decayed grass, rocks, and dirt, which is why it usually is a bit darker than the soil beneath it.
Quality Topsoil

Loam refers to a special mixture of sand, clay, and silt. Loam is usually made of up half sand, one quarter silt, and one quarter clay. It is considered the best topsoil, as it allows enough water to be soaked into the ground to keep plants hydrated – and yet it still drains well enough that air can circulate.

So the difference between loam soil and topsoil is the same difference between your thumb and fingers: all loam is a kind of topsoil, but not all topsoil is a kind of loam.

The larger sand particles in the loam make it easy for air to circulate through the dirt, which helps to dry out moisture at the proper rate. However, clay is incredibly absorbent, so it is excellent for retaining moisture that plants need to grow tall and strong. Silt basically acts like both sand and clay, holding some water while allowing the ground to aerate properly.

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If there is more than 50% sand in the loam, it is called sandy loam. If the silt content is higher than 30%, it is called silty loam. If there is more than 30% clay in the loam, it is known as clay loam. Each type of loam is used for a different kind of ground, as the clay loam holds more water while the sandy loam allows more air to circulate.

Whatever kind of loam soil you use, you can rest assured that it is the best kind of topsoil for growing any kind of plants.

Related Resources:

Difference Between Topsoil and Loam

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4 Responses to Loam Soil vs Topsoil

  1. Engraved Hip Flasks on March 13, 2013 at 9:14 pm

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    • Bob on March 17, 2013 at 9:24 am

      Thank you very much for the feedback, Bob

  2. Carolyn Toth on April 20, 2013 at 2:08 am

    I would like to know if what we have in our 20 acres is Miami silt loam and Crosby silt loam. Is this one of the best soils for growing soybeans or corn?

    • Bob on April 24, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      Hi Carolyn,

      Sorry for the delay in responding. Also, I am deleting your site in the link because it is not a site, I believe that you put your email in the wrong slot.

      Miami silt loam is a pretty good soil for all-round farming purposes. It’s not necessarily the best soil for corn (Miami black clay loam fits that bill) or for soybeans; however with a bit of careful treatment and management, you can grow a decent crop of either. Miami silt loam is really best suited to growing cereals and grasses, though with proper care, a variety of crops can be grown successfully – even fruits and berries.

      The main thing to consider with Miami silt loam is that it needs plenty of organic matter added. It retains fertilizers well, so the addition of stable and green manures can greatly increase its productivity; however, neglect or careless treatment will show quickly and your crop and soil quality will rapidly deteriorate.

      Crosby silt loam is typically used for growing grains and grasses, though it’s also suited for general purpose farming. Again, it’s not the best soil for your purposes; however, it’s certainly suitable with the proper care and maintenance.

      Consider also that each variety or strain of corn and soybeans will have slightly different soil preferences. Some like a good silty loam, others prefer a heavier clay, while yet other thrive in a mixed soil. I’d recommend selecting a strain that is well-suited to your unique soil conditions.

      Finally, if you’re going to grow corn or soybeans in either of these soil types, crop rotation is a must. Rotating your crops regularly will help to maintain the quality of your topsoil and prevent deterioration.

      Best of luck,