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Soil Genesis and Development, Lesson 5 - Soil Classification and Geography

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5.8 - Spodosols

Spodosols commonly form in sandy parent materials under coniferous forest vegetation. As a consequence of their coarse texture, they have a high leaching potential. 

Spodosols are characterized by high acidity, and have a subsoil accumulation of organic matter, along with aluminum and iron oxides, called a spodic horizon. Typically low in natural fertility (basic cations, Ca2+, Mg2+, and K+) and high in soil acidity (H+, Al3+), these soils require extensive inputs of lime and fertilizers to be agriculturally productive.

Spodosols are most commonly associated with a cool and wet climate, but also occur in warmer climes such as in Florida, USA . Large areas of Spodosol are found in northern Europe, Russia, and northeastern North America .

Soil Order Key Characteristics U.S. Order Distribution Map Profile Examples


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  • Form in sandy materials under coniferous forest vegetation
  • Usually associated with a wet, cool climate
  • Coarse texture, high leaching potential
  • Have a Spodic horizon, composed of organic matter, Fe and Al oxides
  • Acidic, with low natural fertility
  • Require inputs of lime and fertilizers to be agriculturally productive.
  • Commonly formed in northern Europe, Russia, and northeastern North America
  • Extent of world ice-free land area: 4%



 Further Details


Spodosol Series


New Hampshire State Soil

USDA details

More information

All images courtesy of USDA-NRCS

Question 16: Although Spodosols are usually formed in a much cooler climate than Oxisols, they have some common characteristics, namely an acidic nature and low natural fertility.

Which of the following soil management practices would most likely be necessary if trying to cultivate food crops like beans and corn on Spodosol soils?

A. Frequent use of soil tillage and cultivation
Use of erosion control measures such as terracing
C. Frequent addition of acid-reducing liming agents
D. Using no-till soil management
E. Maintenance of surface cover to conserve moisture and reduce erosion



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