Soil is a natural body consisting of layers (soil horizons) that are primarily composed of minerals, mixed with at least some organic matter, which differ from their parent materials in their texture, structure, consistency, color, chemical, biological and other characteristics. It is the unconsolidated or loose covering of fine rock particles that covers the surface of the earth. Soil is the end product of the influence of the climate, relief (slope), organisms, parent materials (original minerals), and time. In engineering terms, soil is referred to as regolith, or loose rock material that lies above the 'solid geology'. In horticulture, the term 'soil' is defined as the layer that contains organic material that influences and has been influenced by plant roots, and may range in depth from centimetres to many metres.
Soil is composed of particles of broken rock (parent materials) which have been altered by physical, chemical and biological processes that include weathering with associated erosion. Soil is created from the alteration of parent material by the interactions between the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. It can also be considered a mixture of mineral and organic materials in the form of solids, gases and liquids. Soil is commonly referred to as "earth" or "dirt"; technically, the term "dirt" should be restricted to displaced soil.
Soil forms a structure filled with pore spaces and can be thought of as a mixture of solids, water, and gases. Accordingly, soils are often treated as a three-state system. Most soils have a density between 1 and 2 g/cm³. Little of the soil of planet Earth is older than the Pleistocene and none is older than the Cenozoic, although fossilised soils are preserved from as far back as the Archean.
Agriculture, also called farming or husbandry, is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi, and other life forms for food, fiber, biofuel and other products used to sustain human life. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the development of civilization. The study of agriculture is known as agricultural science. The history of agriculture dates back thousands of years, and its development has been driven and defined by greatly different climates, cultures, and technologies. However, all farming generally relies on techniques to expand and maintain the lands that are suitable for raising domesticated species. For plants, this usually requires some form of irrigation, although there are methods of dryland farming; pastoral herding on rangeland is still the most common means of raising livestock. In the developed world, industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture has become the dominant system of modern farming, although there is growing support for sustainable agriculture (e.g. permaculture or organic agriculture).