Pedology, (from the Greek pedon = soil), is the study of soils and soil formation.
Pedology or soil science?
This discipline is known under several names, soil science, edaphology, or agrology. The diversity of names associated with this discipline is related to the various associations concerned. Indeed, agronomists, chemists, geologists, geographers, biologists, sylviculturists, specialists in regional planning, have all contributed to further knowledge on soil formation and soil distribution and use.
The soil is not only an inert and stable support for vegetation, but it is also the seat of numerous interactions between climate (water, air, temperature), soil life (micro-organisms, plants, animals) and its residues, the mineral material of the original and added rock, and its position in the landscape. During its evolution, the soil deepens and is slowly characterized by successive layers, called horizons, while a steady state balance is approached.
Soil users (such as agronomists) showed initially little concern in the dynamics of soil. They saw it as medium whose chemical, physical and biological properties were useful for the services of agronomic productivity. On the other hand, pedologists and geologists did not initially focus on the agronomic applications of the soil characteristics but upon its relation to the nature and history of landscapes. Today, there's an integration of the two disciplinary approaches.
Pedologists are now also interested in the practical applications of a good understanding of pedogenesis processes (science of the evolution of soils), like interpreting its environmental history and predicting consequences of changes in land use, while agronomists understand that the cultivated soil is a complex medium, often resulting from several thousands of years of evolution. They understand that the current balance is fragile and that only a thorough knowledge of its history makes it possible to ensure its sustainable use.
Famous pedologists :
- Olivier de Serres
- Bernard Palissy
- Vassili Dokuchaev
- E. W. Hilgard
- Hans Jenny