Sources of Soil pH
 Acidity in soils comes from H+ and Al3+ ions in the soil solution and sorbed to soil surfaces. While pH is the measure of H+ in solution, Al3+ is important in acid soils because between pH 4 and 6, Al3+ reacts with water (H2O) forming AlOH2+, and Al(OH)2+, releasing extra H+ ions. Every Al3+ ion can create 3 H+ ions. Many other processes contribute to the formation of acid soils including rainfall, fertilizer use, plant root activity and the weathering of primary and secondary soil minerals. Acid soils can also be caused by pollutants such as acid rain and mine spoilings. Rainfall: Acid soils are most often found in areas of high rainfall. Excess rainfall leaches base cation from the soil, increasing the percentage of Al3+ and H+ relative to other cations. Additionally, rainwater has a slightly acidic pH of 5.7 due to a reaction with CO2 in the atmosphere that forms carbonic acid. Fertilizer use: Ammonium (NH4+) fertilizers react in the soil in a process called nitrification to form nitrate (NO3-), and in the process release H+ ions. Plant root activity: Plants take up nutrients in the form of ions (NO3-, NH4+, Ca2+, H2PO4-, etc.), and often, they take up more cations than anions. However plants must maintain a neutral charge in their roots. In order to compensate for the extra positive charge, they will release H+ ions from the root. Some plants will also exude organic acids into the soil to acidify the zone around their roots to help solubilize metal nutrients that are insoluble at neutral pH, such as iron (Fe). Weathering of minerals: Both primary and secondary minerals that compose soil contain Al. As these minerals weather, some components such as Mg, Ca, and K, are taken up by plants, others such as Si are leached from the soil, but due to chemical properties, Fe and Al remain in the soil profile. Highly weathered soils are often characterized by having high concentrations of Fe and Al oxides. Acid Rain: When atmospheric water reacts with sulfur and nitrogen compounds that result from industrial processes, the result can be the formation of sulfuric and nitric acid in rainwater. However the amount of acidity that is deposited in rainwater is much less, on average, than that created through agricultural activities. Mine Spoil: Severely acidic conditions can form in soils near mine spoils due to the oxidation of pyrite. Sources of Basicity
Basic soils have a high saturation of base cations (K+, Ca2+, Mg2+ and Na+). This is due to an accumulation of soluble salts are classified as either saline soil, sodic soil, saline-sodic soil or alkaline soil. All saline and sodic soils have high salt concentrations, with saline soils being dominated by Ca and Mg salts and sodic soils being dominated by Na. Alkaline soils are characterized by the presence of carbonates. Effect of soil pH on plant growth
Acid affected soils
 Plants grown in acid soils can experience a variety of symptoms including Al, H, and/or Mn toxicity, as well as potential nutrient deficiencies of Ca and Mg. Al toxicity is the most widespread problem in acid soils. Al is present in all soils, but dissolved Al3+ is toxic to plants; Al3+ is most soluble at low pH, above pH 5.2 little aluminum is in soluble form in most soils. Al is not a plant nutrient, and as such, is not actively taken up by the plants, but enters plant roots passively through osmosis. Al damages roots in several ways: In root tips and Al interferes with the uptake of Ca, an essential nutrient, as well as bind with phosphate and interfere with production of ATP and DNA, both of which contain phosphate. Al can also restrict cell wall expansion causing roots to become stunted. Below pH 4, H+ ions themselves damage root cell...