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What are the characteristics of red sandy soil?

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Sandy soils have a higher proportion of sand than clay, drain quickly, warm up faster in spring and are usually easier to work. The red color indicates the presence of iron. Sandy soils are often acidic and have fewer nutrients than clay, loam or peat soils.

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The higher proportion of sand makes sandy soil grittier than other types. When a handful of red sandy soil is squeezed into a lump, the lump easily falls apart. This is in direct contrast to clay-based soils, which hold their shape when compressed. The less-cohesive nature of sandy soil provides good drainage around the plant roots. On the down side, sandy soils require more frequent watering or the use of other methods to retain moisture.

One example is the pineapple fields of Hawaii that are filled with iron rich, red sandy soil. Before planting, each field is treated with a fumigant and nutrients are added. Then it is covered with black plastic mulch to retain the nutrients and the moisture.

The iron in red sandy soil prevents iron deficiency in plants. This is often offset by the soils acidity. Adding organic matter and careful watering help overcome this issue. In Hawaii, additional iron is often added to the red sandy soil of pineapple fields. It takes between 18 and 20 months to produce the first pineapple and another 15 months to produce the second. The process drains the soil's iron content fairly rapidly.

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