Abstract A selection of iron-manganese concretions from five reference soil profiles and a buried loess deposit in New Zealand have been studied. Concretions appear to have developed by the precipitation of amorphous iron and manganese oxides among soil particles. X-ray fluorescence analysis shows that the concentrations of Fe, Mn, Co and Ba in the concretions are generally higher, and those of K, Ca, Si, and Al are generally lower, than in the soil materials surrounding the concretions, whereas Ti, Zn, S, and P show little variation. Other approximate analyses indicate that Cu, Ni, Mo, V, and Pb tend to be concentrated in concretions but for Ga, Zr, Sr, Li, and Rb there was no discernible trend. Electron probe microanalyses of some concretions show that Co and Ba are concentrated in Mn-rich phases rather than Fe-rich phases. Comparison with published results for concretions (Mn nodules) from the ocean floor and the floor of Lake Ontario indicates that, on average, marine concretions have higher Mn, and lower Si and Al concentrations than soil concretions, and that marine concretions have lower Fe concentrations than either Ontario or soil concretions.