How to use the Soil Survey Reports USDA

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Web Soil Survey (WSS) provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. It is operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and provides access to the largest natural resource information system in the world. NRCS has soil maps and data available online for more than 95 percent of the nation’s counties and anticipates having 100 percent in the near future. The site is updated and maintained online as the single authoritative source of soil survey information.
Soil surveys can be used for general farm, local, and wider area planning. Onsite investigation is needed in some cases, such as soil quality assessments and certain conservation and engineering applications. For more detailed information, contact your local USDA Service Center or your NRCS State Soil Scientist.

Learning Objectives:

1. Access and use published and on-line soil data and other resources to learn how land use affects soil, and the limitations of local soils.

2. Understand the eight Land Capability Classes and how they are important in determining appropriate land use.

3. Understand soil drainage classes and be able to recognize the characteristics of hydric soils and know how soils fit into the definition of wetlands.

Suggested Activities:

1. Download your local area’s soil survey map to learn the limitations that local soils have for septic systems, foundations, agriculture, and future development.

2. Describe the eight Land Capability Classes and use a soil profile and site description to determine land capability class.

3. Visit your local land planning office and ask how GIS and GPS systems are used in making land use planning and development decisions. Explain how GIS and GPS can be used in learning about the soil characteristics in a wetland soil.