Beneath your home, below lawns, under asphalt streets, farms and natural areas there is a complex blend of minerals and organic matter that varies widely in texture, color and structure. Producing food, maintaining landscapes and building structures all depend on this little understood, but critical outermost layer of the Earth's crust - the soil.
Anyone can learn about the United States' diversity of soils using SoilWeb, a nationwide database of soil variability first developed in 2004. SoilWeb reached a new milestone this year when it was integrated with Google Maps and designed to scale across any Web-enabled device – desktop computer, tablet or smart phone.
SoilWeb has dozens of uses. The information can inform insurers about flooding frequency and builders about locations suitable for roads, basements or septic tanks. The agricultural real estate industry, farmland owners and farmers interested in renting or purchasing land commonly need information about soil productivity and land capability. Knowledge of soil is also important to home gardeners and landscapers."
"Our online soil survey can be used to access USDA-NCSS 1:24,000 scale detailed soil survey data (SSURGO) in many parts of the lower 48 states. Where this data is not yet available, 1:250,000 scale generalized soils data (STATSGO) can be accessed instead. An interactive map interface allows for panning and zooming, with highways, streets, and aerial photos to assist navigation (Figure 1). Soil polygons become visible near a scale of 1:30,000. Alternatively, a GPS point, Zip code, or a street address can be used to zoom in on a specific location. General usage notes and information on how our online soil survey work can be found here. Statistics on who is using our online soil survey can be found here. Technical details on SoilWeb can be found in this publication. Please note that we are currently transitioning to a new server, and planning to have our local copy of the SSURGO, STATSGO, and OSD databases updated in the coming months.
The SoilWeb app is a portable version of the UC Davis California Soil Resource Lab’s Web-based interface to digital soil survey data from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)."
Most people do not use SOILWEB and few of the few who do are trained in soil capability classes. I guess I am one of the few who was and taught the principles for 31 years and have been curious every time I see a soil opened up with a backhoe or shovel ever since.
The information helps me improve soil drainage and that same soil capability. I've seen farmers actually change the soil description with cover crops and other farming techniques. If you've never seen it, it is something to behold.
I used it to look underneath the soil surface of the land I farm and tend to and to understand the tile I just installed from a scientific standpoint. That is helpful to me. It is amazing how diverse the land underneath the 48 states or anywhere varies and yet how similar it all is. It all grows plants, just different ones because of its very nature and the climate involved in the development and change in that land over thousands of years.
Right now I would just take some good growing weather to bring those characteristics to full fruition.
How about you?