Web Soil Survey-A Valuable Source of Information for New and Beginning Farmers and the Not So New Farmers
Posted: October 30, 2010
The area on the property that is dry now many not be so dry come next March when the snow melts and we are left with mud, imagine that mud, almost nonexistent this year. The Web Soil Survey is the best way to determine soil drainage, depth to bedrock, crop productivity classes and so much more.
The Web Soil Survey (WSS) is operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and provides access to the largest natural resource information system in the world. The WSS is a web application that provides customers (producers, agencies, Technical Service Providers, and others) electronic access to relevant soil and related information needed to make wise land use & management decisions. Users can get information on only what they want by highlighting areas on the map and collect information relevant to their land use concerns.
A farmer can look at cropland by typing in an address and zooming into desired fields. Then outline the fields to create the area of interest (AOI). Once the AOI is defined, next select the “soil map” tab to view the soil types in the field broken down by acres. Next the “soil data explore” tab will provides information for the field such as the land classifications which includes capability class and farmland classification. The “soil data explorer” tab also provides vegetative productivity and if you are thinking of building a pond it suggests areas where the soils are better suited for ponds to avoid seepage.
Lastly the “shopping cart” tab allows the user to print out a custom report for the area selected. This information can also be saved as a PDF document for referencing at a later time. This is extremely useful information for farmers as they evaluate renting or purchasing farmland or for those who are looking to better utilize the land that they currently manage.
The Web Soil Survey has many other uses. Under the “land management” tab you can select fencing and it will show you the limitations of setting a fence post 36 inches deep. Another tab is “mechanical site preparation”, this list the suitability of surface tillage to the depth of one foot. The tab for “non-irrigated capability class” is also helpful to see how the soils rate from one through eight and the “subclass” tab shows the reason for the limitation of the soil, either erosion, wet, shallow, droughty or stony.
I encourage you to visit the Web Soil Survey and highlight your farm or property of interest. You will be amazed how useful the information is to you as a beginning farmer or someone who has been tending the soil for years.
Prepared by Andrew Frankenfield, Agricultural Educator, Penn State Extension