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News Release

NRCS Improves On-Line Soil Survey Data for Growing Customer Base

Indianapolis, IN, March 24, 2014—USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced the availability of updated soil data for each of the 3,265 soil survey areas mapped across the nation over the last 118 years.

According to Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist in Indiana, nearly 200,000 users access the Web Soil Survey (WSS) each month, making it the most frequently used USDA web site. “This on-line tool is used by thousands of Hoosiers each year to access information that helps them make better land use decisions. The updated data provides the customer with better, more user friendly information for making resource assessments and conservation plans on their property,” said Hardisty.

Gary Struben, NRCS’ State Soil Scientist, explains this is the first major update of both software and data since WSS came online in August 2005. The massive effort took fifteen months of programming and moving databases to the new structure, but it was well worth it says Struben. “Each soil survey now contains a full complement of national interpretations giving users the ability to analyze interpretations regionally, multi-state or across the United States,” he said.

Web Soil Survey is available free at http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/ and visitors may be surprised at all that’s available and how easy it is to use. Once you locate your site on a map and outline the area of interest, you can click on the soil map tab and view the various soils. Clicking on each soil type will give you information about the slope, drainage, limitations, inherent qualities, etc. This can be very important if for instance, if you are building a new house. With over 533 soil types in Indiana, not all of them are the best for a home with a basement. Not only do builders and developers use this tool, but also teachers, foresters, public officials, engineers, realtors, and many others.

One important improvement of the updated website is it now allows soil data to flow seamlessly across political boundaries, such as counties or states explained Struben. “Our customers will see a marked improvement with this release of soils data,” he said.

The soil survey dates back to 1896 when Congress passed the Agricultural Appropriations Act designating funds to inventory the agricultural lands of the United States. That soil inventory became important during the Dust Bowl days when the Soil Conservation Service (now NRCS) was established and charged with developing conservation practices that would decrease soil erosion. Throughout the years, the soil survey program has met the demands of an ever changing customer base and a rapidly changing technology. With the release of the WSS, NRCS has produced a tool that no other country in the world possesses.

“Indiana NRCS is committed to delivering science-based soils information to help thousands of Hoosiers be good stewards of the state’s soil, water, and related natural resources,” said Hardisty.

NRCS plans to update the data each October. For more information about Indiana soils or Web Soil Survey go to the Indiana Soils Web site at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/soils/ or find your local NRCS Field Office http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/contact/local/. Users can also e-mail inquiries to soilshotline@lin.usda.gov.

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Contacts:
Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist, 317-295-5801, jane.hardisty@in.usda.gov  
Gary Struben, State Soil Scientist, 317-295-5885, gary.struben@in.usda.gov  
Rebecca Fletcher, State Public Affairs Specialist, 317-295-5825, rebecca.fletcher@in.usda.gov