Skip Navigation

Soil Technical Note-3 (Revision 1)

Central Great Plains MLRA Region 5
MO5 Soil Technical Note-3 (Revision 1)

October 28, 2008

Subject: SOI – Soil Survey Update Project Requirements

Purpose. Provide the Central Great Plains Major Land Resource Area (MLRA) Office Region 5 (MO5) guidance that supplements National Soil Survey Handbook (NSSH) guidance for soil survey update projects


The soil survey program of the United States is conducted under several statutory authorities, the least ambiguous of which is Public Law 89-560, enacted in 1966 and codified under Title 42 of the United States Code-the Public Health and Welfare, in Sections 3271-3274. Taken together, the statutory authorities direct the Secretary of Agriculture to (1) make an inventory of the soil resources of the United States, (2) keep the inventory current to meet contemporary needs, (3) make the information available in a useful form by preparing reports and interpretations, and (4) provide technical assistance and consulting services to promote the use and application of soil survey information. These four parts are the core mission of the soil survey program.

In MO5 all initial soil surveys have been completed. We are concentrating on the second and third charges of the core mission of the National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS). Many offices within MO5 have been working on update and maintenance projects for many years.


All update and maintenance projects will have a project plan developed by the project leader with input from the technical team for the MLRA Soil Survey Office (MLRA SSO) and state soil scientists from states that will be affected by the project. The National Soil Survey Handbook (NSSH) Part 610 has information related to organizing and planning update projects. The project plan does not have to be elaborate but should include at a minimum, the following:

  1. Objective clearly defined and stated
  2. Justification and significance
  3. Background
  4. General procedures
    • Number of transects
    • Number of field notes
    • Sampling plan
    • Lab data revisions that will be made (SOI-8)
    • Official Series Descriptions (OSDs) that will be revised
    • Datamapunits (DMUs) that will need to be revised
    • Anticipated spatial edits
    • Other deliverables such as ammozemeter data, water table data, range clipping or production data, soil potential ratings, local soil interpretations
  5. Expected outcome and timeline
Table 1. Proposed workflow (see also NSSH Section 610.02)
Task Responsible Party Comments
Project idea and conception Anyone can propose a project, technical team The project leader will serve as head of the technical team.
Project proposal and work plan development Project leader with assistance from MLRA SSO staff  
Submit proposal for approval and agreement to MLRA management team Project leader submits to all state soil scientists, MO, and any cooperating agencies In multi-state projects, the project leader needs to get buy-in from all state soil scientists.
Finalize work plan develop timeline Soil survey project leader  
Conduct field work Project leader and project members with assistance from any soil scientist in states where field data is being conducted Assume that the state where field work is being conducted would want local input even though the project leader is the responsible party.
Field review Soil data quality specialist (SDQS) from MO In multi-state projects, a representative from the state office staff would normally also be involved.
Revision of OSDs Soil survey project leader This should be done early in the project.
Quality assurance review of OSDs and routing to adjoining states for comment and concurrence SDQS from MO The SDQS will also post revisions to the official Web site.
SOI-8 for lab data Project leader forward to SDQS This is another foundation activity that should be started in the work plan development and completed early in the project. The SDQS will review and forward the data to the National Soil Survey Laboratory (NSSL).
Development of DMU Soil survey project leader The initial development of DMUs can be done by any member of the project.  Quality control (QC) is the responsibility of the project leader.
Quality assurance review of DMU SDQS from MO When the project leader completes the QC on DMUs, they would be routed to the MO and state offices (SOs) for review and approval by the MO staff and the SO staff.
Spatial changes Soil survey project leader Any proposed changes will be done at the project office.
Quality assurance review of spatial changes SDQS When project leader completes QC on spatial work, this would also be routed to the MO and SO for their review and concurrence.
Final field review and correlation SDQS If the SOs have participated prior to this point, there should be no surprises.
Approved spatial Soil survey project leader After approval by the MO and the SO, the project leader would submit spatial data to the digitizing unit (DU).
National Soil Information System (NASIS) legend and correlation SDQS Upon completion of the final field review and correlation conference, the SDQS would make the necessary changes to the legend, legend correlation, mapunit history, mapunit text, correlation table, and mapunit area overlap tables.
Recertified spatial to Soil Data Warehouse DU The DU notifies the SO when spatial is uploaded.
Updated NASIS tabular data to Soil Data Warehouse State soil scientist  
Progress reported State soil scientist For multi-year projects, the state soil scientist, project leader, and his/her supervisor will reach an agreement on how much is reportable each year.

Also, see NSSH Part 608 for example project plans and information.

In past guidance from MO5, a minimum number of transects, polygons checks, and field notes were required. The NSSH Part 627 has minimum requirements for observation points for mapunits based on extent. Because each project plan is unique and should be tailored to the MLRA SSO and the needs of the mapunits being updated, the minimum number of observations will be whatever it takes to meet the objectives of the work plan. The project leader and SDQS need to reach an agreement prior to approval of the work plan as to how much documentation will be required. Periodic review of the work plan and field reviews will allow for changes in the number of polygon checks, transects, and pedon descriptions when conditions warrant.

Field notes will be written to identify field conditions, soil properties, soil landscape relationships, and soil behavior (interpretations) as outlined in NSSH Section 627.08a. Field notes will be summarized and entered into NASIS as a mapunit, component, or DMU text note (Table 2). The field notes will be kept on file and available for review by the SDQS.

The work plan will include updating the OSD for each major component within the mapunits being reviewed. The OSD typifying pedon location will be visited and the description updated to current standards. These typical soil pedon descriptions will be entered into NASIS. The OSD will be updated to reflect any change in the OSD concept. Editing will be done with track changes turned on using Microsoft Word. In addition, a text (.txt) file will be created to validate using the most recent version of OSD Check. Both the .doc and .txt files of the updated OSD will be forwarded to the MO5 staff for review and submission to the national dataset using guidance outlined in MO5 Technical Note 1.

Table 2. Locations and examples of text notes in the context of an update project working in the MLRA SSO test legend
NASIS Table Note Kind Category Topic or Example
Mapunit text Miscellaneous notes Field notes Summary of field notes for non-MLRA soil survey area (SSA)
Mapunit text Miscellaneous notes Unnamed inclusions Notes on percentage, location, and characteristics of unnamed minor components specific to a non-MLRA SSA; i.e., For Alpha sandy loam, mapunit in Delta County, NE. “In the northwest corner of Delta County, a very small percentage (< 1%) of soils with a dark gray paleosol and higher clay contents was observed on footslopes. These soils do not occur in similar positions for Alpha sandy loam in adjoining counties. These soils appear to be associated with an ancient stream channel that crossed the area as documented in the Geology and Groundwater Report Delta County NE.”
DMU text Edit notes   Notes related to edits made to the DMU object
DMU text Correlation notes   Notes related to the DMU and where it is correlated
DMU text Miscellaneous notes Summary Notes related to the “mapunit” as it occurs and its properties in non-MLRA SSA that this DMU will be correlated to
DMU text Field notes Summary A summary of field notes that support the properties of the DMU in the context of its entire geographic range
DMU text Miscellaneous notes Unnamed inclusions Notes related to “inclusions” or minor components in the context of the full extent of the DMU
Component text Edit notes   Record of changes made at the component level
Component text Miscellaneous notes Field notes Notes related to the component in the context of the entire extent of the DMU not just one county or problems with the OSD in general
Component text Miscellaneous notes Taxadjunct If the component is a taxadjunct to the series, enter explanatory notes here
Horizon text Edit notes   Notes related to editing properties in horizon
Horizon text Miscellaneous notes   Notes of explanation; e.g., "The majority of pedons described in this survey area have the argillic horizon subdivide into 3 layers Bt1, Bt2, and Bt3. These horizons are aggregated for populating this representative pedon.



State Soil Scientist/MO Leader

DIST: SS(MO5), MO Leaders – TX – CO – ND – MN – AR