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Relocation of Soil Survey Office to Stephenville, Texas

Relocation of Soil Survey Office to Stephenville, Texas

Story by John Sackett

On June 18, 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) Soil Survey Office in Graham, Texas relocated to Stephenville, Texas. Members of the Soil Survey Office in Stephenville include two Tarleton State University graduates, John Sackett and Sidney Paulson, and University of Wyoming graduate, William Tripp. The Soil Survey office is located at 239 E. McNeill Street Stephenville, Texas 76401, and can be reached at (254) 965-3715.

One objective of having the Soil Survey Office in Stephenville is developing a greater partnership between the NRCS Soil Survey Program and Tarleton State University especially in the collection of soil samples and analysis of those samples in Tarleton�s soil laboratory. Prior to the relocation, the distance between Graham and Stephenville hindered this partnership development.

Now that the soil scientists are in Stephenville, one of their first jobs will be to update the existing soil surveys in the area. For example, the Erath County Soil Survey was completed and published in book-format in 1973. Since that time, improvements in technology and increases in scientific knowledge combined with urbanization and more intensive land-use has created a need for the 1973 soil map to be brought up to date.

Soil scientists will no longer map on a county basis, they will map the groups of soils. The groups will be determined generally by the geologic material they are associated with. For example, their first project will be to update the soils associated with the geologic formation known as the Walnut Clay that runs, in part, from Coryell County north through Comanche, Bosque, Hamilton, Erath, Hood, Somervell County, and further north. They will collect soil samples using hand augers and soil probes, as well as dig small backhoe pits to determine the physical and chemical properties of the soil samples. Physical properties include things like texture (percent sand, silt, and clay) and bulk density, and chemical properties include things like pH and salt content. Once the soil physical and chemical properties have been determined, the data can be used to develop interpretations for the soils. For example, maps can be created to show soils suitable for pond sites.

Soils information can be very helpful not only for a wide range of landowners (including farmers, ranchers, and conservationists), but also for city planners, engineers, real estate agents, and educators. Soils information can be found online at: http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/HomePage.htm and http://soildatamart.nrcs.usda.gov.

The USDA-NRCS has developed a website, especially for educators, that contains a wide range of fun and interesting soil facts and lesson plans for students ranging from Kindergarten to college age. The address of the website is http://soils.usda.gov/education.

For other soil information please visit the Soil Survey office at 239 E. McNeill Street Stephenville, Texas 76401, or call (254) 965-3715.

Stephenville Soil Survey Office staff (l to r): John Sackett, Will Tripp, and Sidney Paulson.

Stephenville Soil Survey Office staff (l to r): John Sackett, Will Tripp, and Sidney Paulson.