Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Man holding soil

Vermont Soils

Here you will find information on local soils including Vermont's state soil, Tunbridge.

Vermont Soils


Vermont's State Soil - Tunbridge

Botanists look at plant features, such as leaf shape and number of flower petals, to describe and classify plants. Whereas, soil scientists look at things like soil horizons (layers) and depth to bedrock to describe and classify soils. There is even a soil key (taxonomy) that allows one to key out a particular soil classification. A soil is defined as: a vertical section of the soil through all its horizons.

Surface layer: very dark brown, partially decomposed organic material
Subsurface layer: gray fine sandy loam
Subsoil - upper: dark brown fine sandy loam
Subsoil - lower: brown channery fine sandy loam
Bedrock: schist

See the figure below for a visual depiction of Tunbridge Soil.

General Description of Tunbridge Soil

The Tunbridge series consists of loamy, well-drained soils that formed in Wisconsin-age glacial till. These soils are 20 to 40 inches deep over schist, gneiss, phyllite, or granite bedrock. They occur extensively in mountainous areas of Vermont, in all but one county.

Tunbridge soils are used mainly for woodland. White ash, American beech, white birch, yellow birch, hemlock, white pine, red spruce, red maple, and sugar maple are typical species. Sugar maple is especially important; Vermont produces the largest amount of maple syrup in the U.S. Some areas have been cleared and are used for hay and pasture. Recreational uses are common on these soils. They include trails for hiking, mountain biking, snowmobiling, and skiing.

In addition to having certain soil characteristics and typical land usage, a image of a "typical landscape" where the soil is found helps to complete the description.

Vermont shaped tunbridge soil profile

 Soils with American Indian Names

Soil series are often named for geographic places. For example, "Vergennes" clay is a predominant soil in the Champlain Valley and other parts of New England. Many geographic names in Vermont and throughout the US are derived from the white settler's adaptations of the original American Indian place names. Thus, there are a number of soil names that have Native American roots.

Native Americans were the first farmers in this country. Many of the crops we commonly consume, such as corn, squash and beans were introduced to the Colonial settlers by American Indians. The First Nation Tribes had a well developed understanding of the characteristics of productive farmland. Alluvial soils with loamy soil textures and good drainage were used for cultivation, even now they still hold artifacts of the original inhabitants of this land. The Abenaki Tribe, who occupied a large portion on Northern New England, has many ways of characterizing different soils in their language. Their system existed long before modern day soil scientists developed classification systems (download the article "The First Conservationists" at the bottom of the page to learn more).

Agwam

The Agawam lived in the Connecticut River Valley near Springfield, MA. Agawam was the name of a Penacock village in northeastern Massachusetts.

Canandaigua

Canandaigua was a Seneca Tribe village that was destroyed during the campaign by the American Army under General John Sullivan in 1779.  Canandaigua may have been derived from kanandarque which means the chosen spot.

Monadnock

The Abenaki name for Mount Monadnock in southeast New Hampshire is menonadenak, which means smooth mountain.

Scantic

Scantic may have been derived from Scanticook which was a Podunk Tribe Village or Scantic could have been derived from the Nipmuc word scatacook, meaning fork in the river.

Taconic

Taconic may have been derived from a Mohegan or Natick word which means wild forest or the Delaware word tatchan which means woodland.


Vermont Surveys Past and Present

NRCS soil survey began with the recognition during the Dust Bowl that we needed to take better care of our soil resource. A national soil mapping effort resulted as a reaction to this terrible man-made ecological disaster in the 1930's. Soil Survey mapping is the starting point for much of the current day technical assistance that NRCS provides. All 14 counties in Vermont have completed soil mapping. Soil survey data is available in digital format for the whole state.

Numerous interpretations are included along with the soil maps. The interpretive data includes a wide range of data - such as, ratings for highly erodible land and prime farmland. Today, the soil survey program continues to evolve, using the latest technology to improve the quality and consistency of soil maps. The original county-centric mapping of the past will be transformed by a physiographic region approach that will harmonize the data across the county.  

Updating Soil Maps in the Lake Champlain Basin: NRCS is updating the soil mapping within selected areas of the Basin. The goal is to use new information and technologies to bring the soil survey for the Basin up to a consistent common standard. Currently, the soil survey in the area is made up of many different vintages and is in need of updating to improve accuracy, and therefore land use decisions. See the factsheet below to learn more.


University of Vermont Extension Survey Data

The University of Vermont Extension recently released a presentation on soil carbon stocks in Vermont and the state of soil health in the state. The project was a collaborative effort UVM Extension, The Nature Conservancy of Vermont, the Gund Institute for Environment, and more. The project set out to establish a baseline of soil health indicators, carbon stocks, and associated ecosystem services in Vermont's agricultural landscapes, create standards for soil sampling across management types, give farmers contextualized information about soil health on their farms, support collaboration among the many organizations that work with producers towards soil health, and build skills and capacity for soil carbon assessments and measuring soil health. Below you will find the presentation in addition to the data from the project that has been graciously shared with Vermont NRCS.


Highly Erodible Land Conservation Provisions

In order to maintain eligibility for most USDA programs, producers must comply with the Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC), agreeing they will not:

  • Produce an agricultural commodity on highly erodible land without an adequate conservation system

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is responsible for providing program participants technical assistance and determinations to assist them in complying with the provisions.

The HELC Provision Contact is State Agronomist Thomas Aiken

Highly Erodible HEL Soils Lists

(Lists the soils that can erode at an excessive rate from either water or wind because of soil properties)

Climatic Data for Normal Circumstances


 SSURGO

Vermont SSURGO (Soil Survey Geographic Database) information includes the digital soil maps  and the accompanying soil properties and interpretations database. This data is primarily used in GIS applications.

The SSURGO user should be knowledgeable of the structure of the soil database and familiar with GIS technology.

There are three levels of digital soils data:

  • SSURGO - is the most detailed county level data
  • STATSGO - is less detailed state-wide map
  • NATSGO - is a very general soil map of the entire U.S.

The majority of counties in Vermont use 1:20,000 mapping scale for SSURGO data. The minimum area mapped is, in general, about 3 acres.  This level of mapping is designed for use by farmers, landowners, watershed groups, towns, and county/regional/state natural resource planning agencies.  The data is available for download from the sites listed below.

Two options for downloading SSURGO data:

  1. Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI)
  2. USDA / NRCS

1. Vermont Center for Geographic Information:

Vermont Center for Geographic Information -   State GIS Warehouse

To find all types of spatial data to download from VCGI, go to http://geodata.vermont.gov/

For soils data options from  this page, scroll down and find the icon called Geologic + Soils, and click on it.  On the resulting Vermont Open Geodata Portal web page, click in the Search window and type “soils”.

A direct link to Soils data specifically, from VCGI: http://geodata.vermont.gov/datasets?q=soils

These data layers are synchronized annually with the official Web Soil Survey data source, and include some common attributes such as map unit name, Prime Soil characteristics, and bedrock depth.  There are several download options – if you want the soils data for a particular county, click on that county in the map and follow instructions that pop up.

*Note: The "Top Twenty Table" included in the SSURGO attribute data. This is a condensed and easy to use single table, containing the most frequently used data attributes. On the VCGI site it can be found in http://geodata.vermont.gov/datasets?q=soils – scroll down to find VT Data – NRCS TOP20 soils attributes and documentation.  Click that title to download info.

2. USDA / Web Soil Survey site

USDA NRCS Web Soil Survey

-Click on 'Start Web Soil Survey (WSS), then click on the 'Download Soils Data' Tab

This data is available at 1:24,000 scale. In Vermont the data were developed with the intended publication scale of 1:20,000. A "scale waiver" was permitted for many Vermont counties, to allow this non-standard scale and make soil data compatible across Vermont.

A complete SSURGO data set consists of:

  •  map data (as ESRI ArcGIS shapefiles)
  • attribute data (a multitude of separate text tables)
  • database template (MS Access format - this helps with understanding the structure and linkages of the various tables)
  • metadata

MLRA Soil Survey Offices 

What is an MLRA?

Major Land Resource Areas (MLRAs) are geographic areas, usually several thousand acres in extent, that are characterized by a particular pattern of soils, climate, water resources, land uses, and type of farming. 

Soil surveys are an inventory of the soil resources that includes soil maps, data about soil properties and characteristics, and interpretations about soil suitability and limitations for land use and management. They were historically conducted on a county basis.  Soil map units often extended to political boundaries rather than natural features. To harmonize the soil survey data within physiographic regions, soil survey offices are now organized by MLRA. 

Vermont is within 4 MLRAs

  1. The northern part of the northeastern uplands comprising portions of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont is covered by the Dover-Foxcroft office in Maine.
  2. The Champlain Valley in Vermont and New York as well as other portions of New York are covered by the Paul Smiths soil survey office in New York.
  3. The mountainous region encompassing Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont is covered by the St Johnsbury office in Vermont.
  4. The Connecticut River Valley including the portion that extends into Vermont, and the southern part of the northeastern uplands comprising portions of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and all Rhode Island are covered by the Tolland office in Connecticut.
MLRA Survey Region 12 Map


Location address and Contact information for MLRA offices:

Dover-Foxcroft MLRA Soil Survey Office

USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
42 Engdahl Drive
Dover-Foxcroft, ME 04426

Dover-Foxcroft MLRA Soil Survey Office

Office Staff
Name Position Phone Number Email
Nicholas Butler
Soil Survey Office Leader
Matthew Dorman
Soil Scientist
Carl Bickford
Soil Scientist
Jamin Johanson
Ecological Site Specialist

Paul Smiths MLRA Soil Survey Office

USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
8023 State Route 30
Paul Smiths, NY 12970

Paul Smiths MLRA Soil Survey Office

Office Staff
Name Position Phone Number Email
Jerry Smith
Soil Survey Office Leader
Janella Cruz
Soil Scientist
Rebbeca Fox
Soil Scientist

 

St. Johnsbury MLRA Soil Survey Office

USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
481 Summer Street
Suite 202
St. Johnsbury, VT 05819

St. Johnsbury MLRA Soil Survey Office

Office Staff
Name Position Phone Number Email
Roger Dekett
Soil Survey Office Leader
Jessica Philippe
Soil Scientist

 

Tolland MLRA Soil Survey Office

USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
344 Merrow Road
Suite A
Tolland, CT 06084

Tolland MLRA Soil Survey Office

Office Staff
Name Position Phone Number Email
Donald Parizek
Soil Survey Office Leader
Jacob Isleib
Soil Scientist
Milton Vega
Soil Scientist
Michael Margo
Ecological Site Specialist

Vermont Soils Resources

  • Across the Fence - Across the Fence is the longest running daily farm and home television program in the country. Across the Fence is a 15 minute program produced by University of Vermont Extension. The program airs weekdays at 12:10 pm on WCAX TV, Channel 3. The program covers a wide variety of topics including dairy, stewardship, natural resources, and sustainable agriculture. Find at more on the UVM Extension website.
  • Rainfall Simulator Demonstration
  • University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science - the mission of the department is to expand, integrate, and extend the knowledge of crops and environmental quality in plant/soil ecosystems affecting the people of Vermont, the region, and the world
  • Soil and Water Conservation Society - fosters the science and the art of soil, water and related natural resource management to achieve sustainability
  • Soil Science Society of America - advances the discipline and practice of soil science by acquiring and disseminating information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management and recycling, and wise land use