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Examining soils in the field.

Field Book for Describing and Sampling Soils

Standards for observing and recording soil and site characteristics.

Cover of the Field Book for Describing and Sampling Soils.

The Field Book for Describing and Sampling Soils, version 3.0 (Schoeneberger, Wysocki, Benham, and Soil Survey Staff, 2012) is a 4" x 7" spiral-bound publication printed on waterproof paper. Page tabs mark Field Book chapters and sections for quick, easy reference. Early chapters address Site Description, Soil Profile/Pedon Description, and Geomorphology. Latter chapters provide information on Geology, Soil Taxonomy, Location, Field Sampling, and Miscellaneous topics.


The Science and Art of Soil and Landscape Description

The Field Book summarizes the present science and art of describing and documenting soils and soilscapes in the USA. The intended audience is professionals who describe soils for various purposes. The Field Book includes key descriptors, conventions, and concepts from soil science and geomorphology to facilitate field observations and soil documentation. The Field Book also aids in understanding soil descriptions and data found in soil surveys, dissertations, research papers, and general soil publications.


  • Version 3.0 (2012) includes new content, chapter updates, new terms, and addresses errors in earlier versions. Version 3.0 supersedes previous releases, which should be discarded.
  • The third printing (2021) of the field book contains some minor changes from previous printings. The changes are mostly errata, such as misspelled words.


New Material or Topic

  • Pedogenic Carbonate Stages – discussion, concepts, graphics
  • Artifacts / Anthropogenic Morphology & Materials – discussion, all descriptors
  • Subaqueous Soils – discussion, description / documentation
  • Soil Water Repellency – discussion, test
  • Ksat & Permeability Discussion
  • Ksat Class Estimation – via proxy properties
  • Percent of Area Covered – graphics
  • Surface Fragment – Kind – table
  • Soil pH Methods – table
  • Salinity Class Discussion
  • Soil Taxonomic Moisture and Temperature Regimes – summaries
  • GPS Datum – table
  • Soil Sampling – discussion, techniques

Major Revisions

  • Geomorphology Section – expanded content
  • Geologic Time Chart – updated
  • Location: GPS, Public Land Survey, UTM – discussion & description details, UTM zone graphic
  • References – expanded and updated by chapter

Traducción Española

Esta es una traducción de la versión 2.0. La versión actual, 3.0, no está actualmente disponible en español.


Ordering Information

One copy may be ordered through the NRCS Distribution Center. For larger quantities, please contact your State Soil Scientist.

  1. Order on-line: Go to the NRCS Distribution Center
    a. Enter the keywords “field book”
  2. Order by phone: 888-526-3227
  3. Order by e-mail:

For commercial applications, copies are available through the Government Printing Office.

Recommended Citation

Schoeneberger, P.J., D.A. Wysocki, E.C. Benham, and Soil Survey Staff. 2012. Field book for describing and sampling soils, Version 3.0. Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Soil Survey Center, Lincoln, NE.


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