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Governor Declares December 5 World Soil Day in Connecticut

World Soil Day Proclamation signed by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy

























Often ignored, seldom appreciated, the wonderful world of soil is not the natural resource often discussed or cared about. But we want you to change that. With a little time and a small commitment to learning—things could improve. Trust us on this, soil is critical to life. No one understands that more than the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In 2002, the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) adopted a resolution proposing what would become World Soil Day. The resolution was intended to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to human well-being.

Under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) supported the formal establishment of World Soil Day as a global-awareness-raising platform. In June 2013, the FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day and requested official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly.

In December 2013, the 68th UN General Assembly declared the 5th of December as World Soil Day. This date was chosen to honor the official birthday of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who officially sanctioned the event.

The science of soils gained influence in large measure due to the vision of early soil scientists whose commitment resulted in the agricultural productivity we enjoy today. Milton Whitney was one of the earliest and most influential scientists. He was appointed the first Chief of the Division of Agricultural Soils in 1894. Whitney was responsible for establishing a national soil survey and expanding the range of soils investigations within USDA. His initiatives resulted in acceptance of the notion that understanding soils was the key to improving agricultural productivity. This acceptance resulted in a long-term commitment to soil science and to soil survey activities. Ultimately, it led to the primary mission of the USDA-NRCS Soil Science Division.

Soil survey is:

  1. The systematic examination, description, classification, and mapping of soils in an area. Soil surveys are classified according to the kind and intensity of field examination.
  2. The program of the National Cooperative Soil Survey includes developing and implementing standards for describing, classifying, mapping, writing, and publishing information about soils of a specific area. (From the Soil Science Society of America)

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 81% of the nation’s population lives in urban areas. This fact alone is enough to justify the need to identify, describe, and map urban soils to modern standards.

Detailed, modern information on soils can help city planners determine the best land uses and management practices. This information can directly serve the public and strongly impact human health and quality of life.

Soil Facts

  • The American Midwest has the largest area of prime farmland soils in the world
  • About 20% of the land in the U.S. is used to grow crops
  • A tablespoon of soil contains more micro-organisms than the number of people on earth
  • The U.S. has more than 20,000 soil series
  • Clays, the smallest particles making up soil, are less than 1/12,000 inch in diameter. A single teaspoon will hold more clay particles than there are people on the earth.

Understanding soil risks and hazards is important to anyone making land use decisions—such as choosing a site for a home, community road, or school. Locating facilities in areas with excessive risk contributes to loss of life, health, and property. Learning about and understanding soil conditions is important to everyone.

In soil survey, not all focus is on agricultural land. Just as terrestrial soils support agriculture, subaqueous soils support aquaculture. Coastal zone soil surveys (CZSS) are needed to provide valuable information for planning and managing important coastal areas. These areas typically are ecologically significant and potentially exposed to great hazards. Coastal areas that are healthy and intact provide valuable services.

Web Soil Survey (WSS) is a free application designed to assist in land use decisions. View the three-part YouTube playlist for information on using the WSS. This information is provided by the Soils Hotline staff at the National Soil Survey Center. The playlist covers Applications Access, Setting the Area of Interest (AOI), and Tabs and Downloads.

Interpretations use soil survey data to predict the impact of soil properties on land use (such as farmland, building sites, and recreational areas). Soil properties include sand, silt, and clay content; pH; organic matter content; slope; and shrink-swell potential. Some models for interpretations use rule-based fuzzy logic systems. The Wisconsin Crop Productivity Index is one interpretation based on fuzzy systems.

The Charles E. Kellogg Soil Survey Laboratory (KSSL) is the key source for soil analytical data for the National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS). Their mission is to measure soil properties that are critical to soil survey and conservation efforts. Data for these properties contribute to decisions concerning best use and management of soils. KSSL recently completed its participation in the EPA National Wetland Condition Assessment directed by Congress. For this project, wetlands at more than 1,000 representative sites throughout the United States were inventoried to determine their health and to identify factors that may be having a negative impact on their functioning.

Vineyards illustrate the importance of soils for a variety of economic uses. The characteristics of the soil are critical to the terroir, or environmental context, of great wines. The wine industry has experienced remarkable growth in the past 10 years. As a result, tools have been developed that use the soil survey database to locate areas that are well suited to certain wine grape varieties. These tools quantify the suitability of sites for 12 sets of grape varieties. Identifying these site presents a unique challenge because absolute yield is not the measure of success for a vineyard. The production of desirable wine grapes does not necessarily require the most productive soils. It needs a combination of certain soil, site, and climatic characteristics. This interaction results in the terroir of a vineyard.

Did You Know?

  • Did you know that each state has its own State Soil? Each state has selected a soil which has special significance, 20 of which have been legislatively established. These Official State Soils share the same level of distinction as official state flowers and birds .
  • Did you know that soils, because of their diverse properties and characteristics, can be used as evidence in criminal investigations?
  • Did you know in some cases, soil can be dangerous? One hazard is human sickness caused by soil-borne pathogens. Valley fever is a disease caused by a fungus that lives in hot, dry, salty soils. Soil and climatic conditions suitable for the fungus are common in California’s San Joaquin Valley and in the valleys around Phoenix, Arizona. A system, or model, that uses the soil survey database has been developed to locate areas where the fungus may exist. The maps are detailed enough that likely hotspots can be identified. The model also predicts isolated niches of soils and climates that are suitable for the fungus, some of which are far from where the disease commonly occurs.
  • Did you know that in the period it took to form just one-inch, innumerable important events took place, not the least of which were John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland in 1497, the invention of the toothbrush by a Chinese dentist in 1498, and Edmund Halley’s observation of the Great Comet (later named for him) in 1682. These are just a few—the list is almost endless. Get a free copy of the Inch of Soil Poster.
  • You might wonder what a soil scientist’s day is like. “A Soil Scientist’s Perspective”  will give you a bird’s eye view of the work being done on behalf of soil and the benefits to you—the consumer.
  • Did you know that life can get pretty exciting for soil scientists? Read about Cathy Seybold who, once a year, for 10 days or so, takes her job to Antarctica.

History Makers

  • Dr. Charles Edwin Kellogg had one of the most distinguished careers in the history of soil science. It was marked by his dedication to assist land users through knowledge of soil and the use of soil surveys. He accomplished that objective by redirecting and redefining the soil survey program of the Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, which he supervised from 1934 to 1971. His legacy continues in the work of soil scientists around the world. “Essentially, all life depends upon the soil ... There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.” —Charles E. Kellogg
  • Dr. Guy Smith, known as the Father of Soil Taxonomy, was a distinguished international soil scientist and world-renowned pedologist. He joined the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) in Iowa and later took a position at SCS headquarters in Washington, DC. In 1952, he was named Director of Soil Survey Investigations. As part of his duties, he traveled the world studying and describing soils. In 1975, Dr. Smith published Soil Taxonomy, the culmination of 23 years of leadership towards the development of a new comprehensive system of soil classification. This work brought him widespread international recognition.
  • Horace Smith was the first African-American Director of the Soil Survey Division. He spent his entire professional career with the Soil Conservation Service. As a young soil scientist, Smith surveyed the soils in the District of Columbia. During this time, he established new methods and standards that continue to be the gold standard for today’s urban mapping. During his tenure as Director, Smith provided leadership for the National Cooperative Soil Survey, the National Soil Survey Center, and the Soil Quality Institute as well as effectively led the Division into the Internet Age with the digitization of all soil surveys. The digitizing effort ultimately led to the development of the successful Web-based application known as the Web Soil Survey.