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North Carolina Soil: 100 Counties in 50 years

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By Stuart Lee

"Soils are our foundation. They are the necessary building blocks for our environment, food, animal and plant life, and the building of our streets and infrastructure..."

- Timothy Beard, NRCS State Conservationist

On May 25, 2017, in Caswell County, NC, NRCS and it's many partners joined together to celebrate a milestone of the modern soil survey program in NC. Caswell County was the last of the 100 counties in NC to publish a soil survey.

"As we expand our vision within the soil survey program and our use of innovative technology to assist in better management of natural resources, it is important to acknowledge the historical importance of soil survey work. The legacy spans generations and is to be celebrated."

- Stuart Lee, NRCS State Public Affairs and Outreach Specialist

What is a soil survey?

Soil survey is a study of what soils are distributed across a landscape.


Soil scientists use aerial imagery and open pits to observe the soil and produce maps.


Soil Survey photo (man with hat and equipment
NC SoilSurvey Timeline

1889: Early Soil Survey NC was selected for one of the first national soil surveys.

1900: Raleigh to Newbern Hugh Hammond Bennett, the
Soil Survey from Raleigh to Newbern NC Modern soil surveys began in Duplin County in 1959. They included the use of aerial photography and mapping to develop more accurate and useful soil maps.

1959: Modern Soil Surveys Begin

Soil scientists working on the fieldIn September 2016, Caswell County became the 100th county soil survey in NC, 116 years after the publishing of the Raleigh to New Bern Survey.

"Someone asked if we were going to hold a final acre ceremony for North Carolina, and I replied, 'No, people would think that our work here is over.'

There have been so many recent advancements in soil science and soil surveys that there is so much more that needs to be done!"

Kent Clary, NRCS State Soil Scientist


Map_showing_geographic_distribution_in_North_Carolina_of_granite_and_gneissPhysiographic_map_of_North_CarolinaState_of_North_Carolina_showing_problem_areas_in_soil_conservationThe Soil Survey Milestone event was sponsored and supported by the North Carolina Division of Soil and Water, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Science,Caswell County, Caswell Soil and Water Conservation District, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation.