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News Release

2021 Annual Soils Refresh

Edwin Muniz

The USDA-NRCS Soil and Plant Science Division refreshes the publicly available soil survey database once a year. This Annual Soils Refresh (ASR) allows for publication of new soils data, updates to existing soils data, release of new soil interpretations, and it ensures all official soils data adheres to the same standard. This year, the official soil survey database was refreshed on October 1, 2021 and this data is now available to the public through Web Soil Survey (WSS) or Soil Data Access (SDA). The list below highlights some of the new additions to the official soil survey database.

Drought Vulnerable Soils

Even in a year, having normal precipitation or slightly less than normal, some soils are prone to having drought stress occur in the plants growing on them. Several conditions can allow this to happen. Most influential may be a relative lack of effective precipitation and typically sandy or shallow soils or soils having a high content of rock fragments. In this case, even though there may be significant rainfall, the soil matrix does not retain sufficient water for crop growth.

Dynamic Soil Properties Response to Biochar

Biochar is the solid byproduct of the decomposition of organic materials in oxygen-limited environments at high temperatures, a process known as known as pyrolysis. The extremely carbon-rich material allows to sequester carbon in soils over long periods of time, with the potential to provide substantial increases to soil organic matter when applied to soils. Although it has only recently begun to receive attention as a soil health amendment, biochar has been used to increase the fertility, productivity, and health of soils around the world by indigenous communities for thousands of years, most notably in the Amazon rainforest.

Industrial Hemp for Fiber and Seed Production

Industrial hemp produced for fiber and seed is seeing a resurgence in interest from farmers in many states.  Although commonly cultivated in the United States prior to the 1940s, it fell out of vogue with the advent of other materials for producing rope and textiles.  Industrial hemp is a non-drug variety of Cannabis sativa which has very low levels (<0.3%) of the psychoactive compound, tetrahydracannabinal (THC). Industrial Hemp was originally produced for the fibers that assisted in the creation of textile materials. However, throughout the years there has been development in the production of several products that are the outcome of further processing and refinement of the plant. These products are as follow: agriculture, automotive, construction materials, food/nutrition/beverages, furniture, paper, personal care, recycling, and textiles. These products are all outcomes of time and innovation of the fibers and seeds of the plant.

Emergency Land Disposal of Milk

Disruptions in the supply chain and other problems can necessitate the emergency disposal of milk.  Land application is a viable method of disposal as the constituents of milk can be beneficial as soil amendments. The characteristics of the soil are important in the application since favorable soil properties are required to prevent environmental damage.

You can test interpretations without directly using the National Soil Information System (NASIS) by the use of the interpretations Testing website. This site allows anyone to access new interpretations without having to go through the NASIS Client interface.

To stay updated about various soil-related issues, you can subscribe to GovDelivery, which is a free service.

For assistance with GovDelivery and WSS, send inquiries to

For assistance with SDA, send inquiries to

Questions about soils data in New Jersey should be directed to NJ State Soils Scientist, Edwin Muniz.

For more information on the Web Soil Survey, see “I Want Help With…” on Web Soil Survey Home Page or visit the NRCS Soils webpage.