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News Release

Official Web Soil Survey Available - Soil Science Annual Data Refreshed in October 2019

web soil surveyMadison, Wis. – October 7, 2019 – The National Cooperative Soil Survey Program is an endeavor of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other federal agencies, state and local governments, and cooperators. It provides a systematic study of the soils in a given area, including the classification, mapping, and interpretation of the soils. Soil types are classified from physical properties, drawing heavily on the principles of pedology, geology, and geomorphology.

The entire Official Web Soil Survey Database (WSS) is refreshed each year to ensure that updated official data is available to the public in October for use in implementing national programs affecting landowners and managers. Interpretation criteria will be updated for many national interpretations. You can access the data by visiting the Web Soil Survey (WSS) or Soil Data Access (SDA).

Refreshed soil survey information published to WSS includes soil projects for fiscal year 2019, charged by congress to inventory the soils of the U.S., interpret the soils for various uses, publish info to the public and maintain inventory to meet user needs.

NRCS soil scientists across the country work to improve spatial data and put together a complete suite of soil interpretations and other products that customers want. The WSS now serves more than 200,000 users a month and over 3 million web service requests (API) a month (36 million a year) through our soil data access web services, attracting a large audience that includes conservation planners, landscape architects, community planners, real estate developers, engineers and university researchers. “Web Soil Survey is the most visited USDA agency website meeting our customer’s individual needs,” said Dave Hoover, National Soil Survey Center Director. Every day, people in agriculture reference the survey, as do NRCS employees, while helping customers with a host of issues and questions during the conservation planning process.

New and/or revised interpretations this year for Forestry are below.

  • Windthrow Hazard: This interpretation evaluates soil and site characteristics for each soil component to provide a rating which identifies areas where trees may be prone to windthrow. While the characteristics of the trees and silvicultural practices are also factors in windthrow, trees growing where the rooting depth is limited and on exposed positions on the landscape are most at risk.
  • Mechanical Planting Suitability:  This interpretation addresses the difficulty of planting trees or shrubs using a mechanical planter. Criteria such as soil texture, rock fragment content and surface slope are evaluated to determine the degree of limitation for mechanical planting. The predictive model was changed to allow better differentiation of the level of limitation for planting. Also, the documentation of how the interpretation works was improved.
  • Mechanical Site Preparation (Deep): This interpretation addresses the difficulty of using deep soil tillage equipment to prepare a site for planting trees or shrubs. Criteria such as soil texture, rock fragment content, restriction depth and surface slope are evaluated to determine the degree of limitation for mechanical site preparation. The predictive model was changed to allow better differentiation of the level of limitation for site preparation. Also, the documentation of how the interpretation works was improved.
  • Mechanical Site Preparation (Surface): This interpretation addresses the difficulty of using surface-altering soil tillage equipment to prepare a site for planting trees or seeding. Criteria such as soil texture, rock fragment content and surface slope are evaluated to determine the degree of limitation for mechanical site preparation. The predictive model was changed to allow better differentiation of the level of limitation for site preparation. Also, the documentation of how the interpretation works was improved.
  • Potential Erosion Hazard (Off-Road/Off-Trail): This interpretation examines the surface erodibility, slope and rainfall erosivity to address the potential for excessive erosion to occur due to relatively small areas of soil disturbance under normal weather conditions. The predictive model was changed to allow better differentiation of the level of potential for erosion. Also, the documentation of how the interpretation works was improved.
  • Displacement Hazard: This interpretation is designed to predict the hazard of soil displacement from operations of ground-based equipment for forest harvesting and site preparation activities when soils are dry or moist. Displacement is the horizontal movement of soil caused by scraping or machine gouging. Displacement can remove the organic forest litter and upper portions of the mineral surface layer, reducing plant nutrient availability and water-holding capacity.
  • Puddling Hazard: This interpretation is designed to predict the risk of soil puddling occurring from operation of ground-based equipment for forest harvesting and site preparation activities when soils are moist.  Puddling is the loss of soil structure that results from squeezing and churning of soils by tires or tracks of heavy equipment. Soil particles become dispersed in water, and after they have dried and settled, the smaller particles form a crust on the surface. 

Contact Us
Individuals interested in knowing when surveys are updated should visit the WSS and click on the Download Soils Data tab, then choose the State they are interested in. Individuals interested in soil related topics or any NRCS Wisconsin topics may subscribe to topics through GovDelivery. Individuals can also e-mail inquiries to soilshotline@lin.usda.gov for assistance with GovDelivery and the WSS.

Questions about soil data in Wisconsin should be directed to the Wisconsin State Soil Scientist. For more information on the Web Soil Survey, see our report Soil Survey: Uses & Limitations or visit the Wisconsin NRCS Soils Webpage.