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News Release

Official Web Soil Survey Available - Soil Science Annual Data Now Refreshed in July 2020

Madison, Wis. – June 30, 2020 – Wisconsin farmers and forest landowners rely on one common resource for production of food, fuel and fiber: their healthy soil. To help take care of the vital natural resource, many turn to the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Web Soil Survey (WSS).

WSS is the largest public-facing natural resource database in the world. Whether you are a farm entity that manages 10,000 acres or a private landowner of an acre of forest, you can use WSS to learn about your soils through customizable maps, properties and interpretations. The National Cooperative Soil Survey Program and WSS is an endeavor of the 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 NRCS released WSS in 2005 to provide better public access to national soils data and mapping. It is meant to provide general information, such as soil type and basic properties, to more complex data and interpretations. The entire Official Soils Database is refreshed each year to ensure that updated official data and associated interpretations are available to the public. Historically, the soils refresh occurred in October of each year. Starting this year, the refresh date will now be changed to July 1. This change will allow NRCS staff to better manage workload and ensure efficient implementation of all agency programs that support landowners and land managers.

Under the soil survey program mandate, NRCS is 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 continuously work to improve spatial data and put together a complete suite of soil interpretations and other products that customers want. Refreshed official soils information includes the results from soil projects for fiscal year 2020 as well as updated interpretation criteria for several national interpretations.

Customers can access the official U.S. Department of Agriculture soils data by visiting the Web Soil Survey (WSS) or Soil Data Access (SDA). Users can use WSS to create thematic maps, generate reports, create custom manuscripts and download soils data for area of interest or soil survey area. Users can use SDA to write custom soil data access queries (SQL) against the tabular data or to connect to the soils database with web services. 

The WSS serves about 300,000 users a month and over 3.5 million web service requests (API) a month (122 million a year) through 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; we’re here to help meet our customer’s individual farm goals and needs,” said Jason Nemecek, NRCS-Wisconsin State Soil Scientist.

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. WSS is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for free. You don’t need to create an account, just visit this page and get started today. Visit the WSS and click on the Download Soils Data tab, then choose the State of interest. Individuals interested in soil related topics or any NRCS Wisconsin topics may subscribe to email updates through GovDelivery. Individuals can also e-mail inquiries to SoilsHotline@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.

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