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News Release

Official Web Soil Survey Available – 2021 Soil Science Annual Data Refreshed in October

Madison, Wis. – October 29, 2021 – 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Web Soil Survey (WSS). USDA NRCS soil scientists update the official soils data annually, which is then published on WSS for public use.  WSS has been refreshed as of October 1, 2021 and is available for Wisconsin customers to use.

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 the 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 an important tool 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. The annual refresh date was October 1, 2021.

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 2021, as well as updated interpretation criteria for several national interpretations.

Customers can access the official USDA soils data by visiting the Web Soil Survey (WSS) or Soil Data Access (SDA). Users can use the 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 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 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 one of the most visited USDA agency websites; we’re here to help meet our customer’s individual farm needs and goals as it relates to their soil’s health,” said Jennifer Smith, NRCS Wisconsin State Soil Scientist.

The WSS is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for free. Visit the WSS and click on the Download Soils Data tab, then choose the State of interest. Individuals interested in soil related topics may subscribe to email updates through GovDelivery. Individuals can also e-mail inquiries to SoilsHotline@usda.gov for assistance with the WSS. Questions about soil data in Wisconsin should be directed to the Wisconsin State Soil Scientist. For more information on the WSS, visit the Wisconsin NRCS Soils Webpage.

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