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There is something about soil
maps from the early twentieth century. Their colors seem more vivid
than those of modern maps. Even their legends are more interesting:
Soil maps were primarily created to delineate the soils of the
state, they show much more than that: They offer a glimpse of the
transportation infrastructure (steam and electric railroads,
trails, ferry landings), landscape features that may not be visible
today (salt marshes, swamps, tidal flats, escarpments, rock
outcrops), and geology (stony and gravelly areas,
Soil is our most valuable
resource. It is basic to all life processes. It is the medium for
growing food and fiber. It provides the foundations for homes,
stores, factories, schools, airports, roads, and
WHAT IS A SOIL SURVEY?
A soil survey is an acre-by-acre inventory of the soil resource. It
is developed by a professional soil scientist who covers the land
on foot, examines the soil in detail, and classifies it according
to a national system of soil taxonomy. The location of each kind of
soil is plotted. Each soil is then interpreted or translated in
regard to how it will respond when subjected to various uses and
US SOIL SURVEY
In the US soil maps are published by the U. S. Government Printing
Office.While the National Cooperative Soil Survey has involved
multiple partners since it's inception in 1896, Federal
responsibility for coordinating partner efforts has resided within
the USDA. However, soil survey responsibilities have moved several
times within the USDA:
- 1894 Division of Agricultural
Soil within the USDA Weather Bureau.
- 1899 Name changed to Division of
- 1901 Division moved up in status
to Bureau of Soils.
- 1927 Merged with the Bureau of
Chemistry, forming the Bureau of Chemistry and Soils.
- 1938 Soils unit transferred to
the Bureau of Plant Industry.
- 1942 Changed name to Bureau of
Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering, becoming part
of the Agricultural Research Administration.
- 1952 Soil survey program
transferred to the Soil Conservation Service (SCS).
- 1994 Name changed to Natural
Resources Conservation Service.
The original Federal authority for
the soil survey of the United States is contained in the record of
the 53rd Congress, chapter 169, Agricultural Appropriations Act of
1896. Millton Whitney was the first Chief of the Division of
Agricultural Soil. The division was created under the USDA Weather
Bureau in 1894, but, with the inception of National Cooperative
Soil Survey efforts, became the Division of Soils as an independent
division within the Department of Agriculture. The early vision of
soil survey was a survey that combined geography with soil
chemistry. The men conducting the surveys were geologists or
chemists; none had training in agronomy.
On May 3, 1899 with an
appropriation of $16,000 Whitney began field operations. In four
separate soil surveys about 720,000 acres were mapped that first
year. Cecil County, Maryland, and Connecticut Valley, Connecticut,
concentrated on tobacco lands. Survey of the Salt Lake Valley of
Utah and the Pecos River Valley of New Mexico concentrated on
alkali soil areas where irrigation and land reclamation projects
were planned. Soil surveys focused on cropland or interpretations
for cropland until the 1970s when the scope of the NCSS was
expanded to focus on urban lands.
Soil texture was the main
differentiating soil characteristic used in the early survey
process. Soil series were soon to follow as groupings of soil
types. By 1906 Miami soil series included 16 soil types from the
glaciated regions and Norfolk series included 12 soil types from
the coastal plains. Several other characteristics were added by
that time. They were soil color, organic content, soil structure,
drainage, erodibility, and nature of subsoil. Soil provinces were
established and soil series were confined to their area. Series at
first were identified where the soils formed from the same
accumulated parent material: glaciated, wind blown, alluvial
Geological Survey maps were
generally unavailable and early soil surveyors used the plane table
and alhidade to develop their own base maps. Work for soil surveys
was done at a mapping scale 1 inch to the mile. Scale as of 1999 is
pretty well standardized at 1:12000 or 1:24000. 6 different scales
have been used in published soil surveys.
In 1913 Curtis Marbut was
appointed Scientist in Charge of the Soil Survey, the position he
held almost until his death. Marbut was Professor of Geology and
Physiography at the University of Missouri from 1895 until 1910. As
a geologist and geographer his initial view was that soils were
surface reflections of the geology below them. Marbut changed to
recognize soil science as distinct from geology. Eugene W. Hilgard
of the University of California and Hopkins of the University of
Illinois greatly influenced this change. The land-grant
universities from the very start were close partners in National
Cooperative Soil Survey. By 1920, most soil surveyors were
graduates of land-grant universities and other agricultural
colleges with training in soils and crops.
The recognition of soil science
as a distinct discipline was also influenced by the Russian school
of soil science and K. D. Glinka (1867-1927) in particular. These
soil scientists characterized soils based on soil horizons of the
soil profile. This recognized soils more on natural boundaries.
Previously the soil was divided into sections by 6 2/3 inch
increments to 40 inches depth. Depths used were 0 to 7, 7 to 13, 13
to 20, 20 to 27, 27 to 34, 34 to 40 inches. Forty inches was the
depth of observation for a number of years, then later it was
extended to 60 inches and subsequently to 2 meters.
In 1920 Marbut began his work on
a soil classification scheme. In 1927 he published a translation of
Glinka's The Great Soil Groups of the World and their
Development from German to English. His classification scheme
became the 1935 system that was modified to become the system
published in the 1938 Yearbook of Agriculture, Soils and Men: the
1938 USDA soil taxonomy. At the highest level of classification the
soils were divided into pedocals and pedalfers. Pedocals were used
in the drier climates and referred to the carbonate rich soils. The
Pedalfers began about at the Udic border and referred to soils rich
in Aluminum (Alumen) and Iron (Ferrous). Alfer became the root term
Following 1938, classifying soil
series according to the system met with mixed success. By 1945 the
development of a new system began. The first version, termed an
"approximation" was tested by the 1948. A series of approximations
followed and the 7th approximation came out in 1960. The supplement
to the 7th approximation was approved for use in 1965. USDA soil
taxonomy, with 10 soil orders came out in 1975. It was revised into
the 2nd edition with 12 soil orders in 1999.
Another great person in the field was Julies Bien (later Bien &
Co), he was born and educated in Germany, and moved to America in
1849. He started his business as an engraver and lithographer,
later trading as a publisher. He built up a leading map making
establishment employing more than two hundred people and several
lithographic and copperplate presses. Worked extensively for US
SOIL MAPS IN
The first soil map of Belgium was
compiled in 1853 by A. Dumont at scale 1:160,000 on commission of
the Ministry of Agriculture. Belgium was subdivided into 9
geological-agricultural zones. It showed the broad agricultural
potential of the country as reflected in soil texture and lithology
of parent materials.
The map of Dumont formed the basis for a new initiative by Malaise
who produced soil maps at scales of 1:200,000 and 1:60,000 between
1867 and 1871, also following an agricultural approach. At the end
of the 19th century, the introduction of mineral fertilizers
triggered new mapping initiatives based on chemical analysis of the
P. Fallot was a wellknown french geologist in the first
part of the 19th century and in 1938 he was appointed as a
professor at the College de France.
Look for soil
maps currently available for sale.