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A Smartphone App Provides New Way to Access Soil Survey Information

NRCS Soil Scientist Dr. Dylan Beaudette developed the SoilWeb application for mobile devices while he was a graduate student at UC Davis. The app provides soil survey information in a mobile form and is particularly useful for those working in the field.

NRCS Soil Scientist Dr. Dylan Beaudette developed the SoilWeb application for mobile devices while he was a graduate student at UC Davis. The app provides soil survey information in a mobile form and is particularly useful for those working in the field.

A new smartphone application, or “app,” is available as a free download for both iPhone and Android users to access soil survey information. The app, SoilWeb, combines online soil survey information with the GPS capabilities of smartphones.

The SoilWeb app is a portable version of the UC Davis California Soil Resource Lab’s Web-based interface to digital soil survey data from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  Because the app provides soil survey information in a mobile form, it is particularly useful for those working in the field.

NRCS introduced the Web Soil Survey (WSS), an online tool for accessing soils information, a few years ago. This was a wonderful development for users of soils information—engineers, developers, farmers and many others—because WSS provides quick access to the most current data produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey.

Until recently, a disadvantage of Web-based soil survey formats was that user access was limited to desktop computers with an internet connection. That’s one reason that NRCS soil scientist Dr. Dylan Beaudette, while still a graduate student at UC Davis, developed the SoilWeb app in collaboration with NRCS and the UC Davis California Soil Resource Lab.

iPhone screen shots.

iPhone screen shots.

SoilWeb can retrieve a graphic summary of soil types in response to a user inquiry in the form of soil profile sketches. Each profile sketch shows soil horizons, often compared to a vertical ice cream sandwich made up of layers of soil. Soil names, locations and taxonomic categories are also shown.

Clicking on soil sketches sends the user to the corresponding Official Series Description, a user-friendly narrative of commonly used soil properties such as horizon depths, colors, texture and rock fragment content. Clicking on a soil name (listed above each sketch) provides the user with a more detailed description, including: physical and chemical properties, definitions and links to a variety of environmental databases.

This means that a farmer, rancher or even a backyard gardener could use a smartphone to gain an understanding of the soil type in the surrounding landscape. Soil health is a key factor in the success of plants—the type of soil determines what nutrients are needed, as well as how much water should be applied.

SoilWeb is useful even for users already familiar with NRCS’s Web Soil Survey, as it is much faster than pulling up soil survey information on a desktop or laptop computer.

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14 Responses to “A Smartphone App Provides New Way to Access Soil Survey Information”

  1. Rob Pearce says:

    this is an awesome app, my only suggestion is to do a ipad version. It will work on ipads, but retains the iphone size.

  2. San Li says:

    How cool is this! And from UC Davis too.

  3. Jeremy Dennis says:

    You are leaving out blackberry users. Tha app is no good if every one can’t use it.

  4. tedward says:

    Not a new app. I’ve been using this for over a year now.

  5. Soil surveyor says:

    To bad all goverment phones are blackberrys

  6. Clover Clamons says:

    Excellent! I am so excited to use this with Agronomy students in the fall.

  7. Joshua Johnson says:

    This is a great app! Think of the potential – ‘Joshua Johnson “likes” this post, while standing on Mountview soil with 9% slope.’
    It will take some adjusting to become comfortable with the metric measurements. The diagram is in centimeters, the explanations lists inches…whew!
    My old soils professor would be so proud that I bothered to download this app!

  8. Matt says:

    I have been using this for more than a year. I also recommend the app “Coordinates” as it lets you type in GPS coordinates and will convert them to decimals or vice versa and then you can map to/from the coordinates. I use these apps everyday as a soil con, maybe USDA should be paying my iPhone bill?

  9. C.W. Gaskill says:

    What a great app. I’ve good mobile ESRI and AutoCAD versions on my iPhone. This is a great compliment to a truly mobile office for feild professionals.

    Sorry for all those Blackberry folks, but that is a dead company with a tiny smartphone market share. No one really makes apps for them. You’ll have better luck trying to watch new moive realease on Betamax.

  10. Erik Johnson says:

    Please start work on an ipad version.

  11. P. A. Ray says:

    Has this app been written for Microsoft phones?

  12. J. Clingman says:

    Works great on my Droid Razr. Helpful in teaching Soil Management class at local community college’s Natural Resource Management program.

    Sorry for Blackberry users. This is another example of why I don’t have a Blackberry – way too limited now.

  13. Jennah says:

    my uncle would love this app. :) and i agree with the rest it should have an ipad app, it will definitely benefit those who doesn’t use iphones.

  14. Tifany Larew says:

    I’m using this app on iphone. Works great

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