Agronomic professionals and technicians dealing with precision farming must understand the soils within the field before writing effective prescriptions. A field provided with the same fertility, same amount of water, and same seed will still have production variability due to the soil morphology.
Soil survey tools (SoilWeb, Web Soil Survey, Google Earth Pro) are available to provide information beyond the usual soil fertility sampling. These survey tools help to provide an understanding in the soil morphology and how the morphology may impact yield productivity. Each tool was designed for a specific purpose and each tool was designed as a standalone product. The SoilWeb (University of California Davis/NRCS) was designed as a smartphone field application and contains a limited amount of the soil survey information. The Web Soil Survey (NRCS) was designed as a replacement to the historical soil survey manuscripts and contains access to the entire Soil Data Mart database. The SoilWeb provides a KML file for those who use Google Earth Pro.
Collaboration between the University of California Davis and the NRCS contractor programmers have delivered the most significant improvement in the use of the web-based soil survey tools. This product was released this month. For field users who have been accessing SoilWeb on their smartphone, they now have the ability to pass the SoilWeb screen to Web Soil Survey as an area of interest to obtain additional information. Web Soil Survey was designed and built before the advent of smartphone technology. Web Soil Survey has had smartphone navigation limitations because of its original design predating smartphone technology. With the SoilWeb “Link to WSS” integration, field users have smartphone access to all the WSS soil reports and thematic maps. This is a significant improvement in the delivery of soil education materials.
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The process begins by activating SoilWeb on the smartphone (or PC). SoilWeb uses the smartphone GPS technology to identify the current location or the user can enter a specific address or latitude and longitude.
Using the SoilWeb zoom feature, fill the smartphone screen with the study area. The SoilWeb screen becomes the Web Soil Survey area of interest. SoilWeb provides the basic information on the soils within the frame. After identifying the location, the user can select a polygon and receive limited soil survey information. Map unit 68A contains five soils within the polygon; the major named ‘Sable’ soil and the minor components of Muscatune, Ipava, Buckhart, and Elburn. Each soil has its own morphology and understanding that morphology and the soil locations assists the precision farming professional with understanding the full value the soils bring to production.
Additional information is available by clicking on the hyperlinked soil names. Close the Soil Profiles screen and activate the new WSS link in the upper right hand corner (Link to WSS) of the map screen. Before activating the link, make sure the screen contains the entire area of interest.
Choosing the “Link to WSS” passes the frame information to Web Soil Survey and creates a Web Soil Survey Area of Interest. (On a side note, SoilWeb uses Google Maps and Web Soil Survey uses Bing Maps, so there may be some image differences, note the clouds obscuring the ground on the Bing map.) Now that the ‘AOI’ has been drawn in Web Soil Survey, the user has full access to all the thematic maps and reports, download capability, and manuscript building capability.
The user can use the smartphone technology to zoom the screen and select any of the features on Web Soil Survey. The user can select thematic maps in the “Soil Data Explorer” tab under the subheadings of “Suitabilities and Limitations for Use” or the “Soil Properties and Qualities” to view interpretive maps and reports or “Soil Reports” to view the many reports.
This addition of the “Link to WSS” on the SoilWeb screen to create the Web Soil Survey Area of Interest provides users the benefits of both tools. Precision farming professionals now have field access to the all the tools necessary to better understand the soils beneath their feet. SoilWeb provides the ability to quickly identify the soils at their current location. The “Link to WSS” passes that location to Web Soil Survey. And Web Soil Survey provide in depth knowledge of the soil interpretations and soil properties visualized in maps and reports. These maps and reports can be saved to build a manuscript, tailored to the farm. This is the most significant improvement since the creation of these products.