Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District

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Home NRCS Soil Survey How Is A Soil Survey Done?

How Is A Soil Survey Done?


A soil scientist compares the color of the soil horizon to those in a Munsell Color Book as part of the data collection for soil survey.

Soil Scientists study soil and landscape relationships, predict patterns and make accurate soil maps. Mapmaking requires field verification samples and occasional laboratory analysis. During a soil survey, the soil scientist walks over the landscape and uses a tile spade and shovel to dig holes in order to examine cross sections of soil profiles. Soil properties like color, texture, and structure are examined and recorded, as well as the thickness of the different soil layers and the type of bedrock. Other data collected includes rooting depth, soil temperature, volume of rock fragments, and present vegetation.


Soil scientists follow National Cooperative Soil Survey standards when describing soil profiles

Based on field observations and data collection, soil scientists create digital soil maps with a geographic information system (GIS) and compose soil map units. Once interpretations have been generated, the survey is published online as part of Web Soil Survey.

The Central Sierra Foothills Soil Survey Team always respects the property owners in the areas where they are sampling. They park on roads, traverse fields on foot and fill in their sampling holes. Gates are left as they are found and the scientists try hard not to leave any trace of their visit. Their trucks carry very apparent signs saying “NRCS Soil Survey.” The team is always willing to work with landowners and operators about any concerns that they might have.


Phone: (209) 984-0500

Office: 77 N. Washington St.
Sonora, CA 95370
Mail: PO Box 4394
Sonora, CA 95370
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