Using Google Earth to map your farm soil

Google Earth is a free mapping tool that you can download for your computer or mobile device from here. Google Earth is a wonderful tool for planning your farm or homestead activities.  Using Google Earth to map your farm soil is just one of the great things you can use it for.   You can also use it to zone your farmmeasure farm dimensions and even look at farm history through historic satellite and air photo images.

This post show you how to upload free soil data and then discover the soils on your farm.   It assumes you have already uploaded the free Google Earth software.

Using Google Earth to map your farm soil – the steps!

Step 1. Uploading the soil data
The folks at the University of California, Davis have a great site that contains not only the soil data but some other applications (apps) that you can use to look at soil.  It’s worth exploring their site here.   But for now, lets download the soil data and get it into Google Earth.

Without opening Google Earth, click on this link to download the soil data file. (It is called SoilWeb.kmz).  Depending on the browser and computer you use, the file will be saved into your downloads folder.  You can always search for it using the file name.

Find the SoilWeb.kmz file and open it.    It will load Google Earth and the soil data.

 Step 2. Finding your farm
In the search box in the upper left hand corner, type in the address of your farm….then click search and watch it zoom in!  Google Earth will place a red pin and display the address of your search on the image.  You can zoom in and out and change the orientation using the zoom bar tools on the right hand side of the image.   To remove the red pin (which I find annoying) and address you just click the blue X under the search results box on the left hand side.  For now, zoom to a level so you can see the entire outline of your farm in the image.

Step 3. Make sure the SoilWeb data is turned on!
In the Google Earth ‘Places” menu, find the listing for SoilWeb and make sure the box is clicked.

Your screen should show the yellow soil map lines and soil designations.

Step 4. Learn more about the soils mapped.
To find more information about the soils mapped, you can just click on the soil designation yellow letters on the map.  This brings up the soil dialog box that shows the basic information about the soil type and profile.

From that box, if you click on the soil name, it will provide you a summary of that soil showing details like water holding capacity etc.  I find this information interesting, but there is not much in here I can use for my farm planning (see how to get better info below).

To get back to the soil map, just click on the “Back to Google Earth” button on the top left of the data screen.  Click the yellow soil designation letters again and bring up the basic soil profile box.  This time, click on the soil classification link.

The details that this brings up is far more comprehensive and useful for farmers.    It contains information on land classification, erosion ratings, plants and much more.  Scroll down that screen to see even more information….most with clickable links to explanations.

Scroll down to :

Using Google Earth to map your farm soil  – the benefits
While a lot of this is very technical data, knowing what soil groups exist on your land will help you with planing your farm activities.   For example, you can use the data to understand good places to construct ponds, and even source pond lining materials.  You can see what variations in soil exist and how you might need to supplement soils in some locations and not in others.

Taking this data and combining it with your on-site knowledge, and the observations of what other farms are doing around you, can really become an important tool for future planning.

I hope this guide is of some benefit for you and your homestead/farm planning.  You might also be interested in the following Google Earth lessons:

Google Earth and zoning your farm

Google Earth and measuring distances