Web Soil Survey (USA) – Steps to use this soil tool!

The Web Soil Survey is a fantastic tool to get information on the types of soil you have on your farm…and is especially helpful if you are looking to purchase a property to see what you might expect to find in the ‘soil department’.

The Web Soil Survey is a tool developed by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. It is operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).   The Web Soil Survey currently provides soil data for around 95% of the USA and they hope to get 100% of the country shortly.

How to use the Web Soil Survey

Step one – open up the Web Soil Survey (click here)

Step two – use the tools to navigate to your farm.  When you first open the Web Soil Survey it will show you a map of the USA.   The easiest way to zoom into your farm is to use the Address function…..click on address and then type in your farm address (number street, town, state).   It will then zoom the map into your place.

If it does not find your place, you can always click on the “+” tool and use your mouse (button down) to draw a box on the map around roughly where you live.  When you lift the mouse button the map will zoom into your selection.  Keep doing this till you have your place filling the screen.

Experiment with the other tools – you won’t break it!

Step three – this is the part that confuses most people.   The rest of the functions requires you to choose an AREA OF INTEREST..or an AOI.  This is a box or a shape that defines the boundaries of your farm.    You can pick any area you want…I use a box drawn larger than my farm so I get a feel for how the soils change around me.

To select an AOI in the Web Soil Survey you have to click on the tool bar for the AOL tool. There is two of them – a red rectangle and a red triangle.  One allows you to draw a box around the area you want to examine, the other a more complex shape.

Once you draw the box the Web Soil Survey takes a minute to load the coordinates into its system and then shows the area on your screen with a box like this:

Now the power of the Web Soil Survey is in your hands!

Step four – Click on the Soil Map tab on the top navigation of the Web Soil Survey.

This will replace the AOI box with a map of the soils.  The soil codes appear on the map and the corresponding soil types in the legend on the left hand side.

If you click on the soil types in the legend, you get a fantastic summary of what that soil is like.

Step five – The final nice feature is that you can create a printable map of the soils on your farm.  Click on the “Shopping Cart Free” tab.  You can make loads of choices of what you want the map to display when you print it.


I think that the Web Soil Survey is a fantastic tool for understanding what soils you have on your farm.   And if you want to buy a place…you can find out a little more about what you are buying!

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