The National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) reports that a new smartphone application, or “app,” can now help users access soil survey information. The new SoilWeb app is available as a free download for iPhone and Android users and combines online soil survey information with the global positioning system (GPS) capabilities the smart phones offer.

The SoilWeb app is a portable version of the University of California-Davis (UC Davis) Soil Resource Lab’s Web-based interface to digital soil survey data from USDA’s NRCS.  The mobile format is particularly useful for in-field use.

NRCS introduced the Web Soil Survey (WSS), an online tool for accessing soils information, a few years ago. WSS gave users, such as engineers, developers, farmers and others, quick access to the most current soil information data produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey.

Until recently, user access to Web-based soil survey formats was limited to desktop computers with an internet connection. This limitation motivated NRCS soil scientist Dylan Beaudette, while still a graduate student at UC-Davis, to develop the SoilWeb app in collaboration with NRCS and the UC-Davis California Soil Resource Lab.

SoilWeb can retrieve a graphic summary of soil type in the form of soil profile sketches. Each profile sketch shows soil horizons, which are 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 the 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 and the type of soil determines which nutrients are needed and 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. Learn more about the new SoilWeb app on the USDA blog at http://blogs.usda.gov/2012/02/03/a-smartphone-app-provides-new-way-to-access-soil-survey-information/#more-38023