Smartphone app brings soil survey maps to the field.
Growers can now know all about the dirt they are standing on by simply using a cell phone connected to the Internet.
The smartphone application or app called SoilWeb brings soil properties, classifications, and soil characteristics out to the field through GPS-enabled cell phones. The free SoilWeb, adapted for both the iPhone and Android operating system platforms, was developed by Dr. Anthony (Toby) O’Geen, soil resource specialist for the University of California Cooperative Extension, and Dylan Beaudette, UC-Davis soils and biogeochemistry graduate student.
Before digital technology, growers had to visit their local soil conservation district office to obtain printed copies of the soil survey maps of their farms and other locations. Those printed surveys were invaluable for growers, detailing soil classifications, topography, and slope, but they were cumbersome for growers and district staff to match the map and address.
Soil survey maps across the nation, in recent years, have been digitized, and hard copies are no longer in print, said O’Geen.
Easy to use
The SoilWeb app brings digitized soil information to the field in an easy-to-use format for growers, home gardeners, or anyone wanting to know what limitations the soil may have in a particular location. The app was designed for a wide range of users, from growers and agronomists to consultants, educators, students, and the general public.
“It doesn’t record dynamic properties, like changes in soil nutrient levels and current soil water availability, but it can be used in site selection and land use, and provide insight into fertility management, water management, rootstock selection, and site preparation needs,” O’Geen explained. For example, knowing the soil properties could help growers decide that ripping the ground before planting was unnecessary, saving money. Insight into soil fertility could help a grower choose a vigorous or nonvigorous rootstock.
O’Geen believes that becoming more familiar with the landscape is a valuable tool for growers, especially wine grape growers. “It can help you create a real identity and connection between your product and the land,” he said, adding that detailed soil landscape descriptions can be written for use in marketing the grapes to wineries and consumers.
Washington State University soil scientist Dr. Joan Davenport shared with the Good Fruit Grower that she routinely uses the SoilWeb app during field tours when teaching her soil science classes as well as for consulting and research projects.
The SoilWeb app interfaces with Google maps and the online access to soil survey information of the UC’s Soil Resource Laboratory. Information sent back to the smartphone is in a format of soil profile sketches that depict soil horizons, series names, landscape position, and taxonomic classification.
Clicking on a soil name provides the user with additional information, such as soil depth, profiles of soil chemical and physical properties, land-use interpretations, and links to other environmental databases. All of the different terms are linked to lay person definitions.
O’Geen said that the intent of the SoilWeb app was twofold: to enable more people access to soil survey information and to encourage more people to apply soil survey information in a way that best accommodates where soil data is used—in the field.
O’Geen gave a demonstration of the SoilWeb app during a session at the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers’s annual meeting.
For more information on SoilWeb, go to: http://casoilresource.lawr.uc davis.edu/drupal/node/886.