A new smartphone application is available as a free download for both iPhone and Android users to access soil survey information. The app, SoilWeb, combines online soil survey information with the GPS capabilities of smartphones.

The SoilWeb app is a portable version of the UC Davis California Soil Resource Lab’s Web-based interface to  digital soil survey data from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Because the app provides soil survey information in a mobile form, it is useful for those working in the field.

SoilWeb can retrieve a graphic summary of soil types in response to a user inquiry in the form of soil profile sketches. Each profile sketch shows soil horizons, 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 information on soil properties such as horizon depths, colors, texture and rock fragment content. Clicking on a soil name 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; the type of soil determines what nutrients are needed, as well as how much water should be applied.  

Check out more conservation stories and additional information on the app on the USDA blog.