County's soil studies now available online

WORTHINGTON -- Crop producers, landowners, assessors and realtors have a new and improved tool when it comes to placing a value on farming ground in Minnesota.

WORTHINGTON -- Crop producers, landowners, assessors and realtors have a new and improved tool when it comes to placing a value on farming ground in Minnesota.

For years, offices such as the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Soil and Water Conservation District have maintained written records on the soil types and topographical maps of land within the county. The information was only available by visiting the local NRCS or SWCD office, was offered in a simple, black and white format and was often outdated -- in some cases by up to 30 years.

Today, thanks to technology, people can access soil data on their back 40, or a parcel anywhere in the county, state or nation, with the click of a mouse and the touch of a keyboard.

Nobles County is one of the most recent counties in Minnesota to put its soil data online and, as such, has some of the most up-to-date information available to those who will use the service. A program explaining digital soil data and how to access the site will be presented at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Nobles County Public Works facility, 960 Diagonal Road, Worthington.

Steve Woltjer, NRCS district conservationist, said having the soil data available online offers numerous advantages.


"We think farmers, ag specialists, realtors and government agencies will all be using this now," he said.

In addition to accessing information about soil types, people can learn if a site is suitable for a septic system and if a specific parcel has areas of erosion or is subject to flooding. GIS files also are available on the Web site.

"This (soils) map will be really helpful if you were buying or renting land, as far as the yields you can expect," Woltjer said.

Dan Livdahl, SWCD district administrator, said that while yield information won't be completely accurate, it is another tool crop producers can use to compare productivity of certain fields.

On the other hand, livestock producers will find the information useful when determining where manure can be applied.

"They will be looking for land where the groundwater level isn't too close," Livdahl explained.

Because of the higher water table in Nobles County, Livdahl said most soil maps will show the ground is limited in regards to the level of manure that can be applied.

Information for the new digital soil data was taken from samples and tests performed on farmland within Nobles County during of the past five years, Woltjer said. The last time an extensive soil survey was conducted in the county was in the 1970s.


For producers without Internet access, Woltjer said they can continue to get their soil data from the local NRCS or SWCD office. The data is available on CD for computer users.

While having the soil data available online will benefit the public, it also has its advantages for county staff.

For example, when a producer signs up for the Conservation Reserve Program, the Web site can be used to help calculate rental rates based on the soil types within the CRP land.

"Soils do vary quite a bit from place to place, depending on how the soils were formed," Livdahl added.

For instance, Nobles County was more recently glaciated, unlike neighboring Rock County, which features more topography and different soil patterns.

On the Net:

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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