ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — After 114 years, Mississippi State University and other agencies have completed an acre-by-acre map of Mississippi’s soils — more than 30 million acres.
It’s part of the National Cooperative Soil Survey begun in 1899 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service.
“To map over 30 million acres is a mindboggling scientific and technical accomplishment,” said Billy Kingery the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, president of the Professional Soil Classifiers Association of Mississippi. “But it’s not simply a map of the soils like a road map.
“This survey also offers suggestions for the uses of soils … to address the needs of people in such fields as agriculture, urban development, waste-water treatment and road-building. It’s a resource for anyone, anywhere in the world to use any time of day or night. That’s a big deal.”
Partners from the experiment station, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other natural resources agencies met in Jackson May 8, to celebrate completion of the state project.
Kingery said just the look and feel of soils holds a wealth of information.
“Red soil tells you iron has oxidized, gray tells you the soil is wet, so now we’re into water availability and drainage,” he said. “Slope or position in the landscape, climate, age, plants and microbes and of course the starting or parent material — all of these factors influence the formation and properties of soil.”
David Pettry, retired MAFES soil scientist, says there are 12 kinds of soil types in the world, and Mississippi has eight of them.
The original project was laid out by county, but the overall goal is a seamless national map based on geographic land formations.