J. Cameron Loerch1, Michel D. Ransom2, John M. Galbraith3, David C. Weindorf4, H. Curtis Monger5, Joseph V. Chiaretti1, Craig Ditzler1 and Kenneth Scheffe6, (1)USDA-NRCS National Soil Survey Center, Lincoln, NE (2)2004 Throckmorton Hall, 1712 Claflin Road, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS (3)Crop & Soil Environmental Sciences Dept., Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA (4)Texas Tech University, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX (5)100 Centennial Mall North, Rm 152, National Soil Survey Center, Lincoln, NE (6)National Soil Survey Center, National Soil Survey Center, Lincoln, NE
Soil taxonomy is the official classification system for soils in the USA. This dynamic system has been amended and improved to accommodate newly described soils and their diagnostic properties from around the world into a common system. The U.S. National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) program consisting of national, state, university and private sector soil scientists have helped build the system. Soil taxonomy is a detailed system with a complex hierarchy that can be very intimidating to learn and difficult for beginning soil scientists, students and soil practitioners to use. An ad hoc NCSS advisory working group was formed to develop a simplified guide to using Soil Taxonomy. The simplified guide can be used to classify a soil to the great group level of soil taxonomy and will not require an advanced understanding of soil science, extensive field experience, or laboratory data in order to use and appreciate Soil Taxonomy. This collaborative effort targets the needs of beginning soil science and agricultural studies students, natural resource specialists with minimal soils experience, and other professionals who use NCSS products and reports. The guide consists of several sections paralleling the Keys to Soil Taxonomy. It is enhanced with the use of illustrations, horizon and profile photos, maps, and flow diagrams. The description of soil orders is expanded to explain central concepts of the taxa, includes maps of occurrence, explains class criteria in simplified terms, and includes a summary description for characteristics of the great groups. The section on diagnostic surface and subsurface horizons and features is enhanced in a similar manner. The guide conveys the classes and criteria of soil taxonomy through a more prosaic narrative and there is extensive use of hyperlinks for quick reference. The guide lends itself readily to web access and use on smartphones and tablets for use in the field.