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NCSS Soil Characterization Database

Metadata Updated: January 3, 2024

The National Cooperative Soil Survey - Soil Characterization Database (NCSS-SCD) contains laboratory data for more than 65,000 locations (i.e. xy coordinates) throughout the United States and its Territories, and about 2,100 locations from other countries. It is a compilation of data from the Kellogg Soil Survey Laboratory (KSSL) and several cooperating laboratories. The data steward and distributor is the National Soil Survey Center (NSSC). Information contained within the database includes physical, chemical, biological, mineralogical, morphological, and mid infrared reflectance (MIR) soil measurements, as well a collection of calculated values. The intended use of the data is to support interpretations related to soil use and management.

Data Usage Access to the data is provided via the following user interfaces: 1. Interactive Web Map 2. Lab Data Mart (LDM) for querying data and generating reports 3. Soil Data Access (SDA) web services for querying data 5. Direct download of the entire database in several formats

Data at each location includes measurements at multiple depths (e.g. soil horizons). However, not all analyses have been conducted for each location and depth. Typically, a suite of measurements was collected based upon assumed or known conditions regarding the soil being analyzed. For example, soils of arid environments are routinely analyzed for salts and carbonates as part of the standard analysis suite. Standard morphological soil descriptions are available for about 60,000 of these locations. Mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy is available for about 7,000 locations. Soil fertility measurements, such as those made by Agricultural Experiment Stations, were not made. Most of the data were obtained over the last 40 years, with about 4,000 locations before 1960, 25,000 from 1960-1990, 27,000 from 1990-2010, and 13,000 from 2010 to 2021. Generally, the number of measurements recorded per location has increased over time. Typically, the data were collected to represent a soil series or map unit component concept. They may also have been sampled to determine the range of variation within a given landscape.

Although strict quality-control measures are applied, the NSSC does not warrant that the data are error free. Also, in some cases the measurements are not within the applicability range of the laboratory methods. For example, dispersion of clay is incomplete in some soils by the standard method used for determining particle-size distribution. Soils producing incomplete dispersion include those that are derived from volcanic materials or that have a high content of iron oxides, gypsum, carbonates, or other cementing materials. Also note that determination of clay minerals by x-ray diffraction is relative. Measurements of very high or very low quantities by any method are not very precise. Other measurements have other limitations in some kinds of soils. Such data are retained in the database for research purposes. Also, some of the data for were obtained from cooperating laboratories within the NCSS. The accuracy of the location coordinates has not been quantified but can be inferred from the precision of their decimal degrees and the presence of a map datum. Some older records may correspond to a county centroid. When the map datum is missing it can be assumed that data prior to 1990 was recorded using NAD27 and with WGS84 after 1995.

For detailed information about methods used in the KSSL and other laboratories refer to "Soil Survey Investigation Report No. 42". For information on the application of laboratory data, refer to "Soil Survey Investigation Report No. 45". If you are unfamiliar with any terms or methods feel free to consult your NRCS State Soil Scientist.

Terms of Use This dataset is not designed for use as a primary regulatory tool in permitting or citing decisions but may be used as a reference source. This is public information and may be interpreted by organizations, agencies, units of government, or others based on needs; however, they are responsible for the appropriate application. Federal, State, or local regulatory bodies are not to reassign to the Natural Resources Conservation Service or the National Cooperative Soil Survey any authority for the decisions that they make. The Natural Resources Conservation Service will not perform any evaluations of these data for purposes related solely to State or local regulatory programs.

Access & Use Information

Public: This dataset is intended for public access and use. License: us-pd

Downloads & Resources



Metadata Created Date November 10, 2020
Metadata Updated Date January 3, 2024
Data Update Frequency irregular

Metadata Source

Harvested from USDA JSON

Additional Metadata

Resource Type Dataset
Metadata Created Date November 10, 2020
Metadata Updated Date January 3, 2024
Publisher Natural Resources Conservation Service
Identifier NRCS0093
Data First Published 2020-05-20
Language en-US
Data Last Modified 2022-12-07
Rights true
Category geospatial
Public Access Level public
Data Update Frequency irregular
Bureau Code 015:11
Metadata Context
Schema Version
Catalog Describedby
Data Quality True
Data Dictionary
Harvest Object Id 0deef8c1-bcbf-449f-9318-f7a75c9615e8
Harvest Source Id d3fafa34-0cb9-48f1-ab1d-5b5fdc783806
Harvest Source Title USDA JSON
Homepage URL
Metadata Type geospatial
Old Spatial United State, Territories, Commonwealths, Island Nations
Program Code 015:001
Publisher Hierarchy Natural Resources Conservation Service > Natural Resources Conservation Service
Related Documents
Source Datajson Identifier True
Source Hash 292ce3c8b3d39e1ab04d928c6270ecfdf424274f9e0429e1ae11b49ecd8b36a9
Source Schema Version 1.1

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