Digital Soil Mapping in Minnesota
This site provides information about a variety of county-level and
statewide digital data
sets that describe the soils of Minnesota. Status information and links to
of the characteristics and limitations of the data sets are provided.
Most of the data is available free online.
County Data |
Statewide Data | Published Soil Surveys |
Crop Productivity Index Ratings |
In a 1994 survey of Minnesota GIS users, digital soils data was identified as
the number one
data need. There was a particular need for detailed data sets based on the
printed county soil surveys created by the Natural Resources Conservation
Service. To help focus a plan for obtaining these detailed data sets, the Minnesota
Governor's Council on Geographic Information published
Soil Surveys: Guidelines for Digitizing (June, 1997). Each county's
printed soil survey was placed into one of four categories based on whether the soil
classification was modern or outdated and whether or not the survey had
been produced using an orthophoto basemap. (See the map on page 7 of the report
showing the category for each county.) For more information about the creation and uses of the printed
surveys, see a brief history of soil mapping in
The report recommended various digitization options and discussed
intermediate digital products that could be used until higher quality
data became available. Substantial progress on creating county-level
digital data has been made since the report was published.
County-level digital data
The data sets described in this section were created from the printed
surveys from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Currently, the
areas included in these different data sets cover most of the state;
they are all
- SSURGO: The Soil Survey Geographic data set (SSURGO)
from NRCS is considered the best available
digital soils data in Minnesota.
Soil Survey: View soil maps and reports on the web, without
having to download the data. This NRCS site makes SSURGO soil data much
more accessible to the general public.
- Download or order on CD:
Several download options are available; also find links for more information
status map from NRCS showing the progress of SSURGO data sets
currently completed, planned or in production
- Soil Survey Information System
(SSIS): Soils data for about 40 Minnesota counties was collected
using the Soil Survey Information System. SSIS
is a non-GIS computer program created by the University of Minnesota
Department of Soil, Water and Climate in the
mid-to-late 1970s. It was used to collect and display soil information
from the NRCS county soil surveys on a
section-by-section basis. Many of the SSIS files have been converted
to GIS formats and put together into public land survey township tiles.
All SSIS data has been superseded by SSURGO
data from NRCS. SSIS data will remain online, however, for historical
Statewide digital data
The three statewide data sets are less detailed than the county data sets;
however, they provide information for areas not yet covered by
county-level data sets and are suitable for statewide
or regional analysis.
- U.S. General Soil Map (STATSGO2): The State Soil Geographic database, created by the Natural Resources Conservation Service,
shows the boundaries of soil associations at a scale of 1:250,000. Soil associations are more
general than the soil series mapped in NRCS's county soil surveys. The
data and full documentation are
online from NRCS.
- Minnesota Soil Atlas: This 1:250,000-scale data set shows soil landscape units
created using combinations of four characteristics: sub-surface soil
texture, surface soil texture, drainage, and surface color. It was created
from the preliminary Minnesota Soil Atlas sheets developed by the
Department of Soil Science, University of Minnesota, in cooperation with NRCS. It is available
- Cummins and Grigal: This 1:1,000,000-scale data set, available on the Minnesota.data
CD, Volume 1, contains polygons based on areas of common soil and landform characteristics,
and is useful for regional analysis. See the map's companion
document, Legend to Map: Soils and Land Surfaces of Minnesota 1980
(PDF, 3542K), J.F. Cummins and
D.F. Grigal, Department of Soil, Water and Climate, University of
Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station.
Published county soil surveys
The published county soil survey books from NRCS are divided into three parts:
Part 1 provides a general description of a county's soils; Part 2 contains
detailed soil descriptions and information on the use and management of
the soils; Part 3 contains a general map of soil associations and many
detailed maps of soil series overlaid on an air photo background. Note
that NRCS is no longer publishing these books on paper; many books are
available as PDF
files that can be downloaded.
of published surveys, publication dates and contact information for Minnesota NRCS.
Online: Soil surveys
for about half of Minnesota's counties are online in PDF format from NRCS.
tables: For each Minnesota county, Section II of NRCS's
electronic Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG) provides access to tables
of soil properties.
National Soil Survey
Handbook: Detailed explanation of NRCS's soil update procedures. Use the Contents to navigate to Section 608.08.
- History and uses of Minnesota soil surveys
Crop productivity index ratings
Crop Productivity Index ratings from the Natural Resources Conservation
Service provide a way to compare the
relative productivity of soils. For more information, click
Productivity Index ratings supersede the older system of
Ratings (CERs) computed by the University of Minnesota.
Contact and update information
This site represents MnGeo's most up-to-date
understanding of the status of a variety of soils data for Minnesota.
Please send corrections or information on
digital soil products not described here to Nancy Rader at MnGeo at:
(651) 201-2489 or 658 Cedar Street, Room 300, St. Paul, MN 55155.