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Digital Soil Mapping in Minnesota

This site provides information about county-level and statewide digital data sets that describe the soils of Minnesota. Status information and links to detailed descriptions of the characteristics and limitations of the data sets are provided.

Detailed digital data

The data sets described in this section were created from the printed county soil surveys from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The areas included in these different data sets cover most of the state; they are all free online.

General digital data

The three statewide data sets are less detailed than the county data sets; however, they are suitable for statewide or regional analysis.

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.

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 here.

Crop Productivity Index ratings supersede the older system of Crop Equivalent Ratings (CERs) computed by the University of Minnesota.


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 County 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printed soil survey was placed into one of four categories based on whether the soil classification was modern or outdated and whether or not the survey had been produced using an orthophoto basemap.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 Minnesota. The report recommended various digitization options and discussed intermediate digital products that could be used until higher quality data became available.

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. If you know of other publicly available soils information sources, please let us know:


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