Utilization of Soil Surveys

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    By Chas. F. Shaw, Professor of Soil Technology, University of California.

    The value of the soil survey depends on the extent to which it can beused by the people. A.S a historical document--an inventory of soil resourcesand conditions--to be filed away in libraries, it has little justification;the basic reason for supporting the work is the anticipation that the surveywill have a definite utilitarian value--will be of positive use in solvingthe problems of today.

    The Farmer -

    The first and most obvious use of this soil data is by the fanner who isalready located on the land, producing crops from the soils of his own farm,the use by farmers is not as general nor the results as satisfactory as wecould hope. This is due to two major reasons--first, the farmer does not knowhow to interpret the soil surveys; and second, the scale on which the mapsare made does not show the many variations in soil conditions which he knowsexist on his farm. The first of these difficulties will gradually disappearprovided we teach, in school and college, in short courses, in farmers' meet-ings, and elsewhere, the possibilities Of the survey and the ways of inter-preting its results. The second will always be before us, but with a betterconception of soil classification and soil differences the farmer can morereadily understand the limitations of the soil maps and the import of thoseminor variations OH his own farm. The Use of the soil maps'by the land hold-ing farmer will never, in my opinion, be the major use of our soil Surveydata.

    The Land Seeker -

    The surveys are of much more direct value io the land seeker, the man whois purchasing a farm, the new settler who is not familiar with the soils ofthe region and who needs and desires unbiased and honest information regard-ing the farm lands that are offered to him. In those sections of the countrywhere new lands are still available", the soil maps are almost indispensableand will give the desired information provided the user can interpret its data^or provided lie comes to tfoe soils departments for assistance and advice inusing the maps.

    While the use of the survey by these people is not as general as we couldwish, it is growing rapidly, as a study of the files of any Soils office willshow. We can promote this Use by suitable publicity, both through our bulle-tins and the rural press, and by our instruction, particularly during shortcourses. In California, we last year gave short courses in Land Settlementand for New Settlers and this year will give another in Land Colonization. Ineach of these courses much time is devoted to discussions of the soil, soilsurveys and the use of the available data. As these short courses are attend-ed by both the land seeker and the land seller (the realtors and colonizationagents) the effectiveness of the information is much increased.

    The County Agent -

    The use of the soil surveys by the county agents is constantly increasing


  • but here again is much need for education. Many of the'agents do hat yet'Understand either the possibilities or the limitations of the surveys. Wecan be of material aid in helping them use' the maps in planning countyactivities, the location of demonstration tracts, etc., but primarily wemust aid them to so understand the soils of their county and interpret thesoil data of map and report, that they can solve those very definite> localproblems that continually face them in their work. This can be done onlyby personal work in the field with these men, and calls for tact and asympathetic understanding on the part of the soil survey man. Occasionallya lack of sympathy, or perhaps actual hostility on the part of the Agentsthemselves or the state leaders may make our task much more difficult.

    Federal Land Bank,

    A very direct use of the soil surveys is that by banks, trust companiesand insurance companies who loan money on land. You are all familiar withthis use but I wish to call attention to a specific instance showing the Wayin which our data is being used. The Federal Land Bank of Berkeley has loan-ed me one of their township plats bearing characteristic data. On this theyhave copied "by the usual method of colors, the soil types that are shown onour smaller scale map. The location of marsh areas, of alkali spots andother soil data is shown, and irrigation or drainage district boundaries andsimilar information that would influence the value of their loans, are plot-ted. The tracts representing the loans are platted, and the appraisals areto a considerable extent based on the basic soil information given by our maps.Each appraiser and engineer is supplied with the local soil map, mounted oncloth in sections so it can be folded and handled without tearing, and theseare used constantly. The central office, with full description of each soiltype, and a constantly accumulating amount of information bearing on its useand value, checks the findings of the appraisers against this basic data. Thereports of the appraisers frequently carry acknowledgments of the aid of thesoil surveys and a pleasing comment On the general accuracy of our work isthe rare occasions when the appraiser or engineer (usually with much glee)can report findings that disagree with our maps. The officers of the Bankkeep closely in touch with out- soil survey work, frequently securing data inadvance of the final publication, and they freely acknowledge the value of oursurveys in aiding the work of their-institution.

    State Officers.

    The State Engineering Department, the State Bonding Commission, the StateLand Settlement Board, and other State officers and institutions are usingthe soil surveys in a constantly increasing degree. On the Engineering De-partment and Bonding Commission falls the responsibility for the authorisationof the establishment and financing of Irrigation, Reclamation and Drainagedistricts. As the success of these districts depends on the soils, it isgratifying to note that our soil surveys are taken as the basis for inclusionof lands within or their elimination from the proposed districts and for deter-mining the financial load which the districts can assume. In cases where thisdata is not conclusive, members of our force are called upon to give added in-formation, or to aid in judging the relative values of the soils in order toarrive at a fair decision. The extent and location of the Irrigation Districtsare usually determined by the soil conditions, and in some instances the de-cision regarding the portion of a county or a region which will receive acoveted water supply has been determined wholly by the information made available


  • through our soil surveys,

    Tile Land Settlement Board.

    The State Land Settlement Board has given our soil surveys the greatestrecognition and in fact, depend wholly on our data for selection of the landsto be subdivided and for the evaluation of the farms that are sold in thecolony. The Division of Soil Technology examined and reported upon each ofthe 104 tracts, totalling 714,636 acres, that were offered to the Board. Forthe first Colonyone of the three sites that we recommended was chosen--thesite at Durham, while the site of second colony, at Delhi, was also one of thethree that we recommended as best suited. Of the 104 tracts offered, we con-sidered only 16, totalling 89,088 acres, to be of good quality and most suit-able for colonization.

    The most interesting and valuable work was done after the site of thecolony was purchased^, we made a detailed soil survey, on a large scale, show*ing not only the regular soil types, but also all the phases that might modifythe crop yields or cultural methods, TOten these maps were completed, we setbasic values on the various soil types and phases, then measured the acreageof each and calculated the total value or the gross selling price of the wholecolony. This sum included the original purchase price plus all expenses ofsubdivision including examinations, surveys, overhead, estimated costs ofselling the land, supervision for the period of amortization, etc* Havingfound that the total amount of these values was sufficient to yield the de-sired sum, we proceeded to evaluate the individual farms. The area of eachkind of soil on the farm was measured> multiplied by the acre valuation andthe amounts thus obtained added and divided by the number of acres in the farm.The selling price per acre of the farm does not represent the value of anyone type of soil but the average value of all the soils making up the farm.

    The variability of the soil (modified or exaggerated -to some extent byvariations in selling price due to equalization for location, accessibility,etc.) is shown by the graph, on which the height of the heavy line indicatesthe per acre value, and the length of that line the number of farms sold atany one acre-price. The more variable soils at Durham are shown by the moreirregular line, while the smoother Delhi line reflects the influence of themore uniform soil conditions.

    In these colonies the lands were sold at their actual value, as deter-mined by the best available experts, and the results have been most gratify-ing. Every tract has been sold at Durham,, and of the 139 owners (includingfarm laborers on two acre allotments) only 13 have sold their farms and only8 left the colony. On the Delhi tract, the fourth unit is now being sold, 216families being already located on lands sold during the last two years, and ofthese 216 farms, only 17 have had any change in ownership,

    We feel that this enviable record is due, in considerable measure, to themethod of evaluating the farms. At Durham the selling price varied from$325.00 to $25,00 per acre, there being 42 different values. Two adjacentplots, separated only by a fence sold for $77 and $200 per acre, yet each pur-chaser is satisfied with his purchase and convinced that he secured his farm^at a fair price. No settler has complained about either the actual or relativeprice of the ranch he purchased--that the ranch was too high on the basis ofits producing value, or as compared with other farms in the colony.


  • Furthermore, we have no unsold farms/we have sold all the land In tfieoriginal purchase, and our future activities are confined to the necessarysupervision and collections of the payments as they fall due. We have hadno auctions or bargain sales of the less desirable tracts--the method ofevaluation made them all equally attractive. We feel proud of, this recordand feel that it is a tremendously valuable demonstration of the use of thesoil survey. We feel confident that the private colonization enterpriseswill soon come to a more or less similar method in offering their farms tothe public, and a great extension of the use of the soil surveys and soilsurvey methods will result,

    We could report many other ways in which our soil survey data is beingused--by county assessors, land appraisers and commercial institutions, byexperiment station or department investigators, by teachers in schools andcolleges, all of these being more or less familiar to you all,. In Californiawe have "sold" the soil survey to the State Land Settlement Board, theFederal Land Bank, and other important institutions. We feel that our workhas just begun and that the possibilities of our usefulness are still to bedeveloped. The soil survey is fundamentally basic data and will ultimatelybe the foundation upon which scientific research and commercial developmentof our lands will be established.



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