STREAMLINING THE PRESENTATION OF COMPLEX LAND DATA
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which resides within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is tasked with helping private landowners maintain healthy and productive lands. Private land makes up 70 percent of the United States and NRCS works with landowners through conservation planning and assistance to benefit the soil, water, air, plants and animals within these lands. NRCS’s national 590 nutrient management standard covers the “amount, source, placement, form and timing of the application of nutrients and soil amendments,” such as manure and fertilizer whose runoff can adversely impact the environment. The 590 standard is based on official USDA data that includes soil properties such as surface texture and permeability, as well as elevation, slope and hydrographic buffer data, to achieve maximum agricultural and environmental benefits.
To disseminate information for complying with NRCS’s 590 standard, NRCS previously utilized its website to provide static NRCS base maps for viewing. Over time, however, the simplistic structure of the base maps made it increasingly difficult to incorporate the nutrient spreading restrictions data into the maps that the user community needed and in a format that non-GIS trained professionals could use. The Wisconsin office of NRCS faced the challenge of producing an online map that could enable farmers, ranchers, agronomists and others working or studying the land to easily see soil properties and nutrient spreading restrictions.
In partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the University of Wisconsin – Madison Soils Department, NRCS sought technology that could bring diverse data together in an easily understandable, interactive format. NRCS implemented TerraGo to aggregate and disseminate a large amount of soils data, including orthophotography, DNR 24K hydrography, buffer layers, raw data normalization, and more within a fully interactive website incorporating GeoPDF maps and imagery. With TerraGo GeoPDF® maps, NRCS is able to streamline the presentation of a variety of land data.
Since its first use of TerraGo in 2008, NRCS has produced and shared more than 100,000 GeoPDF maps with its customer base — a community that touches the online mapping system more than 3,000 times per month during peak season. Streamlined production processes and more easily accessible and useful outputs have benefited both NRCS and its customers with increased efficiency and productivity in disseminating vital land management information.
In the future, NRCS is considering implementing a TerraGo® server instance as part of Web Soil Survey to offer a GeoPDF map export online from official soils data, which would facilitate the idea of a print-on-demand environment.
NRCS has produced and shared more than 100,000 GeoPDF maps, with more than 3,000 visitors per month during peak season.