Iowa Soil and Land Use Website Gets a Make-over

AMES, Iowa — National media put a spotlight on Iowa soil the past month due to the current increases in farmland prices. Those who work the farmland, whether they call it dirt or soil, know that it is one of the state’s richest resources. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach helps those that own, manage and work the land, as well as those who talk about it, know and understand Iowa soil through a recently revised website.

The ISU Extension and Outreach soil and land use website at was revised to more clearly explain the richness of Iowa soil through data related to the agricultural and non-agricultural uses of Iowa land. Visitors to the site will find that soils have many uses, but not all soils are equally adapted to each use.

“Understanding the basic properties of soils leads to better crop management, soil nutrient management and soil and water conservation,” said Lee Burras, Iowa State agronomy professor specializing in soils research. “The data on this site help those with an interest determine the potential uses of their soil and the location of different soils across the state.”

The website details the characteristics and uses of Iowa’s 36 million total acres with a primary focus on the nearly 33 million acres used in farming. Acreage averages, crop ratios, crop yields and 5-year yields, land use acres and erosion information are all included on the site with data organized by county and statewide. New to the site are tools that allow the visitor to sort and filter Iowa Soil Properties and Interpretations Database (ISPAID) data to generate information for a specific need or interest. The tools link data abbreviations to manual definitions that make the data easier to understand.

“If someone is interested in finding all corn suitability ratings with a value greater than 90 or all soils that are commonly flooded, for example, it is possible using the spreadsheets associated with the ISPAID manual,” Burras said. “By making it easier to access the information in the manual, we believe land owners and farm operators will make more informed decisions regarding soil management and care.”

A recent addition to the website is a feature that identifies the location of Iowa soils best suited for vineyards.