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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Booneville, Arkansas » Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #372429

Research Project: Sustainable Small Farm and Organic Grass and Forage Production Systems for Livestock and Agroforestry

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Title: Taking Digital Soil Mapping to the Field: Lessons learned from the Water Smart Agriculture soil mapping project in Central America

item Owens, Phillip
item DORANTES, MINERVA - University Of Arkansas
item FUUENTES, BRYAN - University Of Arkansas
item LIBOHOVA, ZAMIR - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item SCHMIDT, AXEL - Catholic Relief Services

Submitted to: Geoderma Regional
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/24/2020
Publication Date: 5/1/2020
Citation: Owens, P.R., Dorantes, M.J., Fuuentes, B., Libohova, Z., Schmidt, A. 2020. Taking Digital Soil Mapping to the Field: Lessons learned from the Water Smart Agriculture soil mapping project in Central America. Geoderma Regional. 22:e00285.

Interpretive Summary: Soil is the foundation of rural society and spatial information is important for planning and sustainable utilization of this natural resource. With improvements of technology and computer processing, creating high resolution soil maps over large areas has become possible. Technical background and computer programming is necessary for these new maps. This paper describes a project conducted in Central America to train scientists to create high resolution soil maps. The project was successful and describes how the dry corridor in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala were mapped. Soil properties were developed and soil interpretations were created.

Technical Abstract: The goal of the Water Smart Agriculture (WSA) program is to improve food security in Central America through changes in policies, programs, and practices in water use efficiency. The Digital Soil Mapping (DSM) project is a component of WSA that aims to create human capital with knowledge and skills in sustainable soil and water management through the production of informative soil maps, under the guiding principle of “managing soils to manage water”. DSM provides a platform for producing detailed maps of soil types, properties and functions. However, the transition of DSM from research to operational levels brings a new set of challenges related to input, data processing and outputs. The major challenges identified during the pilot stage of the DSM project were: (i) soil data availability, quality and compatibility; (ii) lack of DSM skills; and (iii) lack of product delivery platforms. Training based on pilot projects was conducted to build local DSM capacity and infrastructure and incorporate tacit knowledge. Expanding from pilot stage to national level required the establishment of DSM teams that are multi-institutional and interdisciplinary. In order to achieve buy-in from the local and national governments, the DSM teams were comprised of members from public institutions and professional organizations and they adopted a participatory DSM approach and produced functional soil maps capable of supporting decisions at multiple levels.