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

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Title: Renewal of archival legacy soil data: A case study of the Busia Area, Kenya

item MINAI, O - Purdue University
item SCHULZE, DARRELL - Purdue University
item Libohova, Zamir

Submitted to: Frontiers in Soil Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/15/2021
Publication Date: 1/26/2022
Citation: Minai, O.J., Schulze, D., Libohova, Z. 2022. Renewal of archival legacy soil data: A case study of the Busia Area, Kenya. Frontiers in Soil Science.

Interpretive Summary: The demand for new and more detailed soil maps and information for precision farm management has increased. As a result, the amount of soil data collected, especially based on remote sensing, satellites, UAV and other platforms has increased. However, a lot of soil data and information that has been collected over decades during soil survey campaigns also known as legacy soil data is underutilized and could be lost long before society can fully benefit from. This study developed a systematic method to not only rescue and preserve legacy soil data but extract additional information and combine with new soil data. This effort led to the improvement of the soil information and provided much detailed soil maps to support small farms to better manage their soil resources. In addition, this study resulted in cost savings for farmers and government institutions. This approach can be used in any country with legacy data including US.

Technical Abstract: Much older soils information, collectively known as legacy soil data lies idle in libraries or in the personal collections of retired soil scientists. The probability is very high for this legacy data to be lost or destroyed. We demonstrate the stepwise process of bringing legacy soils data ‘back to life’ using the Reconnaissance Soil Survey of the Busia Area (quarter degree sheet No. 101) in western Kenya as an example. The first step, site identification, involves meeting and deliberating with key institutions to identify a setting for the study. The second step, data archeology, involves locating and cataloging legacy soil data from key institutions, which often requires numerous site visits and the assistance of individuals familiar with the desired data. The third step, data rescue, involves converting paper copies of data into a digital format by scanning the maps, narrative descriptions, and tables, and storing the information in a database. The fourth step, data renewal, consists of bringing the data to modern standards by taking advantage of technological and conceptual advances in geoinformation technology. In our example, the resulting digital (scanned) soil map of the Busia Area is a significant upgrade from the fragile paper map. The fifth step, data interpretation, entails careful interpretation of the soil information available within the legacy soil survey to provide additional agronomic information. This allowed us to produce ten land quality maps showing the ability of the land to perform specific agronomic functions, and 18 different crop suitability maps that were not previously available. The rescued maps and their associated tabular and narrative data also provide crucial inputs for generating more detailed soil maps using digital soil mapping techniques that were unavailable when the original mapping was conducted.