Creating Functional Soil Maps for Land Management

Start Date: 
Dec 5 2017 - 11:00am
Building 240/Room 4301
Argonne National Laboratory
Phillip R. Owens
Speaker(s) Title: 
USDA ARS Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Soil properties and processes determine and regulate a number of ecosystem services that humanity relies upon. Though soil properties are inherently fuzzy, for more than 100 years, scientists represented soil properties as soil polygon maps with discrete boundaries between soil mapping units. Now, with the advent of computational resources, high quality digital elevation models, online Soil Survey (SSURGO) data, geographic information systems (GIS) and powerful geo -referencing tools, Dr. Owens has developed an approach for representation and prediction of soil properties based on soil functional homogeneity rather than the morphological or taxonomic heterogeneity. The process recognizes the oversimplification introduced in the representation of soils as discrete polygons and uses landscape attributes to develop terrain relationships between soil and landscape properties to create spatially continuous soil property representations. This presentation will demonstrate digital methods to map soil properties such as plant available water, organic carbon content, texture, and depth of soil to name a few. Currently, the process is being utilized to map the entire nations of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. The process of providing predictions of spatially heterogeneous soil properties can be used both internationally and domestically for multiple implications.


Phillip R. Owens is the Center Director and Research Leader at the USDA ARS Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center.  After receiving his B.S. and M.S. at the University of Arkansas, he completed a Ph.D. in soil science from Texas A & M University in 2001. He worked in the office of U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln as Tri -Societies Congressional Science Fellow and then as Research Soil Scientist with USDA-ARS at Mississippi State University. For the past 12 years, Dr. Owens was an Associate Professor of Pedology/Soil Geomorphology in the Department of Agronomy at Purdue University. Dr. Owens current research interests include soil and landscape processes, hydropedology and digital soil mapping. He is the past Chair of the Pedology Division of the Soil Science Society of America, past Associate Editor of Soil Science Society of America Journal, Co-Chair of New Technologies in Soil Survey Committee, Facilitator of the IUSS Universal Soil Classification System Committee, team member and former member of the National Soil Survey Advisory Board.