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Students are expected to:

  • Recognize soil as an important resource

  • Describe basic soil properties and formation factors

  • Understand soil drainage classes and know how wetlands are defined

  • Determine basic soil properties and limitations, such as mottling and permeability, by observing a soil pit or soil profile

  • Identify types of soil erosion and discuss methods for reducing erosion

  • Utilize soil information, including soil surveys, in land use planning

  • Utilize modern soils interpretations such as thematic maps and data tables to make land management decisions.

Soils Study Guide 

Study Guide 


The study references listed are not an exhaustive list of sources from which test questions are drawn.  Students are expected to research other sources for more information according to the learning objectives.

The Area IV Envirothon Committee has decided to utilize the most up to date soil survey information, and by doing so will NOT be supplying each school with a copy of the County Soil Survey Book. Starting around 2002, the National Cooperative Soil Survey decided that the booklet format soil survey was no longer a practical way to deliver soil survey information in a timely manner. Instead, soil surveys are now updated every year (in some way), and are provided in digital formats throughout the nation. Each school should utilize the websites listed below to obtain the information that will be part of this year’s contest. The Web Soil Survey contains the most up to date soils information, and in utilizing this site, students will become accustomed to today’s soil survey.  A Custom Soil Resource Report, from web soil survey, of the 2024 Envirothon site will be supplied at the soil station for students to use.


The following list of topics is a summary of key terms, soil interpretive tables, narrative sections and soil map unit and series descriptions from the Soil Survey which participants in the competition should concentrate their study time to prepare for the soils questions on the test.

Soil Survey Maps and interpretations

If you experience any issues with the web soil survey, please check and make sure that you have turned off your browser's pop-up blocker.


Today’s soil survey maps are delivered through Web Soil Survey. In Web Soil Survey, students should be familiar in navigating to a location via the quick navigation tool. To access the 2024 Area 4 Envirothon location, use the address tool and navigate to

690 Arbuckle Rd NW, London, OH 43140

This should take you to the Gwynne ConservatioN Area.. Once you have navigated to the location, you will need to set the area of interest (AOI) to obtain soil survey information.


You can navigate to almost any area in the United States by simply using the quick navigation tools, and the soil survey of that area will be available to you. There are multiple search navigation tools available to use. Make sure to utilize the different tools in searching for an area.


After setting the AOI, students should explore the information available under the Soil Map and Soil Data Explorer tabs. Under the Soil Data Explorer tab, students should become especially familiar with the following Suitabilties and Limitations for Use, Soil Properties and Qualities, and Soil Reports:

Data sets under the Suitabilities and Limitations for Use tab: 

  • Land Classification:  Hydric Rating

  • Building Site Development : Dwellings with Basements (OH)

  • Building Site Development :Lawns and Landscaping (OH)

  • Sanitary Facilities – Septic System – Mound with Pressure Distribution (OH)

  • Waste Management – Manure and Food-Processing Waste (OH)

Data sets under the Soil Properties and Qualities tab:

  • Soil Physical Properties – Available Water Storage

  •  Soil Qualities and Features – Depth to Any Soil Restrictive Layer

  • Soil Qualities and Features – Hydrologic Soil Group

  • Soil Qualities and Features – Parent Material Name

  • Water Features – Depth to Water Table

Data Sets under the Soil Report tab:

  • Soil Reports – Soil Physical Properties – Engineering Properties

  • AOI Inventory: Map unit Description

  • AOI Inventory: Component Test Descriptions


The following soil map units are helpful to become familiar with (needs updated for 2022): 

  • Br - Brookston silty clay loam

  • CrB - Crosby silt loam

  • MmB and MmC2 - Miamian silt loam

  • Tr - Treaty silty clay loam

  • Wb - Wallkill silt loam

In addition, students should utilize the Shopping Cart (Free) function. This feature creates a customized, printable soil survey report for the area indicated in the AOI in PDF format. The printed packet that will be supplied to students during the test will be created in the Web Soil Survey using the Shopping Cart, so familiarity with this report format will be advantageous. Under the Soil Data Explorer tab, find the Intro to Soils tab. Students should use this resource as an introduction to soils in general, the Web Soils Survey, and this year’s contest theme. Recommended sections include:

  • Introduction to Soils – Soils 101

  • Introduction to Soils – Information for Land Users 


For a more detailed explanation on using all of the features provided in Web Soil Survey please refer to the following site:



Other Resources

Guide to Texture by Feel and Soil Textural Triangle:


Field Book for Describing Soils:

Then use the “Quick Link” menu for “Field Book for Describing Soils” Then open the pdf version.  The following pages will be helpful: 

  • Soil texture (p. 2-38)

  • redoximorphic features (p. 2-12)

  • horizons (pp. 2-2 to 2-4)

  • Roots (pp. 2-70 to 2-72)

  • Pores (pp. 2-73 to 2-76)

  • soil structure (pp. 2-52 to 2-54)

Other links on the NRCS web page above which are useful:  Become familiar with the soil health/soil health management links; and the soil health/Biology Primer/Photo Galley.  Three of those photos which are useful are:  Components of Soil Organic Matter (a pie chart), Soil Organisms Living within a Soil Aggregate, Mineralization/Immobilization (of soil nutrients).

Print Study Guide


Different browsers have cut off areas of this study page when people have tried to print. In order to rectify this, this page is also available as a word document.



To aid in studying. old tests are provided:

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