The Saskatchewan Soil Information System (SKSIS) is a digital platform that stores and allows access to information on Saskatchewan soils collected throughout the 20th century, including soil surveys. SKSIS makes this wealth of soil and landscape information available to a new generation of users.
“Our provincial soil surveys represent decades of work mapping and describing the soils and landscapes of Saskatchewan,” said Angela Bedard-Haughn, professor in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources.
Until now, this information was only available to most users in PDF or hard copy formats. The first goal of this project was to take existing Saskatchewan soils information and make it available to everyone as an online resource. Specific locations can be searched for through a variety of methods, including legal land description, and latitude and longitude. Once a user clicks on a specific location, information about it will pop up.
“It is a tremendous resource for producers, agronomists, consultants, researchers and educators at all levels,” said Bedard-Haughn. “Based on feedback at workshops and early user trials, it is clear that there will be widespread adoption among the agronomy and soil research communities, for applications ranging from interpreting soil test results and developing management plans, to selecting sites for field trials.”
The project also evaluated digital mapping techniques that refine soil information to make it usable at on-farm and field-scale levels. In many cases the availability of refined soil information will be transformative, providing users with access to field-scale landscape knowledge that was previously the domain of experts. Coupling refined soil information with agronomic and environmental data can improve decision-making, building on the data collected by the users.
A fundamental piece of functionality built into the new platform is the ability for a user to upload their own soil data. SKSIS currently supports the uploading of photos, documents and simple text observations. When a user uploads this information, they are prompted with inputs for geographic information, which is then submitted to the server and added to the searchable information.
This project was made possible by pulling together an interdisciplinary team that includes soil scientists and computer scientists.
“The benefits of the new system to the people of Saskatchewan are incredible,” said Bedard-Haughn. “We now have a program that is intuitive and user-friendly while also providing new opportunities for data and information sharing––and a powerful teaching tool that can be used in the classroom and on mobile devices while in the field.”
This two-year project was jointly funded by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s Agriculture Development Fund/Growing Forward 2 program, the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Association and the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission. Through new funding secured for the next two years from ADF and the Western Grains Research Foundation, the research team will be able to further improve the capabilities of this system, including enhanced efforts in digital soil mapping and an Application Program Interface for greater ease of upload, download, and integration with other applications.
SKSIS is usable on all browser platforms except Internet Explorer and can be found at sksis.usask.ca.
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