INDIANAPOLIS — The latest version of the Web Soil Survey 3.0 recently was launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and can be accessed at http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov.

The web-based application provides anyone with computer access a wealth of free soils information along with soil maps, properties and interpretations aimed at helping with land use decisions.

Originally launched in 2005, the website continues to be improved and enhanced to meet the demands of its growing customer base of several million hits a year.

Notable changes to the Web Soil Survey include improved map appearance, increased area-of-interest acreage and upgraded options for changing map properties to include soil boundary color, soil boundary thickness, soil label size and background image shading. To make things even better for the viewer, it now is online 24 hours a day with no downtime.

“This is a valuable tool for everyone making decisions about projects on the land, including homeowners, developers and farmers. There have been many enhancements made in the latest version of the Web Soil Survey, and more enhancements are planned for future releases” said Gary Struben, Indiana NRCS state soil scientist.

Since its beginning, the site has attracted a wide array of online visitors from all over the world. During the first few months of its existence, it averaged about 1,000 users per day, but now it has seen that number increase dramatically to about 6,500 per day.

Soil surveys provide critical information in land use decisions, both on the farm and in the city. Whether a land developer is looking to build or purchase or a farmer is considering alternative crops, soil survey data is a critical element in the decision-making process that produces a successful outcome while protecting natural resources.

Making soils information available on the web has been a major achievement for the NRCS, which is committed to making the process better and easier for the customer.