Changes and benefits of the redeveloped soil information viewer

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The redeveloped Alberta Soil information viewer, based on the Agricultural Region of Alberta Soil Inventory Database (AGRASID), is the next evolution of online tool that Alberta producers have had access to for over 15 years.

The viewer is a joint project of the Science and Technology Branch, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Environmental Stewardship Division of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD). Between 1996 and 1998 a project was undertaken to consolidate and to combine over 75 years’ worth of federal and provincial soil survey information into 1:100,000-scale digital database.

The AGRASID product was originally released as a CD which allowed soil scientists and others, with geographic access to soil information in the agricultural region of Alberta.

“In the early 2000s AGRASID began being migrated to the Internet,” says David Spiess, geographical systems engineer with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. “The project was broken into two parts for online use: a download mechanism for discovery and delivery of AGRASID’s detailed spatial and tabular data through the Alberta Soil Information Centre, and an Internet map viewer to provide the general public with a means to access soil landscape information for the agricultural region of Alberta.

“It was recognized that in order to introduce more of the public to agricultural soil information in Alberta and client-friendly map viewer delivering an essential but manageable sample of the AGRASID soil information was going to be important. Spatial data Systems Consulting produced a prototype viewer that included client-friendly soil landscape descriptions, landscape images and a variety of base layers, and seamless Geographic Information System (GIS) spatial and tabular data files.”

Viewers used this accessible online tool as:

  • Land resource reference for farmers, ranchers, agrologists, planners, researchers, consultants, educators and realtors.
  • Reference for pipeline surveys and environmental impact studies.
  • An aid to farmers and ranchers engaged in environmental farm planning and assessment.

A reasonably stable production version of the viewer was first deployed on the ARD website in October of 2005 and has accommodated some 3,000 visits per month.

“The ease of use and reliability of the township locator, identify tool and plain-language descriptions produced by the function attached to the “more info” button made the viewer an effective land resource reference,” says Spiess. “These tools, intended to facilitate pipeline surveys, environmental impact assessment and environmental farm planning, were not as easy or reliable for producers to use. When it was determined that the hardware and software framework needed to be replaced, the existing tools were re-evaluated and enhanced, and additional functionality was added.”

The soil viewer information has expanded to include:

  • Global Positioning System (GPS) weigh points and tracks.
  • Google map formatted markup language files (kml).
  • Esri shape formatted spatial data markup feature drawn within the viewer itself. The redevelopment project started in the early spring of 2012, and project completion is expected prior to March 31, 2013.

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