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Johanns Announces Designation Of Representative Soil For District Of Columbia


Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today unveiled “Sunnyside” as the representative soil for the District of Columbia during an Earth Day event at the United States National Arboretum.

A soil monolith of “Sunnyside” is scheduled to become part of a planned soils exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, scheduled to open in 2008. Plans for the exhibit include a gallery of monoliths representing the 50 states, the Caribbean Area and the Pacific Islands.

“Designating a representative soil for the District of Columbia on Earth Day reminds our citizens about the importance and benefits of healthy and productive soils,” Johanns said. “The soil is a vital resource; it is the foundation of life.”

During the National Arboretum event, USDA-NRCS soil scientists carved a “Sunnyside” soil profile from a pit dug in the Arboretum’s Maple Collection. The 6-feet deep soil profile shows the soil’s natural layers. Its extraction from the pit is the first step in a lengthy process to becoming a monolith, which is mounted and preserved. A soil monolith usually measures 48 by 8 inches. A maple tree will be planted at the site where the soil profile was taken. USDA-NRCS soil scientists also measured soil quality and demonstrated erosion and runoff at several work stations.

The Sunnyside series, or type of soil, is very deep and well drained. Though categorized as a prime farmland soil, it is also very suitable for construction and recreational development.

Each state has a designated soil that is represented by a soil series with special significance to a particular area. Of that number, 20 states have recognized their representative through official legislation. The selected soil series also can be found beyond the respective state or area where they are they being honored. Soils that share similar origins, as well as chemical and physical properties, are grouped and labeled as a soils series. Soil scientists usually name a soil series after a town or landmark in or near the area where the soil was first recognized. Representative soils also have been selected for Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Guam.

The representative soil for the District of Columbia was selected by USDA-NRCS with concurrence from the Citizens Advisory Council, District of Columbia Soil and Water Conservation Board.

USDA first displayed its comprehensive U.S. soil monolith collection during Earth Day on April 22, 1999 on the National Mall. The collection is scheduled to be displayed again next year as part of the National Museum of Natural History’s soils exhibit. The museum is working with the Soil Science Society of America to develop this 5,000-square foot exhibit.

USDA-NRCS employees possess extensive knowledge of the nation’s soils. The agency’s soil scientists conduct soil surveys nationwide, including in the District of Columbia. Those surveys are now available on the Internet. With a click of a mouse, anyone can access abundant soils information at .

Information about USDA-NRCS’s Soil Survey Program nationwide can be found at .


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