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Historic soil mapping in Puerto Rico

Early systematic mapping of land and soil resources

  • June 10, 2024

Recently WOSSAC has been revisiting items within the collection relating to Puerto Rico. The systematic mapping of land and soil resources there began in 1928, and outputs from this early historic work are now scanned, and these large format, coloured maps, at a scale of 1:50,000, are complemented by a comprehensive report (WOSSAC ID 40906).

There are four maps, published by the University of Puerto Rico. The island is divided for mapping purposes into west (WOSSAC ID 45907), east (WOSSAC ID 45910), west-central (WOSSAC ID 45908), and east central (WOSSAC ID 45910). Each map sheet has a legend as a ‘side bar’ which is sub-divided into physiographic regions such as ‘Hills and Mountains’, ‘Inner Plains’; and ‘Terraces’. The mapping series is accompanied by a separate, coloured legend sheets in both English and Spanish (WOSSAC ID 40906). This legend expands on the physiographic regions which are further sub-divided into soil groups which correspond to the mapping units.

Puerto Rico Map

The field mapping is recorded as the responsibility of R. C. Roberts, and began in 1928, and the maps are dated 1936. However, the accompanying report was not published until 1942. A point of historical interest is that the overall soil survey mapping and the report was overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Soil Survey Division where the individual responsible was C. E. Kellogg, described as the, Chief of the Soil Survey Division. In this role Charles Kellogg worked to create the systematic soil survey of the United States at the county level, and his immense contribution has been marked by the opening of a Kellogg Soil Science Laboratory, at the UD National Soil Survey Centre, Lincoln, Nebraska. A connection to WOSSAC is that a photograph of Charles Kellogg is part of a wall display in the entrance hall of the building now occupied by WOSSAC at Cranfield University, UK.

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Charles Wright -A New Zealand Pedologist in the Americas

The Diary of a Remarkable Soil Surveyor

  • April 19, 2024

The WOSSAC archive has recently acquired and catalogued collection of documents written in the 1960s and based on diary entries by Charles Wright. These unusual and detailed papers are based on the travels undertaken by Wright across a swath of Caribbean and South American countries, and first published in NZ Soil News in 1960. Detailed observations are recorded on the soils, biodiversity, geology, and landscapes of territories such as Belize, Chile, Columbia, and Ecuador; and in the Caribbean, Granada, Martinique, Tobago, and St Vincent. In addition, there are overview papers on soils developed on volcanic ash, and sub-alpine soils of Colombia (paramo soils).

Charles, Seymour Wright was born in England and studied botany at the University of Leeds, graduating with a first-class degree in 1936. Almost immediately he set sail for Australia intending further study but events on the voyage altered his plans and he moved on to New Zealand. The story of Wright’s life in New Zealand and later in the Pacific Islands would provide material for a Blog in itself – or perhaps even a full book. In summary he picked up employment as a casual labourer and in logging camps and was eventually recruited by the newly formed Soil Survey of NZ to dig soil inspection pits. His knowledge of botany and his eye for landscape was quickly recognised and he became a new recruit to the growing soil survey.

His energy and ambition soon outgrew the NZ landscapes and he was asked by the expanding soil survey department to survey the remote Stewart and Chatham Islands, and this was followed by an invitation to lead a survey of land use and natural resources in Belize - then British Honduras. His report, which ran to some 200,000 words and covered pedological, ecological, and rural development issues was illustrated, with meticulous hand drawn maps. Before returning to New Zealand - 22 months longer than the planned assignment - he travelled extensively throughout the Caribbean and South America recording his insightful observations on soils and landscapes in a diary which then became the basis for the documents now collected and catalogued in the WOSSAC archive. His stay in Chile which seems to have lasted for five months, triggered an interest in soils developed on volcanic deposits as reported in Part 16 of the series, 'A New Zealand Pedologist in the Americas'.

On return to NZ he was almost immediately shipped out to Fiji, completing the first comprehensive soil survey of the territory in 1965. Later Charles Wright joined FAO and returned to Chile to work on the classification, and mapping, of volcanic deposits and soils. His links with FAO allowed him to become a roving consultant with projects in Western Samoa and Cuba where he spent time with Fidel Castro.

Charles Wright, eventually settled in Belize where he bought a small farm and assisted on the Land Resources Study (LRD) completed in 1992, (WOSSAC ID 1689 and WOSSAC ID 1699). He died in Belize in 1998.

WOSSAC has brought together his diary which is filed with Regional Documents for Latin America and the Caribbean, (WOSSAC ID 47475). In future all the publications by Charles Wright and held by WOSSAC, will be listed and added to the website.

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Dr Ian Baillie: 1941-2023

Obituary - a soil scientist remembered

  • December 11, 2023

We are sorry to learn of the death this week of Dr Ian Baillie, who passed away following his gallant battle with ill health. Ian served as a key member of the soils archive team at Cranfield University as a Visiting Research Fellow, working on the WOSSAC global archive and collection of land resources materials. Those who had the privilege to work with Ian benefitted from his towering knowledge of soils, and he was a true inspiration to many.

Ian had a long and varied career in tropical soil survey. In his early career, following stints in Swaziland as an ODA Soil surveyor in the Department of Agriculture, and then a soil surveyor in the Forest Department of the Government of Sarawak, Malaysia. Ian worked as a consultant on tropical soil survey and land evaluation projects for Hunting Technical Services (HTS.) Later, Ian became a Principal Lecturer, and ultimately the Faculty Research Coordinator, in the Department of Geography, Polytechnic of North London, whilst also undertaking other short term soil surveys and consultancies overseas.

Dr Ian Baillie in the field (in red)

A noted episode saw him working for the Danish International Development Assistance as the Soil Survey Manager and Advisor in Bhutan. A measure of the esteem he was held in was his award of the Bullard Fellowship in Forestry Research from Harvard University, which led to his work in Panama. Ian became involved with Cranfield University and the archive in 2002, and over the intervening years helped the Cranfield staff and fellow volunteer colleagues develop the unique WOSSAC soils collection. Ian played a key role in the successful case made for the Queen’s Anniversary Award, by Cranfield University, in 2017, ‘in recognition of research and education in large-scale soil and environmental data for the sustainable use of natural resources in the UK and worldwide’.

Ian worked as an international soil and environmental consultant in many parts of the world. He was a respected author and editor of many academic papers and books also, and served as Associate Editor of the European Journal of Soil Science. Ian had a profound knowledge of soils, and was a great friend and mentor to those he worked with: he will be greatly missed. Ian was a Fellow of the British Society for Soil Science and a Member of the Tropical Agriculture Association (UK).

A further obituary for Ian, recounting his earlier life and travels in Sarawak 1960-61 is here https://www.christs-hospital.org.uk/obituaries/ian-baillie-pea-1953-60.

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The Land Between the Rivers: A Forgotten Project in the Nile Valley

Early works from the Sudan

  • November 2, 2023

One of the features of the WOSSAC collection are the detailed records of soil and land appraisal projects undertaken with a view to large scale irrigation works. In Sudan, the early success of the Gezira cotton scheme developed in the 1950s encouraged the Government of Sudan and international donors to invest in preparatory investigation to expand irrigation from a major dam on the Blue Nile, south of Khartoum. Over a period of four years from 1962, Hunting Technical Service Ltd. (HTS) surveyed the soils of soils and land suitability between the White and Blue Niles rivers, in order to assess the suitability of land areas for irrigation development. The scale of the undertaking is reflected in the output of some 250 maps and reports presently held within WOSSAC. The HTS records show that the input by staff amounted to an astonishing 20-man years of professional time. Work has now begun to collate the documents held within WOSSAC relating to the Roseries Soil Survey. This exercise requires careful matching of reports and maps and sorting out the different scales and type of the survey output.

The dam was completed in 1966 and is situated on the Blue Nile at Ad Damazin, just upstream on the town of Er Roseires in south-eastern Sudan. Initially planned for irrigation purposes, the dam site now also has the capacity to generate hydroelectric power and to supply potable water. However, the exact level of the irrigation works completed so far is unclear.

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Assessing Colonial Soil Science in Africa and its Legacy Workshop

Sharing WOSSAC with the soils community

  • September 12, 2023

Two members of the WOSSAC team at Cranfield University attended a workshop at the University of Nottingham on the 8th September. The meeting was convened to bring together academic researchers interested in the evolution of soil studies in Africa. The workshop title, Assessing Colonial Soil Science in Africa and its Legacy, reflects a revived interest in the origins of soil and land evaluation in developing countries. Many of the contributors, linked to the workshop via Zoom, are presently based in Africa.

The WOSSAC presentation spoke specifically to the first workshop theme which asked, 'how best to foster a greater awareness of existing land resource information in shaping current development efforts across the developing world'. During the brief presentation the volume and scope of the WOSSAC archive was described; followed by an outline of the history of the archive; and finally, the potential of this legacy data for both research and development initiatives was stressed. Important contacts were made with academic researchers and also links established to other institutions with similar repositories of data.

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Historic Falkland Islands Charts

Mapping the Falkland Islands

  • August 1, 2023

The Wossac collection has added two interesting and important marine charts of the Falkland Islands and surrounding seas, to the archive. These documents published in 1883, record the original 19th century mapping by Captain, R Fitz Roy, of the RN ship the Beagle. Other officers named on the charts are, B.J Sulivan and W Robinson. The copies held by Wossac note that these original charts have been updated many times between 1821 and 1946. As the original purpose of these sheets was for maritime use there is no map scale but sea depths are recorded in fathoms. Notes on the maps record warning for ships along some areas of coastline. The edition held in the archive post date 1946, and cost 4 shillings and six pence per sheet.

These two map documents have added value in the detailed hand written annotations which record soil and geological information in both red and black ink. These are undated, and appear to be the work of a reconnaissance visit by R.G.O. Burton, of the Soil Survey of England and Wales during the 1980s when geological and soil samples were collected. Annotations on the map face are numbered (1) to (25) in red, and these related to sample locations marked on both the East and West map sheets. An example at site #9, at Chartres reads:

Sample (#3) in a ploughed field (oats and potatoes). One inch of soil then soil-running sand. Mapped as marine Devonian: no outcrops

There is additional solid geological information (in black Ink), for example of the dip angle of sedimentary rocks on the mainland. These observations seems to be mainly coastal including exposed sections in cliffs.

Both sheets - East and West - have been scanned and the ID numbers are WOSSAC#3388 and WOSSAC#3389.

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Veld Types and Grasses of South Africa

John Acocks (1911 - 1979)

  • March 13, 2023

WOSSAC takes a wide view of ‘land resources’ and archives materials on topics beyond soils sensu stricto. WOSSAC holds reports, maps and legends on forest types and other aspects of vegetation, as and when they are donated. We are therefore pleased to have received and hold important works by the South African ecologist and rangeland scientist, John Acocks. Acocks (1911 - 1979) was educated at the University of Capetown with a follow-up Masters in the botany of the Cape Flats. From 1936 until 1976 he was stationed in various grassland research stations throughout the South Africa, from the Cape through to the Limpopo, enabling him to become familiar with all of the major veld types. He concentrated on the taxonomy of the grasses and veld typology, and he developed three field methodologies for pasture analysis. He was also involved in the ecology and management of the veld. He concluded, after decades of fieldwork, that non-selective grazing (short bursts of intensive grazing followed by long periods of rest) was the best method of management. He tended to work alone and published sparsely, but his few works have proved to be seminally useful to many grassland scientists throughout southern Africa. WOSSAC holds a copy of the third edition (1988) of his important publication on ‘Veld types of South Africa’ (WOSSAC ID 47169).

We have also received a very handsome copy of ‘‹Acocks› Notes: key grasses of South Africa’ (WOSSAC ID 47164) in a 2022 donation from Jim Sweet. This special memorial edition was compiled by PJK Zacharias and published in 1990 as a tribute to Acocks’ work by the Grassland Society of Southern Africa. Acocks’ clear and informative hand-written notes are reproduced in facsimile for 208 master/key grass species. The species are described and grouped by habitats, with further detail in 124 black & white photographs and 60 distribution maps. There are also 118 line drawings of the grasses, some by Acocks himself and others by colleagues. Acocks’ interest in the management and current condition of the veld shows clearly in his choice of photographs and some of their captions, e.g. ‘Plate 85 Portulacaria afra when the goat runs the farm’.

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UK Landuse from the 1930s to the 1960’s

New materials from Professor Alice Coleman added

  • Febuary 14, 2023

The WOSSAC archive includes land use material from the UK spanning the period from the 1930s to the 1960s. Within this time span there were two comprehensive land use assessment across the UK. Firstly, a comprehensive survey of land use in Great Britain was undertaken in the 1930s. Known as the ‘Land Utilisation Survey of Britain’ (WOSSAC ID 47161), this was supervised by an eminent geographer Professor Dudley Stamp. Such a comprehensive survey had not been attempted in England since the Domesday Book in the 11th century. The archive has catalogued material from this survey archived by county.

Recently material from the second 1960s survey supervised by Professor Alice Coleman, also a geographer, has been handed over to WOSSAC. This includes a Hand Book provided to the volunteers who carried out the field-by-field assessment, together with material relating to the land use recorded during 1960/61 across an area in the English Midlands. This new material has been added to a collection of published maps from the same survey which are also held.

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Further donation of materials from Booker Tate, 2023

New materials from Southern Africa and Somalia added

  • Febuary 14, 2023

Booker Tate an agricultural plantation consultancy company informed WOSSAC in late 2022 that they had items that they could donate, following further rationalisation and consolidation of their archive. This initiative follows a considerable volume of maps and reports passed to WOSSAC during 2018. In a follow-up Brian Kerr and Ian Baillie visited Bookers at their office in Thame UK during January 2023 and collected soils and land resources items relating to sugar cane projects in various parts of the tropics, with particular emphasis on Southern Africa and Somalia. These materials are currently being processed at Cranfield and will soon be listed in the WOSSAC catalogue.

We are grateful to Booker Tate for considering WOSSAC as a destination for these documents, and for expediting their collection. We hope that other companies, institutions and individuals will likewise contact WOSSAC when disposing of soils and land resources materials.

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WOSSAC continues to develop and grow

New materials are acceeded into the archive

  • November 22, 2022

The Wossac archive continues to swell with donations from former overseas professionals who have passed on documents and maps for sorting and cataloguing. Within the past few months a range of additional material has been added. These materials are mostly relevant to African surveys and studies.

Jim Sweet had an active and varied career in rangeland and livestock management in many counties, especially in southern Africa. The materials he has donated include many items on rangeland and other aspects of ecology, across south and east Africa, including surveys of the Serengeti area of Tanzania, Swaziland, Lesotho and botanical descriptions of veld on South Africa. Additionally, there are seminal texts on remote sensing and geographic information systems and other more recent digital media.

David Radcliffe also worked in many African locations and has donated material for Ethiopia which includes useful maps together with documents in Portuguese for Angola, and Mozambique. David Radcliffe also worked in Papua New Guinea and material for these remote areas is especially welcome in the WOSSAC collection.

Anthony Mitchell enjoyed a distinguished career with the UK, Land Resources Division. Material provided from his library, includes assessments of the Dwongwa, area of Malawi including 1970s mapping. Earlier documents include an interesting, Farmers Handbook for Swaziland dated mid 1960s and also for documents from Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) from the same time period.

Presently, staff at WOSSAC are following up further offers of new and relevant documents from an ex FAO consultant.

This activity underlines the existence of soils and land assessment reports and maps which are held by many individuals with past overseas experience. These documents are of value and will be welcomed by WOSSAC.

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A celebration of the New Soil Survey Archive

Reception at Cranfield University's Building B121

  • November 16, 2022

On Wednesday 16 November 2022 we hosted an event to celebrate the new home of WOSSAC and the National Reference Collection for Soil. Cranfield University has recently invested in a new facility to host the archive materials collected by the Soil Survey of England and Wales (and Soil Survey and Land Research Centre). The new building '121' (B121 in Cranfield parlance) has dedicated space for the physical soil samples collected for monitoring and to characterise the soil series of England and Wales, and holds all the core WOSSAC collection. The archive contains published and unpublished soil maps and other supporting material from the surveys including the original soil field sheets and records. B121 is also the home of the large collection of soil maps and reports comprising the World Soil Survey Archive (WOSSAC).

Frances Kay The Soil Survey staff in 1974

This unique and valuable resource was a result of the extensive work and expert knowledge of the Soil Survey team employed by SSEW and SSLRC. We therefore hosted an informal event and lunch in the new soil archive to celebrate the work of the soil survey teams and to thank them for their contributions over the years. We also acknowledged the contribution of Frances Kay, one of the pioneers in the early days of soil survey.

Demonstration of the Virtual Reality system
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LandIS at the World Soil Survey Congress 2022


  • August 16, 2022

The World Soil Survey Congress is the leading international soil science conference, held every 4 years in different countries and usually attended by over 3,000 soil scientists from around the globe. This year the event was held in Glasgow and was attended by around 1200 delegates with a further 300 attending online.

The Cranfield University Environment and Agrifood team hosted a Cranfield soils showcase event. This included a virtual reality tour of the soils of the U.K. as well as highlighting our novel facilities and the research surrounding these. The WOSSAC archive was featured for the interest of the many delegates who visited our stand.

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WOSSAC User Survey relaunched

Let us know what you think

  • June 9, 2022

We are pleased to relaunch our User Survey for users of the WOSSAC archive. We are very keen to hear your views on the archive website, and you can use this to help us improve this unique resource. Go to www.wossac.com/survey.cfm to take the survey.

The survey asks users to rate the search tools - text and cartographic, and also to assess these blogs(!) as well as the overall graphical presentation. We are also interested in what has bought our users to the WOSSAC archive, how the archive was first discovered, and what the materials accessed are being used for. Respondents of the survey should be reassured that all the data received is used solely to improve our archive and is subject to the Cranfield University privacy policy.

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Cranfield soil surveys, land evaluation and research for tea plantations at Mufindi, Tanzania

Tanzanian tea cultivation

  • February 21, 2022

The humid climatic conditions on the upper slopes and for a few kilometres back from the Udzungwa scarp in Mufindi district of central Tanzania are able to support a complex of broadleaf forest and eucalyptus plantations. They are also highly suitable for tea cultivation. A plantation and factory were established in the Mufindi area by Brooke Bond in 1940. As part of the plans of Brooke Bond and their partners Lonrho to expand the Mufindi complex, the National Soil Resources Institute of Cranfield University was commissioned to survey and evaluate the soils of unused areas for their tea potential.

The survey was done in two phases. In the first Dr R. W. Payton examined sites in the near-scarp forested areas, where emphasis was the expansion of rainfed tea with supplementary irrigation. The preliminary report (WOSSAC 25419) on the soils of the four survey areas - Itona, Stone Valley, Idotero and Maganga - was issued in 1990. The final report, with detailed soil maps, soil analytical data, soil suitability evaluation, and guidelines on irrigation management (WOSSAC 14403) was issued in 1992.

In 1993 the National Soil Resources Institute of Cranfield University was further commissioned to survey and evaluate the soils of savanna areas around Lake Ngwazi for their potential for fully irrigated tea. The report and annexes (WOSSAC 25420 & 25421) were submitted in late 1993. A feature of the survey was the depth of the soil examinations. The augerings were to 3m and some of the detailed soil profile descriptions were almost 6 m deep. This depth was necessary for the evaluation of the soils’ capacities to store and release the large quantities of irrigation water needed to give good tea yields in the sub-optimal savanna rainfall regime.

These soil surveys ran concurrently with a systematic Cranfield-Brooke Bond research project into the agronomy and irrigation management of tea cultivation in savanna conditions. Details of the research can be found in:

Carr, M.K.V., 1974. Irrigating seedling tea in Southern Tanzania: effects on total yields, distribution of yield and water use. The Journal of Agricultural Science, 83(2), pp.363-378. doi:10.1017/S0021859600052072

Carr, M.K.V., Dale, M.O. and Stephens, W., 1987. Yield distribution in irrigated tea (Camellia sinensis) at two sites in Eastern Africa. Experimental Agriculture, 23(1), pp.75-85. doi:10.1017/S0014479700003434

Stephens, W. and Carr, M.K.V., 1991. Responses of tea (Camellia sinensis) to irrigation and fertilizer. I. Yield. Experimental Agriculture, 27(2), pp.177-191. doi:10.1017/S0014479700018822

Stephens, W. and Carr, M.K.V., 1991. Responses of tea (Camellia sinensis) to irrigation and fertilizer. II. Water Use. Experimental Agriculture, 27(2), pp.193-210. doi:10.1017/S0014479700018834

Stephens, W. and Carr, M.K.V., 1993. Responses of tea (Camellia sinensis) to irrigation and fertilizer. III. Shoot extension and development. Experimental Agriculture, 29(3), pp.323-339. doi:10.1017/S0014479700020895

Stephens, W. and Carr, M.K.V., 1994. Responses of tea (Camellia sinensis) to irrigation and fertilizer. IV. Shoot Population Density, Size and Mass. Experimental Agriculture, 30(2), pp.189-205. doi:10.1017/S0014479700024133

Smith, B.G., Stephens, W., Burgess, P.J. and Carr, M.K.V., 1993. Effects of light, temperature, irrigation and fertilizer on photosynthetic rate in tea (Camellia sinensis). Experimental Agriculture, 29(3), pp.291-306. doi:10.1017/S001447970002086X

Carr, M.K.V., 1999. Evaluating the impact of research for development: tea in Tanzania. Experimental Agriculture, 35(3), pp.247-264. doi:10.1017/S0014479799003051

Stephens, W. and Carr, M.K.V., 1989. A water stress index for tea (Camellia sinensis). Experimental Agriculture, 25(4), pp.545-558. doi:10.1017/S0014479700015179

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Transfer of German language legacy materials to University of Erlangen

Distribution of soil-related materials

  • January 31, 2022

One of the aims of WOSSAC is to make legacy data and materials on soil distributions and attributes available to as wide a user base as possible, now and in the future. Mostly this means careful curation within the archive at Cranfield, and making the contents accessible as feasible.

However, it sometimes seems best that we transfer specialist materials to other institutions who can make better use of them and circulate them better to potential users. In 2018 we had transferred 2000+ county soil survey reports (weighing 2.5 tonnes) to the Natural Resources Survey Center of the USDA at Lincoln, Nebraska.

In 2021 we similarly transferred some early German language soil texts and journals to the University of Erlangen, Germany. The materials sent were:
1. E. Bloch (Ed.). 1929-1932. Handbuch der Bodenlehre. Hefte 1 bis 10. Julius Springer, Berlin, Wien. 10 volumes, beautifully bound and in excellent condition
2. E. Ramann. 1911. Bodenkunde. Julius Springer, Berlin, Wien. Possible a later reprint. Mint condition.
3. P. Kossowitsch. 1912. Die Schwarzerde (Tschernosiom). Verlag für Fachliteratur, GmbH. Wien.
4. Mitteilungen der Reichstelle für Bodenforschung. 1940. Bande 1, 3 & 4.
5. Verhandlungen der Zweigstelle, Wien. Nos 1 bis 12

From the receipt email received from Prof. Dr. Rupert Bäumler, Institut für Geographie, Universität Erlangen, we know that the materials arrived in good shape.
"Dear Ian, today the books/three packets arrived well at the Institute without any problems.
Thank you very much for this good idea and your effort to sort them out.
My regards to the Cranfield WOSSAC Archive."

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Continued WOSSAC collaboration on soil research in Taiwan

The latest academic paper output from the archive

  • January 30, 2022

WOSSAC continued its collaboration with Drs Chih-Yu Chiu and, Shih-Hao Jien on research into the development and characteristics of soils in Taiwan. Previously we have researched the transformations of P forms and accessibility in a pedo-toposequence in subalpine forest, and also the pedogenic development in a topo-chronosequence on Green Island, a subtropical offshore island.

The most recently published work combines these two strands by examining the evolution of P forms in the soils of an incipient ferralisation topo- and chronosequence on Green Island, which is located about 30 km off the south-eastern coast of Taiwan. The soils show a distinct development trend from raw Regosols on the lower sites, through Acrisols on the midslopes, to intensively leached and strongly weathered Ferralsols at the highest site. The soils were interpreted as forming a chrono-sequence, apparently dating back well into the late Pleistocene. We tested the Walker and Syers hypothesis that, some P is depleted by leaching with soil age, but more importantly that P availability is decreased by increasing sequestration in recalcitrant organic forms and in increasingly crystalline sesquioxides of Fe and Al.

We fractionated the P forms with a modified Hedley procedure in the top- and subsoils of the same profiles in the chronosequence on an altitudinal series of gently sloping benches, as used in the earlier Green Island incipient ferralisation study.

These soils contain limited amounts of easily exchangeable P. Of the sesquioxide variables, only Fe and Al crystallinities increased significantly with bench altitude/soil age, indicating that the ferralisation trend is weak. The bulk of the soil P was in the NaOH and residual extractable fractions, and of low lability. The P fractions that correlated best with the sesquioxides were the organic components of the NaHCO3 and NaOH extracts. The amorphous sesquioxides, Feo and Alo, were the forms that correlated best with the P fractions. A substantial proportion of the labile P appears to be organic and to be associated with Alo in organic-aluminium complexes. The progression of P sequestration appears to be slightly slower than the chemical and mineralogical indicators of ferralisation.

The study is published as:
Chih-Yu Chiu, Ian Baillie, Shih-Hao Jien, Liam Hallett, & Stephen Hallett. 2021. P fractions and sesquioxides in the soils of an incipient ferralisation chronosequence on a humid tropical volcanic island. Botanical Studies 62: 20 https://doi.org/10.1186/s40529-021-00326-5.

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A new milestone for WOSSAC

We've cleared our 'inbox'!

  • December 8, 2021

During the second half of this year activity within the archive has concentrated on clearing the materials from the previous archive building location and consolidating the collection in a new location on campus - Building '121', our new 'AgriInformatics building'. One aspect of this has been the processing of materials collected from various sources and held to-date in a series of 'in-boxes', prior to entering details into the WOSSAC catalogue. Thanks to the diligent work of two colleagues working off site, this work has now been completed and the newly processed books and maps have all been added to the shelves in their appropriate storage location boxes. The online catalogue ha also been updated to list these newly entered accessions. Parallel to this activity, all the existing materials are being (re)examined with a view to ascertaining the value of each document in relation to the to the archive objectives. This will result is a more relevant collection of materials which has soil and land appraisal reports and maps as the core of the archive. This phase is also nearing completion and will be finalised in January 2022.

The image shown is the final in-box being added to the collection. WOSSAC continues to receive material and new acquisitions are welcomed. For example, we are in the process of working with a donor who has a valued library collection of materials relating to Zambia.

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New Agri-informatics facility to help accelerate pace of digital agriculture adoption

An exciting new home for the WOSSAC archive

  • June 17, 2021

A new £3.2 million Agri-informatics facility has today been officially opened at Cranfield University by Rt Hon. George Eustice MP, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Cranfield and its partners will use the facility to create innovative informatics to support novel business, management and policy approaches in the agricultural sector. It will be shared with Agri-EPI Centre, one of the UK's four Agri-Tech Centres, which will focus on agri-tech research and innovation to accelerate the development and adoption of precision data agriculture and engineering technologies that boost sustainable productivity across the whole agri-food chain.

The new facility will also be the home of the National Reference Centre for Soils and associated land information system, LandIS. The facility is also the new home for the WOSSAC archive. In 2017, Cranfield University was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for its research and education in large-scale soil and environmental data for the sustainable use of natural resources in the UK and worldwide.

The new facility has been funded in partnership by Cranfield University, Innovate UK through Agri-EPI Centre Ltd, and the Wolfson Foundation

The Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: "Cranfield has a world-leading role in driving agricultural innovation and development and I was pleased to open the new facility today. Soil health is central to delivering our objectives on biodiversity and profitable agriculture and this new centre will ensure that the policies we plan are underpinned with world-leading science."

Professor Leon A. Terry, Director of Environment and Agrifood at Cranfield University, said: "This new Agri-informatics facility will play a vital role in bringing forward digital innovations in agriculture. By utilising data science, we can create new technological interventions that will improve crop yields, improve soil health and reduce food waste. All of these are vital to reducing the environmental impact of agricultural production."

"In the year that the UK hosts COP26, we are proud of the role Cranfield continues to play in bringing forward technological solutions to mitigate environmental pressures."

Dave Ross, Chief Executive of Agri-EPI Centre, said: "We are delighted to share this key facility at Cranfield. The Agri-Informatics facility will provide a key complement to our existing facilities at Cranfield, and allow us to foster collaborations with both industry and academia to meet the significant productivity and environmental challenges facing the agri-food sector, now and in the future"

Ian Cox, Agri-Tech Centres Lead at Innovate UK, said: "I am delighted this this new joint facility, part-funded by Innovate UK as a result of the UK's Agri-Tech Strategy is now open. It will expand the capabilities of both Agri-EPI and Cranfield University, and will help to address some of the major challenges facing not only the UK but the world around how we feed everybody sustainably. Not only that but the facility will help to drive forward the competitiveness of the UK's growing agri-tech sector into the next decade and beyond."

Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Cranfield University, said: "Cranfield has a proud tradition of making world-leading contributions to the environment and agricultural sectors, recognised by our Queen's Anniversary Prize for soil science. This new facility will play a key role in addressing future research challenges and will be an invaluable resource in achieving the goals set out in the Government's 25-year Environment Plan."



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Keith Virgo

A friend of WOSSAC remembered

  • January 29, 2021

WOSSAC is very sorry to hear of the death Keith Virgo from Covid, caught whilst he was in rehab after major heart surgery. We send our sympathy and condolences to his widow Sandy and all of his family. Coming together with the passing of Hugh Brammer, Keith's death is a blow to WOSSAC, and the tropical soil science and overseas agricultural development communities in Britain.

Several of the WOSSAC team worked with Keith on overseas soil surveys. He surveyed and assessed soils in a wide range of countries, with substantial inputs in Sudan, Thailand, Ethiopia and Cote D'Ivoire amongst others. He also worked in smaller territories such as Socotra, and he had a spell in the Soils Department of the University of Alberta. In all of these projects he was highly professional, energetic and very good company. He took the benefits of this experience and his positive personal qualities through to his later career in the wider field of land resource consultancy. This in turn led to a significant personal and professional involvement in the development of Village Ways, an organisation that is developing community-based ecotourism in India, particularly in the Himalayas. For the past few decades he has also been very active in the Tropical Agriculture Association (TAA), ending up as Chairman, Webmaster, and Convener for the Anglian Region.

He was a good friend of WOSSAC. He donated a considerable number of documents and maps, including many that he authored and compiled. He encouraged us to report regularly on our progress in Agriculture for Development, the TAA house journal. He also convened a TAA seminar on WOSSAC at Cranfield in 2009.

It is clear from this brief summary of his career and professional interests that Keith had great talents, energy and enthusiasm, and made significant contributions in many fields. We shall sorely miss his support, friendliness, energy and humour.

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Hugh Brammer

A life and career remembered: 1925-2021

  • January 15, 2021

WOSSAC is very sorry to hear of the death of Hugh Brammer on 13th January 2021, at the age of 95. We wish to send our condolences to his family and many friends. Coming so soon after the passing of Keith Virgo, Hugh’s death comes very much as a double blow to WOSSAC and the tropical soil science community in Britain.

WOSSAC has long been aware of Hugh’s stature and work, and we had some of his documents in the archive, some which he had donated himself. But it was only in the last year of his life that he worked closely with WOSSAC. He contacted us in late 2019, in order to donate a considerable further tranche of documents and maps from important soil surveys in the Gold Coast (Ghana) and Bangladesh. It so happened the WOSSAC team were then preparing a study of the early pioneering work of Cecil Charter, Hugh’s boss when he started his soil survey career in the Gold Coast. Hugh accepted our invitation to be a co-author and his input greatly improved the quality of the final paper (Borden, R.W., Brammer, H., Baillie, I.C., Hallett, S.H. (2021) The contributions of C. F. Charter to tropical soil survey and classification. 197. Catena. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2020.104957.). He supplied us with otherwise inaccessible background documents and personal information; he enabled us to contact Charter’s family; and he gently but firmly corrected factual errors and highlighted clumsy phrasing in our drafts.

The energy and clarity of mind he demonstrated in our collaboration would have been remarkable in anyone aged 94. However, his work with us was just a fraction of his output in the last couple of years of his life. He contributed book chapters and revised an e-book. In the annus mirabilis that was his final year he drafted four papers on different aspects of soils, landscape and the environment in Bangladesh. In a recent phone call he said that he had repeatedly promised himself that his current project would be his last, but an hour later he would think of something else that needed writing up.

Although he made a substantial and significant early contribution to soil survey in Ghana, and worked for a spell in Zambia, his great passion was Bangladesh. He spent over half a century working in, thinking about, and generally devoting his energies to all aspects of natural resources and their management in Bangladesh. The last paper he sent to WOSSAC was a detailed examination of the reliability of rainfall records there and the implications for elucidating the effects of climate change. His work and empathy for Bangladesh were greatly appreciated locally. News of his death has prompted several moving tributes from Bangladeshi colleagues and also an article in a Bangladeshi newspaper.

Working with him, however briefly, was pleasant as well as stimulating. He was a generous colleague, and we greatly benefitted from his meticulously precise knowledge and insights that were invariably contributed with self-effacing courtesy.

He will be greatly missed.

Photo Caption: Hugh Brammer with Professors S.A. Fakir, M.M. Rahman, Mr Shankar, M.A.S. Mandal (Vice- Chancellor), and M.R. Islam examining a recently planted Madhuka longifolia (mahua) in the Botanical Garden of the Bangladesh Agricultural University at Mymensingh, 2009. (Photo courtesy of Professor M. A. S. Mandal).

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Archaeology in Jordan and the dawn of agriculture

WOSSAC recognised in fascinating archaeological research

  • November 10, 2020

An enquiry to WOSSAC from Australia relating to site information for the Jordan Valley, illustrates the range of uses to which the archived soils and land documentation stored at Cranfield University can be applied. A graduate student researching archaeological sites from the Early Natufian culture, asked for assistance in building a picture of landform and soils in an area of northwest Jordan. Settlement sites are present in the intricate wadi system cut into the limestone plateau south of Lake Tiberias. Prior to the formation of the wadi system, the exceptional geological situation here created a fertile microenvironment fed by perpetual springs of ground water outflow buffering the region from seasonal, episodic, and long-term aridity. Therefore, the palaeoenvironment within this region was incredibly favourable and supported semi-continuous human occupation from the Lower Palaeolithic, through the Middle and into the Epipalaeolithic culminating in the Early Natufian occupation.

The existing evidence from Natufian sites in the Southern Levant, suggest a semi-sedentary population which had mastered the art of using wild cereal crops for bread making as early as 12,500 BC. This predates the agricultural revolution and therefore makes evidence from these sites important in understanding the domestication of crops.

In this study, sedimentation and micro-stratigraphic examination within an archaeological site is seeking to identify early soil development within the excavation samples. This will allow a separation of natural pedological processes, from deposits which have archaeological significance.

As the request identified the WOSSAC identification numbers, the documents, could be rapidly brought together from the archive storage system. The key resources came from the, Soils of Jordan: National Soil Map and Land Use Project, implemented by Hunting Technical Services and the National Survey and Land Research Centre in Amman. This work was carried out in the early 1990s. Mapping was at reconnaissance level and published at a scale of 1:250,000; semi-detailed at 1:50,000; and also some mapping for land with agricultural potential at a detailed scale. The most general description of landforms and soils within the wadis was sufficient for this archaeological work.

To see these materials, search for 'National Soil Map and Land Use Project' in the WOSSAC search tool.

This enquiry is an example of how WOSSAC resources can be utilized effectively. The archive holds a complete set of data; the system allowed the data to be quickly found; and the graduate student was supplied both with mapped data and a brief explanation of the mapping methodology which set the information in context.

(The image shows a mortar and pestle from a Natufian site supporting evidence of cereals used in the diet. Image from Wikipedia)

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The contributions of C. F. Charter to tropical soil survey and classification

A life and career of soil survey in Ghana

  • October 22, 2020

The WOSSAC team have just published a paper, accepted in Catena, on 'The contributions of C. F. Charter to tropical soil survey and classification'.

Borden, R.W., Brammer, H., Baillie, I.C., Hallett, S.H. (2021) The contributions of C. F. Charter to tropical soil survey and classification. 197. Catena. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2020.104957. Accessed at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0341816220305075#!

The paper describes the career of Cecil Charter who in 1944 joined the West African Cacao Research Institute in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) to carry out soil investigations in the forest zones of West Africa. In 1949 he organised the soil survey unit in the Gold Coast Department of Agriculture, and, in 1951, founded and directed the new Soil and Land Use Survey Department there rapidly building it up into a highly professional unit that produced many practical and useful reports of high quality. In his work he stressed the extent of non-residual parent materials in tropical soil formation, and advocated pedogenetic classification of soils. Many of Cecil's works are now held in WOSSAC (www.wossac.com).

It is good to see this paper, not only as a record of some of the early pioneers of soil survey and classification, but also as a signpost to our unique WOSSAC soils archive.

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Publication of WOSSAC research on the use of Malaysian oil palm bio-waste as fertiliser

WOSSAC recognised in Computers and Electronics in Agriculture

  • October 8, 2019

Following up from the news item in 2016, the WOSSAC team has expanded the collaborative research project in the Newton - Ungku Omar programme of 2015-2016, in which the feasibility of utilising various by-products from the harvesting and processing of oil palm in Malaysia to produce cost-effective bio-fertilisers was examined.

Ian Truckell, Serena Shah Ian Baillie, Steve Hallett, and Ruben Sabrakhani of Cranfield used soil maps archived in WOSSAC to develop and compare spatial models for the optimisation of the within-plantation distribution of the biofertilisers. The aim of the models was to minimise transport costs of the bulky materials but still ensure that the fertilisers were applied to soils likely to give good yield responses and high economic returns. This was achieved by ranking the soils on a target plantation according to either their potential for high oil palm yield, or their potential to benefit from the additional of supplementary organic matter. The soil maps were combined with road distances from the mill, and then distances in from the road edge. Environmental protection measures were incorporated into the models by delineating buffer zones along drainage lines to minimise leaching of nutrients and undesirable organic solutes into water supplies. The end result can be used to formulate low-cost high-return distribution plans.

Since 2016 the study has been expanded to compare the effects of soil patterns and transport networks on the transport of the biofertilisers in four oil palm estates in West Malaysia. The estates were selected because they were covered by soil maps held in WOSSAC at Cranfield University, and also because of the availability of high-quality remote sensing imagery.

The expanded study has recently been published, and the citation reference is:

Truckell, I.G., Shah, S., Baillie, I., Hallett, S.H., Sakrabani, R. (2019) Soil and transport factors in potential distribution systems for biofertilisers derived from palm oil mill residues in Malaysia. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture. Vol. 166, Nov 2019, 105005. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compag.2019.105005.

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Publication of WOSSAC research the East African origins of the catena concept

WOSSAC recognised in Catena

  • October 1, 2019

A short note in the 2017 blog outlined a study of the work of early soil surveyors in Tanzania and how this led to the development of the catena concept. The concept postulates that in large parts of the world distinctly different soils can occur on a single slope, but the same sequence of soils and associated vegetation types is repeated from crest to valley over large areas that are relatively homogeneous with respect to geology and macroclimate. The concept has been of great help in understanding the spatial distribution of soils, in practical soil surveys, and in providing a framework for pedological and soil management research. The concept was formalised in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and the other East African territories by a small group of soil surveyors, led by Geoffrey Milne, during the 1930’s. The usefulness of the concept was soon recognised and it rapidly spread throughout the global soil science community. It is still widely used, and even has a rated scientific journal named after it.

Wayne Borden and others in WOSSAC team have traced the details of the evolution and early applications of the concept in East Africa. They made much use of the substantial collection of early East African soil survey documents and maps held in WOSSAC at Cranfield. Wayne also consulted materials in the British Library in London and the Bodleian Library of Oxford University. As Wayne has soil survey experience in Tanzania, he was also able to consult with some veterans from the post-pioneer generation.

The study has now been published, appropriately in the journal Catena. The open access digital version is available on-line.

The paper citation is:

Borden, R.W., Baillie, I.C., Hallett, S.H. (2019) The East African contribution to the formalisation of the soil catena concept. Catena. doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2019.104291.

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Publication of WOSSAC-related items in the 40’th anniversary issue of Agriculture for Development

WOSSAC update in TAA Journal

  • August 1, 2019

The 37th issue of the journal Agriculture for Development in 2019 celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Tropical Agriculture Association, the main UK body for the study of research, development and management in tropical agriculture. It includes two items related to WOSSAC.

One is a progress report on the growth and technical development of WOSSAC since the last survey in 2015. It highlights the acquisition of all of the soils-related materials in the library of Booker-Tate. Many of these items were already catalogued by WOSSAC but remained in the Booker office at Thame. Following reorganisation at Bookers, they have now been rehoused at Cranfield and are being fully integrated into the WOSSAC archive. The second highlight was the 2017 award to Cranfield University of the Queens Award for Higher Education, particularly in soil science. The citation highlighted Cranfield’s support for WOSSAC and the value of archiving materials that are vulnerable to loss.

The second piece outlines some of the lessons that WOSSC has learnt in assembling an archive that focuses on ‘grey’ literature. There was particular emphasis on finding an institutional home for any archive, as personal assemblages tend to eventually get dispersed or discarded. Cranfield University’s support and hosting has been vital to the development of WOSSAC. The piece offered informal advice to anyone wishing to start an archive in topics such as agronomy, forestry, and agricultural meteorology and hydrology. WOSSAC has accumulated some non-soil survey materials and these are on offer to anyone starting a new archive.

The citation references are:

Wayne Borden, Brian Kerr, Steve Hallett, Ian Truckell, Ian Baillie & Bob Jones. 2019. The World Soil Survey Archive and Catalogue (WOSSAC): update on progress 2015-2018 Agriculture for Development. 37, 45-46.

Ian Baillie, Stephen Hallett, Brian Kerr, Wayne Borden, Edwin Vera & Bob Jones. 2019. TAA’s unique potential in the safeguarding of legacy materials. Agriculture for Development. 37, 12-14.

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New Materials Added

Imortant accessions in 2019

  • June 12, 2019

Since the systematic collection of soil and water related documents began in 2004, the WOSSAC archive has expanded to now include over 27,000 individual documents both maps and reports, covering 340 countries and territories.

Within the past year the collection has been boosted by a major acquisition from the Booker-Tate consultancy, which has agreed to the transfer of hundreds of land appraisal reports and maps to the archive (see recent news post on this acquisition). Additionally, the WOSSAC catalogue has been strengthened by a number of smaller acquisitions from individuals and former practitioners who had been active in overseas consultancy, especially soil survey.

This marks an interesting trend in the pattern of acquisitions which has gradually moved from large data collections held by both academic institutions (Wye College for example) and consultancy libraries (such as Hunting Technical Service now DAI), to personal documents held by individuals now retired or deceased. Families are making contact with WOSSAC anxious that documents accumulated by individuals now deceased are sorted and that the most valued materials are catalogued and held in a secure location for public access. These documents are of great interest as they reflect the background sources collected during overseas work, and utilised in the preparation of later published reports.

Within the last 12 months, four such approaches have yielded interesting and valuable materials which are now being catalogued. Example include the following.

  • The working library of Tony Atkins (died, February 2019). Tony was an Agricultural. Economist who for almost 20 years managed successful agricultural/rural development consultancy firms. Firstly, Dalgety Agricultural Development and later Dale International, both of which were active in overseas development projects. His documents include a significant body of reports on West & East Africa and on Libya for example. [Shatt-al-Badin Agriculture Studies]
  • John Aitken, began his career with the New Zealand Soil Bureau and later joined Land and Water Management, in the UK (part of WS Atkins International) as their senior consultant responsible for natural resources projects in UK and overseas. His career spanned 44 years with assignments spanning all regions of the world. John’s work included managing or participating in planning, land regularisation and rural development projects. In particular, he had a long experience of implementing soil survey, land suitability evaluation and land inventory appraisals.
  • Edwin Vera, worked for over 30 years in rural development, specialising in soil and land use surveys in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and SE Asia. Later Edwin became a consultancy manager with. Hunting Technical Services and the WOSSAC archive has acquired. interesting documents from soil survey work in Africa, and especially Indonesia.
  • Finally, the technical library belonging to Alan Stobbs (died 2012), has been offered to the archive by his family. Arrangements are underway to assess this collection of extensive documents, with the view of adding rare material to the WOSSAC catalogue. As Alan Stobbs was a senior government official within the Land Resources Division of the UK government and later a technical adviser for the Overseas development Administration (ODA) in south-east Asia, based in Thailand, his library contains documents of great interest from the ‘grey literature’. When this is fully sorted and integrated, there will be much of real value to enhance the WOSSAC collection.

More of these unique and personal collections are welcome.

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Revised and updated mapping search tool

Improved spatial searches

  • May 21, 2019

Much as we like the new look and feel of the revised WOSSAC website, there is work to be done. Searching for items spatially has long been an asset of the catalogue tool, now it has been made even easier to use and interpret.

The mapping search tool now has an improved interface generally, with appropriate toolbars and informational guides added. Specifically, the map now portrays assets with georeferences in different colours relating to whether or not georeferenced items shown have a downloadable scan available. This makes appraising a region for archive holdings held far more efficient.

There is more to do however. In making this update, it is apparent that certain of the entries have anomolies in them - such as the extent of the outline for maps, and indeed in places the spatial location. However, finding these issues has now become far easier for our archive team. Do let us know if you spot gremlins though! Each map item's detailed page also contains a link to inform WOSSAC of errors encountered making this process easier.

Lastly, as can be seen from this image, the new ‘adaptive design’ of the website, built using a Bootstrap template, allows the site to be used effectively on mobile phone devices.

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New WOSSAC website launched

An overhaul for our website

  • January 1, 2019

To welcome in the new year in 2019, we are pleased to announce our overhauled website. The new site adds a more contemporary feel for the archive’s public face, and importantly uses an ‘adaptive’ design (bootstrap) - meaning it will work on mobile devices as well as desktop computers and laptops. Try it and let us know what you think!

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Expanding the World Soil Survey Archive and Collection (WOSSAC)

Accession of Booker Tate materials

  • October 30, 2018

Cranfield University’s World Soil Survey Archive and Collection (WOSSAC), has recently acquired a valuable collection of documents and maps which ensures the status of this unique resource centre as the principle collection of soil and land documentation in the UK, and one of the most significant centres in Europe, playing a key part in Cranfield University’s 2017 Queen’s Anniversary Prize in Further and Higher Education for Soil Science.

The additional materials have been provided by the long-established international consultancy organisation Booker Tate Limited, based in Thame, Oxfordshire. Renovations to their offices within the UK, led to the decision to downsize the library resulted in some 600 items including reports, books, and over 200 maps relating to soils and land resources being offered to the WOSSAC facility at Cranfield University. A number of map storage units to house the collection have also been gifted to WOSSAC.

The materials are being introduced to the WOSSAC facility on the Cranfield campus, part of a significant investment of £4 million from Cranfield University to develop a new Environmental and Agricultural Informatics capability, with a dedicated new building being commissioned currently. The materials received from Booker Tate will be sorted, catalogued and entered into the web-based WOSSAC listings, ensuring that this resource is available for future research and development planning.

This is described in further detail on the Cranfield University blogsite.

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Return of American County Soil Maps to USDA-NRCS

Accession of Booker Tate materials

  • June 18, 2018

The guiding principle of the WOSSAC collection has always been to make the resources freely available to as wide an audience as possible. Ultimately the approach would aspire to return materials to the country of origin where there exists an institution that can utilize these resources. This has been recently achieved with the return to the United States of America of an entire sub-collection of State County soil survey reports.

These documents were originally lodged with the Soil Survey of Great Britain (England and Wales section based at Rothamsted Experimental Station) as a part of a document exchange programme from the 1940s onwards. Contact with the National Soil Survey Center of the USDA-NRCS, based in Lincoln, Nebraska, has resulted in shipment of 2,886 documents, weighing over 2.5 tonnes, from Cranfield University on 18 June 2018 bound for Nebraska. This frees up much needed space in the Cranfield WOSSAC archive, prior to construction of a new building on the University Campus.

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Tanzanian soil science case study extended

Part of the national case study series

  • March 5, 2018

The WOSSAC archive holds vast and unique records of soil survey activities across the world, and in particular the Commonwealth countries. One country in particular, Tanzania, has a long and illustrious history of soil survey and soil science. Indeed for example, it was here that the influential concept of the soil “catena” was developed by Geoffrey Milne (1898 to 1941).

This website contains a number of country-specific summaries of the holdings and significance of the archive. The Tanzanian section has just received a substantial update, thanks to the work of Wayne Borden - himself a soil surveyor of many years experience in Tanzania.

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Thin on the Ground, Second Edition

Soil Science in the Tropics

  • January 18, 2018

The WOSSAC team have been delighted to receive an inspection copy of the excellent book ‘Thin on the Ground: Soil Science in the Tropics’ from Professor Anthony Young. This is a second edition of this authoritative and most informative overview of soil survey activities in the developing world.

The book describes soil survey activities across Africa, the West Indies, Central America, South Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, with the new edition adding additional territories and extending the number of bibliographies. The new edition also extends the section on the importance and practice of of soil conservation in the tropics, and touches on soil and land degradation and the challenges these pose.

We were pleased to note that the book makes reference to the WOSSAC collection and the work of the archive in seeking to preserve and make available the precious works that arose from these decades of survey work.

Here is a link to purchase this excellent book from Amazon.

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University wins fifth Queen’s Anniversary Prize

Recognition of research and education in large-scale soil and environmental data for the sustainable use of natural resources in the UK and worldwide

  • December 1, 2017

Cranfield University is delighted to announce that, for the fifth time in its history, it is the proud recipient of a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize. Cranfield is one of only eight institutions to have won the award on five or more separate occasions.

Cranfield received the award for its research and education in large-scale soil and environmental data for the sustainable use of natural resources in the UK and worldwide. This is the first time in the Prize’s history that an award has been given for soil science.

Cranfield has a long history of soil science research and education. In England and Wales alone, the equivalent of over 200 years of fieldwork has identified over 750 different types of soil. Together with a unique, parallel international soils archive, the University has created the largest collection of soil information in Europe. Cranfield University has been designated by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs as the national reference centre for soils.

The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are awarded to universities and colleges who submit work judged to show excellence, innovation, impact and benefit for the institution itself and for people and society generally in the wider world. They are the UK’s most prestigious form of national recognition open to a UK academic or vocational institution.

The Queen’s Anniversary Prize is a tremendous recognition of the soils work of the university, and the curation undertaken of the national soil resource datasets, stretching back to when the Soil Survey of England and Wales joined Cranfield back in 1987, forming the Soil Survey and Land Research Centre, through to the current day. These datasets are held in our Land Information System, LandIS, described at www.landis.org.uk, plus the parallel World Soil Survey Archive and Catalogue (WOSSAC), described on this website. The Prize is a great testament to all the many survey staff who were responsible for gathering this unique body of data about our soil resources and recognises the many ways in which this data has been put to use by a broad spectrum of users, with many soil resource applications ranging from food security to environmental impact assessment, ecosystem services and natural capital to geotechnical interpretations.

Stephen Hallett

For more information, see: https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/press/news-2017/university-wins-fifth-queens-anniversary-prize.

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Publication of joint Thailand Royal Forest Department -WOSSAC research on the stoichiometry of cationic nutrients in forest soils of Thailand

Recognition of WOSSAC in Geoderma

  • November 7, 2017

The WOSSAC team collaborated with ecologists of the Forest Department of the Royal government of Thailand on research into the cation nutrition of a range of forest soils in the lowlands of Thailand. The aim was to quantify the absolute contents and the stoichiometric ratios of the cationic macronutrients (K, Ca and Mg) in soils derived from different geological parent materials. Particular emphasis was focussed on the soils derived from skarns (calcsilicates). These rocks are formed where granitic magma suffuses limestone bedrock. They are widely scattered along tectonic plate margins but are rarely very extensive. Their soils are formed by the contrasting influences from the acidogenic granites and the calcareous limestones. The soils qualify as Phaeozems in the World Reference Base and they dominate in the Huai Kha Khaeng forest dynamics plot in Western Thailand. The Huai Kha Khaeng soils were compared with Acrisols derived from sedimentary and felsic igneous parent materials of lowland forest elsewhere in Thailand. The comparison was extended to the soils in other lowland forests throughout the tropics, using data from the WOSSAC archive at Cranfield University.

The results showed that cations in the skarn soils are stoichiometrically distinctive in that they are well supplied with Ca and Mg but tend to be low in K. This applies to both the exchangeable and less labile forms of the cations. They are of only slightly acid-neutral reaction. They differ significantly from the Thailand Acrisols and also from tropical soils derived from pure limestones and from mafic parent materials elsewhere in the tropics.

The fieldwork and laboratory costs for this research were funded by a Bullard Forest Research Fellowship at the Harvard Forest and a grant from the international Center for Tropical Forest Studies (now GeoForest).

The study was published in the 2018 issue of the journal Geoderma Regional, and the citation reference is:

Baillie, I.C., Bunyavejchewin, S., Kaewfoo, M., Baker, P.J., & Hallett, S.H. 2018. Stoichiometry of cationic nutrients in Phaeozems derived from skarn and Acrisols from other parent materials in lowland forests of Thailand. Geoderma Regional. 12, 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geodrs.2017.11.002

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Developments in land information systems: examples demonstrating land resource management capabilities and option

A land information system case study

  • October 23, 2017

Land Information Systems (LIS) provide a foundation for supporting decision-making across a broad spectrum of natural resource applications: agronomic, environmental, engineering and public good. Typically, LIS constitute a computerized database repository holding geospatial components, ‘mapping unit’ geometry and related georeferenced materials such as satellite imagery, meteorological observations and predictions and scanned legacy mapping. Coupled with the geospatial data are associated property, semantic and metadata, representing a range of thematic properties and characteristics of the land and environment.

A recent paper, noted below, produced by Cranfield soils researchers has sought to provide examples of recent developments of national and regional LIS, presenting applications for land resource capabilities and management. The work focusses on examples drawn from the ‘Land Information System’ (LandIS) for England and Wales (www.landis.org.uk), and the ‘World Soil Survey Archive and Catalogue’ (WOSSAC) (www.wossac.com).

To highlight the range and value of LIS approaches, and their application to environmental issues, we have considered case studies of LIS in a number of international contexts. The first outlines the establishment of a new Welsh Agricultural Land Classification (ALC), for use at a policy level to help plan and administer appropriate national agricultural support mechanisms. The ALC systems described is extensible and could be transferred successfully to other national contexts. The second example outlines the production of a new national soil map and a national soil and LIS for the Republic of Ireland. This uses a unique method, which fuses harmonized legacy data and soil associations predicted by digital soil mapping, to produce a new national scale soil class map. The final example articulates the use of the materials in WOSSAC, together with other sources of contemporary data, such as high-resolution satellite data, to identify a suitable land bank in Malaysia for the application of biofertilizers derived from palm oil.

LIS provide a foundation for the provision of purposeful and timely environmental interpretations, drawing on soil and related thematic data, and offering insights into land properties, capabilities and characteristics, such as national ALC, the supporting of wider national environmental policies and assessment of suitability of land to receive palm oil biofertilizer. The examples presented in the paper were taken to illustrate the development of national and regional applications in land information systems, and reveal the practical transferability of technical and methodological approaches across geographical contexts. The examples demonstrate the value of natural resource inventories, used as a source of legacy information, which, once reconciled and integrated correctly, can be interoperated with other contemporary sources of information, such as satellite imagery.

The article, published in the journal Soil Use and Management, outlines the findings in detail:
Hallett, S.H., Sakrabani, R., Keay, C.A. and Hannam, J.A. (2017) Developments in Land Information Systems: Case studies in land resource management capabilities and options. Soil Use and Management. doi: 10.1111/sum.12380. Online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/sum.12380/full.

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Archived Collection of Legacy Soil Information

for England and Wales

  • June 28, 2017

The official publications of the Soil Survey of England and Wales (SSE&W) are listed in a catalogue which is available on line at www.landis.org.uk/publications.

This lists all the publications, maps, and technical bulletins which are available from the Publications Officer at nsridata@cranfield.co.uk

In addition there is a collection of documents and some maps many of which pre-date the official survey and are of historic interest. These documents originate from a number of sources, including academic studies by universities, thesis materials, and some work by individuals. All the material is either outside the formal publication structure of the SSE&W, or was completed prior to the systematic mapping programmes.

This material has now been collected together in the WOSSAC catalogue and has been allocated WOSSAC ID numbers. The material is stored in close proximity to the catalogued official E&W materials in the WOSSAC archive and is shelved by the generic type of study, such as those listed below.

  • The oldest document within this collection is dated 1911. The Agriculture and Soils of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, by AD Hall and EJ Russell was competed for the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. This is a hard backed book (ID 44756)
  • A series of surveys undertaken by the University of Reading in the fruit growing areas of England, such as Kent and Herefordshire. An example is, A Soil Survey of the Strawberry District of South Hampshire (ID 1939). The author is FF Kay and publication date is 1939. Other volumes in this series include surveys in the Vale of Evesham (ID 24267).
  • Other surveys carried out by the University of Reading in the inter-war years are also within this collection. These include a series of county surveys for Buckinghamshire by Temple (ID 24290), Berkshire by Pizer (ID 24291), and Vale of the White Horse by Kay.
  • A set of documents completed by the former Soil Survey of Great Britain, within the structure of the Agricultural Research Council, during the 1950s. These include This is prior to the setting up of separated E&W and Scottish survey organisations. Examples are, The District Around Rhyl and Denbigh by DF Ball (ID 44786); and The District around Wem, by Compton and Osmond (ID 26710).
  • Several academic thesis which relate to soils and landscapes in Norfolk, M. Douglas 1973 (ID 44761); and the soils of Shinfield farm at Reading University by E Vera (ID 44759)
  • A significant number of miscellaneous soil surveys completed by a range of universities, individuals and institutions. These include items such as, The Soils of the Isle of Man (ID 9262); Soils of Snowdon (ID 44750); and Soils of Epping Forest (ID 44768).
  • A significant standalone volume is a three-volume set of documents which are the output from a very detailed survey of the parish of Haselbech in Northamptonshire. This was undertaken by student during the period 1954-1974 under the direction of DK Smee, of University College, London. These are handsomely bound volumes including a map at a scale of 1:2500. (ID 44763)
  • There are numerous Conference Guides dating including the field excursions of the International Congress held in Britain in 1935. Within this category are North of England Soils Discussion Group meetings documents.
  • Finally there are a miscellaneous but small collection of other soils related documents, with a focus on England.

These documents can all be made available digitally if requested.

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Visit of Rick Landon

Author of the Booker Tropical Soils Manual

  • May 19, 2017

We received a visit from Rick Landon, who has kindly agreed to see some of his soil materials accede to the WOSSAC archive.

Rick’s distinguished career started in Bookers, where he edited the influential Tropical Soils Manual, the definitive handbook for soil survey and agricultural land evaluation in the tropics and subtropics.

He then spent many years in Mott MacDonald, undertaking many land evaluation and survey projects internationally.

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History of Soil Survey in Tanzania

Development of soil survey in Tanzania through the ages

  • May 3, 2017

A new section has been added to the Tanzania Overview. This section is composed of pen sketches of the Pioneer Soil Scientists and their study and mapping of the soil and land resources of Tanganyika / Tanzania. Included in this article are the long term and major contributions of Geoffrey Milne, Brian and Gordon Anderson and Peter LeMare, plus 18 others who had shorter inputs.

The article covers the period 1909 to 1970 and those Scientists so far identified. Contributions from readers on content or missing scientists are welcome. In future, similar additions will be made to the remaining country files in the Archive.

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Feeding the nine billion

Smart solutions

  • February 1, 2017

Global food production has increased dramatically in the last 50 years, yet large numbers of people remain malnourished worldwide, compounded by the ever-increasing threats from climate change and resource scarcity. As a result, extensive and coordinated action is required to tackle these huge challenges, on many fronts.

Recognising this, the Journal Environmental Scientist, of the IES (Institution of Environmental Sciences) produced a special edition concerning ‘Feeding the Nine Billion’. Cranfield staff wrote two articles in the edition.

Firstly, Dr Jaqueline Hannam produced an article entitled ‘S.O.S. - Save our soil today to meet the food challenges of tomorrow’. The piece analyses how soil research and disruptive innovation in farming techniques are contributing to meeting the food challenges of a growing global population. With the importance of soil as the source for most of our food (around 95 per cent of our food comes from soil), a key challenge arises as more food is needed, with the booming global population - and there isn’t actually much viable land left.

Jacqueline noted the importance of innovative thinking and how new approaches are needed in modern farming, because if we continue with the status quo, it has been estimated that soils will only support 60 more harvests. To avoid this catastrophe, we need to understand our soils better, and support farmers to try new approaches, many of which will be radically different to their current practices. Agriculture needs disruptive innovation to increase yields sustainably, and this can start with farming for soil. This requires a combination of new technologies and changing farming practices. These should be underpinned by effective knowledge exchange and collaboration between research, industry and agricultural practitioners, and crucially, be supported by agricultural policy that is flexible enough to encourage implementation of the adaptive approaches that are necessary to protect our soil resources. Most farmers recognise the fundamental value of their soil, but the numbers of practising ‘soil farmers’ needs to swell to ensure soils are able to effectively support sustainable increases in food production. This requires investing in soil for the benefit of the farmers and the population of the future. The challenge of feeding nine billion people by 2050 is immense, but so is our capacity to challenge and innovate. And remember, we need to save our soil now to save our future planet!

Combine harvesters at work

Continuing in this theme, Cranfield’s Dr Stephen Hallett produced a related article entitled ‘Smart cities need smart farms’, noting how the relationship between research underway at Cranfield University, industry and the farming community is helping to work towards sustainable food production to meet increasing urban demand. This is important as internationally the latest estimates suggest the world’s population is likely to hit nine billion by 2050. Added to this, the UN estimates that some 54 per cent of the world’s population now live in urban areas, with a predicted increase to 66 per cent by 2050, and for this population in particular, there are fewer opportunities to become self-sufficient for food.

Stephen noted how we must also contend with living with environmental change, and that the impacts of our changing climate will affect how we can use land and what crops can be grown; the UK is no different from anywhere else, and will be affected by these changes (noting that actually in some cases these changes may have positive local effects), but in many cases it is likely to be negative as droughtiness increases. What is needed for tomorrow, to meet the food security challenges of today, is a new approach to farming; and not just technical improvements on existing approaches. The article outlines how research in precision farming, the application of agri-informatics techniques and the development of scientific approaches can aid maximising on-farm production efficiencies.

Both articles are available on-line in the Environmental Scientist Journal archive.

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Use of WOSSAC for ICSID tribunal hearing

International Commission for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)

  • January 31, 2017

Dr Ian Baillie, Visiting Research Fellow at Cranfield University, was recently involved in a six-day tribunal hearing at the International Commission for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in the World Bank, Washington DC. Part of the dispute hinged on the existence of hydric soils and wetlands on a resort development site on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Ian’s testimony was mainly based on soils data collected during a site visit in mid-2016 (see below).

However, he consulted many items in WOSSAC before and after his fieldwork. Topics covered included; soils of Costa Rica and nearby areas in Central America, hydric soils, and the applicability of Handbook 210 (USDA, 1960) to the definition and identification of hydric soils. The tribunal is still in progress, with further legal depositions in 2017, and then a comprehensive deliberation of the issues before a decision, which is likely to be later in 2017, or 2018.

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Incorporation of England and Wales materials

WOSSAC catalogue inclusion of the wider set of materials from E&W

  • January 28, 2017

A recent activity within the WOSSAC collection has been the consolidation of documents which relate to soils and land use in England and Wales. This material is additional to the maps and reports which are part of the Soil Survey of England and Wales official publications, which are available for purchase through Cranfield University. The list of official publications is at www.landis.org.uk/publications/index.cfm.

The WOSSAC collection brings together older material, university theses on soils, scattered publications in the grey literature, and rare reports by organisations other than the official survey. This includes copies of individual county land use surveys completed under the guidance of Professor Dudley Stamp in the 1930s. This material is in the process of being catalogued and will now appear in the central WOSSAC catalogue. An example from this collection is the three-volume boxed set of report which relate to the parish of Haselbech (Northamptonshire). This ultra-detailed survey is the work of supervised teams of students over a decade during which 75,000 auger borings were made. The accompanying photograph shows only a small part of the 1: 2,500 scale coloured map, which is now archived.

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Cataloguing of the Gordon Anderson papers

A unique collection of early Tanzanian soils materials

  • January 27, 2017

For some time over the last few weeks, a special effort has been underway to catalogue and classify items from the noteworthy Gordon Anderson papers, kindly left to WOSSAC.

With the completion of the Gordon Anderson Archive, a further 35 documents have been added to the Tanzania Country File, including Geoffrey Milne’s original Government Report on his Soil Reconnaissance Journey through parts of Tanganyika in 1936 (WOSSAC File ID #44718). It was in this report that he introduced the now widespread concept for the first time of the Catena as a soil mapping unit. The figure shows his original sketch of the Ukiriguru Catena by example.

Work in progress includes preparation of profiles of early Tanzanian soil surveyors such as Milne and Anderson.

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Semper Juvenis

A new book by Professor Anthony Young

  • June 23, 2016

We are pleased to have had the opportunity to read the latest book written by Professor Anthony Young. ‘Semper Juvenis’ is an autobiographical work describing his extraordinary career as a seminal member of staff in the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) School of Environmental Science, created in the late 1960’s. Anthony describes how he and an illustrious group of colleagues developed this school - many of whose professional works are now contained within the WOSSAC archive. Apart from Anthony’s own works, the collections of Fred Vine and materials from Keith Clayton in particular come to mind.

Anthony’s interests in soil survey and land evaluation led to his extensive overseas experiences across 38 different countries, notably in Malawi, Singapore, Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti, Ethiopia, Viet Nam, Nigeria, and South Africa. Anthony also worked on a number of international land development consultancies with Hunting Technical Services in Pakistan, Niger Republic and Malaysia, again works which are now held in WOSSAC. However, Anthony’s work with FAO, undertaking a range of expert consultations, will be one of his greatest contributions - his ‘Framework for Land Evaluation’ has been one of the most widely used of all FAO publications.

Semper Juvenis is available on Amazon, as below. Anthony’s website is http://www.land-resources.com

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Use of residues from Malaysian oil palm as biofertilisers

A novel use for waste materials

  • May 5, 2016

In 2015-2016 Cranfield collaborated with the University of Malaya and Genius Sendrian Berhad, a Malaysian commercial enterprise, to research the potential of the large volumes and tonnages of residues produced by oil palm mills as bio-fertilisers. The research was funded by a grant from the Newton - Ungku Omar initiative, a collaboration between the Malaysian Industry Government High Technology (MIGHT) group and the Royal Society, London. The project looked at the nature of the feedstock residues and the production of compost from them.

The WOSSAC component examined factors that need to be considered in planning the optimal distribution of the compost. A flexible model has been developed that factors in soil suitability for compost application, environmental protection measures, particularly riparian exclusion zones, and transport distances. So far, the model has been applied to a single mill in Central Pahang. The results look promising and testing on other mills will start in May 2016. The flexibility of the model allows for variations in priorities, criteria and improvements in data quality. The soil maps that underpin the soil suitability mapping and zoning have all been scanned items in WOSSAC.

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Support from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

New systematic cataloguing and data capture

  • May 6, 2016

Since 2014 WOSSAC has benefitted from a substantial grant to Cranfield from the National Environment Research Council, NERC. The WOSSAC part of the grant has been used to purchase and set up a BookEye book scanner and other specialist scanning hardware, and also to take on a number of MSc and PhD students to catalogue and archive thousands of donated items that had accumulated in the archive’s ‘Inbox’. As a result of these inputs, some 2,500 new items have been catalogued, and about 800 have been scanned, using the new scanning equipment.

The scanned and formatted items have been uploaded on the WOSSAC portal, and are now made freely available to the wider stakeholder and research community.

The non-WOSSAC part of the grant was used to purchase and install a Virtual Reality (VR) suite. This enables spatial data to be displayed in a variety of striking ways. Such presentations visualise and simplify potentially complex interrelationships between various sets of environmental factors and management/intervention alternatives. As well as highlighting known interactions, the VR tool displays reveal some hitherto unsuspecting relationships. The suite has been used for both WOSSAC and British materials and projects.

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Use of WOSSAC in soils research in Taiwan

WOSSAC recognised in Catena

  • February 4, 2016

WOSSAC recently collaborated with pedologists of the Academica Sinica in Taipei on research into the development and characteristics of soils at several locations in Taiwan. In both of the studies published, great use was made of WOSSAC.

One of the study areas was a slope sequence in subalpine forest at Taipingshan on Mount Taiping in North-Central Taiwan. A previous study had established that the soils on the slope formed a hydro-sequence from Gleysols on the lake side, through Gleyic Podzols on the midslope, to Placic Podzols near the treeline on the upper slope. The WOSSAC-related research focussed the fractionation of the forms of P in in the different soils. The results show that P appeared to move from inorganic to organic forms with the on-going development of humic or peaty topsoils in these profiles. There was also some P sequestration in less labile forms by sorption onto kaolinitic and especially sesquioxidic clays in the better drained soils.

The second area was on Green Island, located about 30 km off the south-eastern coast of Taiwan. The main soil parent materials are volcanic deposits that are arrayed along an altitudinal sequence from sea level up to about 240 m a.s.l. The soils show a distinct development trend from raw Regosols on the lower sites, through Acrisols with moderate contents of sesquioxides and strong clay-skins and textural horizons on the midslopes, to intensively leached and strongly weathered Ferralsols with high contents of sesquioxides and few indications of clay movement at the highest site. There are complications caused by coral along the shoreline at the base of the slope, and from limited but variable additions of long-distance aeolian deposits in all of the soils. Nonetheless, the soils were interpreted as forming a chrono-sequence, apparently dating back well into the late Pleistocene.

The collaboration between Academica Sinica and WOSSAC continues. In 2016 Ian Baillie joined a team from Academica Sinica in fieldwork to characterise the morphology of an altitudinal range of soils on Green Island, which is located about 40 km South west of Green Island. The WOSSAC team is currently collaborating in an on-going soil P fractionation study in the Ferralitic chrono-sequence on Green Island.

The studies were published in Catena. The citation references are:

Jien, S-H., Baillie, I., Hu C-C., Chen, T-H., Isihikuza, Y., Chiu, C-Y. 2016. Forms and distribution of phosphorus in a placic podzolic toposequence in subtropical subalpine forest, Taiwan. Catena 140, 145-154. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2016.01.024

Jien Shih-hao, Baillie Ian, Huang, W-S. & Chiu Chih-yu. 2016. Incipient ferralization and weathering indices along a soil chronosequence in Taiwan. European Journal of Soil Science. 67 583-596. doi: 10.1111/ejss.12363, [link]. In 2017 this paper was designated as one of the Editor in Chief’s choices for 2016.)

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WOSSAC catalogue summary prepared for Ghana

New country holdings summary

  • February 20, 2015

A new national summary of holdings for Ghana has been produced for WOSSAC, joining the growing number of narratives describing the development of national soil surveys and the consequent holdings of WOSSAC.

The WOSSAC catalogue lists almost 260 entries for Ghana which includes unique material dating from pre-independence: the oldest documents in the Ghana corpus of documents dates from the late 1940s. Some of this legacy material is directly related to natural resources and the early cultivation of cocoa in the then Gold Coast, including a 1949 Gold Coast atlas.

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WOSSAC cataloguing of soil materials in the Booker Tate Archive

Extending users access to soils information

  • February 20, 2015

Booker Tate is a leader in the provision of development, management and technical services to the world of sugar, ethanol, bio-energy and other agribusinesses. The present global technical consultancy grew from the merger of the former companies Booker Agriculture International and Tate and Lyle Agribusiness. Booker Tate has a long history of conducting high quality soil surveys and land resource evaluations, particularly with respect to sugar cane, and its technical staff produced the seminal and invaluable Booker Tropical Soils Manual (Landon et al., 1991). Booker Tate has agreed to enter into a collaboration with WOSSAC, whereby details of non-confidential soil and land resources items presently held in the Booker Tate archive are now listed in the WOSSAC catalogue. The items will continue to be held in the Booker Tate library at Thame, and access to them will be by arrangement with Booker Tate: please contact bob.merry@booker-tate.co.uk, Masters Court, Church Road, Thame, Oxfordshire, OX9 3FA. The listing of these items in WOSSAC will help alert interested parties as to the existence of potentially valuable materials, especially for countries where Booker Tate has undertaken much work, such as Guyana, Zambia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Swaziland and Kenya. This is the first substantive off-site archive arrangement for WOSSAC, but we are hopeful that this arrangement will provide a working model for other private and public sector archives, and we would welcome enquiries from them.

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WOSSAC mapping system overhauled

Clusterer tool used to manage complexity

  • January 25, 2015

We have overhauled the WOSSAC web mapping tool, presenting the location of items on a map. This is a great way to see visually the locations of cartographic materials held. A new ‘clustering’ tool is introduced to help hide the complexity inherent in multiple overlapping items - that made it hard to see where items were. When using the system, note that only that proportion of catalogued items with recorded cartographic details are shown - so it is advisable to use the mapping tool alongside the text-based search tool. Further to this, the map also has a new ‘full screen’ mode to show the map contents more clearly.

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Recent donations from Royal Holloway College

Further accessions to the archive

  • January 14, 2015

WOSSAC has recently received materials from the Geography Department of Royal Holloway College, Egham. They comprise soils and land resources reports and maps by the Land Resources Division (UK) and CSIRO (Australia) and cover a range of tropical territories. The items will now be indexed and entered into the collection. We are grateful to Dr Mike Dolton for contacting us about their availability and for facilitating their collection.

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2015 International Year of Soils

The 68th UN General Assembly declared 2015 the International Year of Soils (IYS)

  • January, 2015

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has been nominated to implement the International Year of Soils (IYS) in 2015, within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and in collaboration with Governments and the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The IYS 2015 aims to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.

The specific objectives of the IYS 2015 are to:

  • Raise full awareness among civil society and decision makers about the profound importance of soil for human life;
  • Educate the public about the crucial role soil plays in food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and sustainable development;
  • Support effective policies and actions for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources;
  • Promote investment in sustainable soil management activities to develop and maintain healthy soils for different land users and population groups;
  • Strengthen initiatives in connection with the SDG process (Sustainable Development Goals) and Post-2015 agenda;
  • Advocate for rapid capacity enhancement for soil information collection and monitoring at all levels (global, regional and national).

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UK Soil Observatory wins Geospatial Excellence Award

A great new one-stop-shop for on-line soils data

  • November, 2014

Following on from the UK Soil Observatory’s recent nomination for a Geospatial Excellence Award, Cranfield is delighted to announce that the UKSO won the AGI award for Excellence with Impact. The award recognises projects which have achieved outstanding success or impact - whether this be within an organisation or at a local, national or international scale.

Commenting on the UKSO, the judges described it as ‘An ambitious project with huge potential as a spatial research resource for a range of fields including agriculture and geotechnical engineering’.

Cranfield University’s National Soil Resources Institute (NSRI) was pleased to play a part in the development of the UKSO, contributing several of its soil related datasets to the project. The UKSO draws together soils data from institutions such as the British Geological Survey (BGS), the James Hutton Institute (JHI) and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and provides a unified starting point for accessing consolidated soil datasets via a series of interactive web maps and other web-based resources. Further information on the UKSO is available on the project website.

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UK Soil Observatory nominated for Geospatial Excellence award

Great news for our soils activities

  • November, 2014

Cranfield is pleased to announce that the UK Soil Observatory (UKSO) has been short-listed by the Association for Geographic Information (AGI) in their upcoming 2014 Awards for Geospatial Excellence. The UKSO was nominated for the AGI Award for Excellence with Impact. AGI describe this award as recognising projects which have achieved outstanding success or impact, measured against societal, humanitarian, environmental or financial benchmarks.

Cranfield University’s National Soil Resources Institute (NSRI) was pleased to play a part in the development of the UKSO, contributing several of its soil related datasets to the project. The UKSO draws together soils data from institutions such as the British Geological Survey (BGS), the James Hutton Institute (JHI) and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and provides a unified starting point for accessing consolidated soil datasets via a series of interactive web maps and other web-based resources. Further information on the UKSO is available on the project website.

The AGI awards have been launched to mark the AGI’s 25th anniversary. They are due to take place on Tuesday 11th November 2014. Further details on the awards are available here.

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Launch of the new online Irish Soil Information System project

A great new source of soils data in Ireland

  • September, 2014

The new Irish Soil Information System, the key soils environmental resource base for Ireland, developed by Teagasc and Cranfield University staff, and drawing upon all available historical soils information, combined with extensive field work and innovative digital soil assessment techniques, is now available on-line for all to use. The information system is described, and its data made available as a resource at http://soils.teagasc.ie. The system is to be launched on September 15th in Wexford, Ireland at the Teagasc Johnstown Castle site.

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Helping the EU Joint Research Centre run the 'Soil - the hidden treasure' stand

Euro Science Open Forum - Science in the City 'building bridges' festival, Copenhagen

  • 21-24 June, 2014

Dr Stephen Hallett of Cranfield University was an invited expert attending the EU Joint Research Centre (JRC) stand "Soil - the hidden treasure" at the recent Euro Science Open Forum ESOF - Science in the City 'building bridges' festival which took place in Copenhagen from 21-24 June, 2014, and which was opened by EU President José Manuel Durão Barroso and HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Some tens of thousands of delegates came onto the site over the four days, from scientists and researchers, to general public and school parties. The JRC stand was designed to provide delegates with an overview of the importance of soils. Sections were provided including information on soil and archaeology, soils and biodiversity, soil classification and soil types, threats to soil, soil education and awareness, and examples of Danish soils research.

Educational materials were on show including Soil-Net, and other materials prepared by Cranfield for the British Society of Soil science. There was considerable shared interest amongst attendees about the way soils can preserve remnants of previous civilizations, and the role that soils play in archaeology - helping to reveal how the peoples of Denmark lived thousands of years ago. One show highlight was the description of the famous Egtved Pigen, the Egtved lady, a supposed former queen who was found preserved in her solid oak coffin in the soil, together with the remnants of a votive offering to the gods, being the ingredients to brew a special beer. Danish scientists have teamed with a local brewery to especially recreate this beer from the recipe - producing a modern version of a drink first enjoyed 3.5 thousand years ago, the Egtved Pigens Bryg!

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Conclusion of the Irish Soil Information System project

A new national soils resource for Ireland

  • June, 2014

Work has now drawn to a successful conclusion on the 5 year project that has been to develop an Irish Soil Information System. Sponsored by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), project partners Teagasc and Cranfield University have worked to develop a new key environmental resource base for Ireland, drawing upon all available historical soils information, combined with extensive field work and innovative digital soil assessment techniques to produce a new national, rationalised soil map (1:250,000) and database.

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Environmental 'Big Data' Informatics

An Ecosystem Services Databank and Visualisation for Terrestrial Informatics

  • December 16 2013

Cranfield University researchers have become recipients of research funding through a NERC 'Big Data Capital Call' to procure various scanners and software tools that will allow the Cranfield team to capture in digital form the various unique, natural environment 'big data' collections held at Cranfield University. In particular, this includes the WOSSAC (World Soil Survey Archive and Catalogue) facility, which holds tens of thousands of environmental resources and artefacts from some 280 territories worldwide (www.wossac.com). The scanning equipment will enable the liberation of these historical high-volume data, currently locked in analogue form on paper, film and tape as Open Educational Resources (OER) for research and learning and teaching in the UK and abroad. The equipment includes a high precision 3D laser scanner, an automated bookscanner, and a microfilm scanner, as well as additional computing server capacity. The award also includes a state-of-art 'virtual reality' suite comprising a 3D back projection system with tracking headsets and hands-free controllers for 10 delegates.

Once scanned and digitised, the WOSSAC data and other related information can be drawn together in modelling and visualisation environments. Using the equipment, Cranfield University will build on its extensive expertise in the innovative handling of large quantities of complex spatio-temporal data on the environment, soils and land information, and will draw on a broad experience in decision-making and perception research, particularly in relation to scenario-driven environmental futures, exploring impacts from novel and emergent risks. Spatio-temporal data visualisation can provide a critical link between natural and physical sciences and social sciences/decision-makers and can lead to new insights. The visualisation 'virtual reality' environment, designed for the geosciences, will allow both the tools for exploration of multi-dimensional 'big data' as well as new and powerful means to convey results and analyses, and to communicate risk and uncertainty to potential beneficiaries of research.

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Digital materials from the estate of Bruce King

Remote sensing and GIS materials received

  • October 7, 2013

In addition to the printed documents and maps already noted, Mrs Jamela King has also donated all of the late Bruce King's technical DVD's and CD's. These contain many reports, maps and remote sensing images. The files have all been downloaded into a temporary store on the Cranfield University mainframe, whence appropriate items will be catalogued into WOSSAC and mounted on the WOSSAC portal.

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Recent donations from the estate of Bruce King

Accession of materials to WOSSAC

  • October 6, 2013

Mrs Jamela King, widow of Bruce King, has recently donated technical materials from Bruce's collection to WOSSAC. Bruce spent his professional life analysing landscapes and assessing land resources in the developing world. He spent long periods in South Africa, Tanzania, Indonesia and Belize, and shorter spells in may other countries.

He had already donated his Tanzanian material to the University of Dar es Salaam, where he co-founded the Bureau of Land Use Planning. His textbooks and South African reports and maps are going to the Geography Department of the University of The Orange Free State, where there are young South African earth scientists interested in geomorphology and remote sensing. The material going into WOSSAC includes valuable maps and documents from Bruce's other countries. We are grateful to Mrs King and her daughter Reyahn for the donation, which makes Bruce's documents and work available to development workers and researchers in the future.

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Cranfield Soil and AgriFood Institute (CSAI) launched

Incorporating the former NSRI and food science group

  • October 1, 2013

A farewell to NSRI as we merge with Cranfield food science group to form the new Cranfield Soil and AgriFood Institute (CSAI).

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Further donations to WOSSAC

Materials received for Malawi and Spain

  • July, 2013

We are pleased to announce that WOSSAC has recently received donations from four distinguished soil scientists:

Emeritus Professor Richard Webster of Rothamsted Research has given a second tranche of books and journals from his collection. Before commencing his career as the founding pioneer of the application of spatial statistics to soil science, Professor Webster was a soil surveyor in what is now Zambia, and he has field experience in the soils of many other countries.

Emeritus Professor Tony Young of the University of East Anglia has also given a second tranche of books from his collection. Professor Young started as a soil surveyor in what is now Malawi, and he went on to advise, write and teach on soil survey and land resource management and evaluation in many countries.

Mr Tim Harrod was a long-term soils surveyor in the South-West of England but has experience in the soils of other countries. He has donated a collection of books on soils in Spain and elsewhere.

Mr Reen Ysselmuiden, who had a wide experience of soils throughout the tropics but especially in South-East Asia, donated a large collection of books and journals when WOSSAC was still housed at Silsoe. After his death in 2011 Mrs Ysselmuiden gifted further journals, which were sorted and held by Mr Garry Robertson of the Tropical Agriculture Association until recently collected and deposited in WOSSAC.

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Dr David Parry visits WOSSAC Archive

Expert in the soils of Ethiopia, Sudan and Indonesia

  • May, 2013

Dr David Parry visited WOSSAC on 30 April 2013. David was a soil surveyor with Hunting Technical Services for many years and did substantial surveys in Ethiopia, Sudan and especially Indonesia, with shorter inputs in many other countries. He either wrote or contributed to many items in WOSSAC, e.g. Item#. 35060. He later became the Indonesia Manager for the engineering consultancy firm MottMacDonald for many years.

When he finished with MottMacDonald, he opted to stay on in Indonesia, where he now has a wide range of interests and activities, including the resurrection of his soils expertise. He is currently working as the volunteer soil and land management specialist adviser to a mutual self-help ('gotong royong') rehabilitation project in northern Bali, where a group of villages are rebuilding after their homes, fields and irrigation infrastructures were demolished by the cataclysmic eruption of Gunung Agung in 1963.

David is also extending his soils activities to northern Kenya and is in discussion about projects elsewhere. As well as the soils materials, David was keen to see WOSSAC in connection with his interest in historical maps. He specialises in the early maps of Indonesia and advises Jakarta's only antique map shop.

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Donations from the estates of Ted Wilmot and Richard Dunham

Accession of unique materials for West Africa

  • April, 2013

WOSSAC has recently received donations of materials from the estates of the late Richard Dunham and Ted Wilmot OBE. These include unpublished documents concerning soil management and agricultural development in West Africa, where both men worked for many years. We are grateful to their families and to Henry Gunston for their efforts in getting these unique materials to WOSSAC, and thus ensuring their future availability to development workers and researchers.

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Materials from Fred Collier

Accession of unique materials for Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt

  • March, 2013

Distinguished soil scientist and former director of HTS Fred Collier has kindly acceded to the WOSSAC archive a substantial number of rare and informative materials from his career in Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The materials will be sorted through and added to the collection, being made available for consultation and access. We are grateful to Fred for allowing this.

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Cranfield assumes the formal custodianship of the HTSPE Ltd. holdings in WOSSAC

  • September, 2012

Cranfield University hold, in the WOSSAC collection, a substantial body of work which has originated from the survey consultancy company HTSPE Ltd. This material comprises soil and natural resource-related maps, data and reports.

A recent agreement has been reached with HTSPE Ltd. that the rights to full custodianship of these materials shall now pass to Cranfield. Confirmation of full custodianship will enable Cranfield to seek support for external funding with a longer-term view to digitise the data in order to promote more effective access and more widespread use.

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Country-specific reviews added

Contextual overview of the WOSSAC holdings

  • June, 2012

To aid researchers and other interested parties, an initial set of four country-specific reviews of the holdings of WOSSAC have been produced. For Tanzania, Liberia, Sudan and Jordan, there is now a short summary review of the key stages in the development of national land and soil resource survey, linked to the holdings in the WOSSAC archive catalogue. It is hoped that other countries may soon be added to this list, serving as a guide to studies undertaken in each region.

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Navigation maps added to search engine

Helping locate map locations

  • February, 2012

Where catalogue metadata for maps includes bounding box information (the map extents), the search engine now includes a overview image of the location of the map as part of the search results. This can help considerably in locating the map geographically and thereby helping to contextualise it.

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WOSSAC hosts meeting of Tropical Agriculture Association

A tour of WOSSAC

  • December, 2011

WOSSAC hosted a meeting of the Tropical Agriculture Association at Cranfield on 7th December 2011. Cranfield staff talked on the use of legacy soils data for modern digital mapping projects; the situation for overseas soil survey materials in Britain before WOSSAC; and the origins, development, current operation and on-going projects of WOSSAC. They also gave a guided tour of the archive, and instructions on the use of the WOSSAC web portal.

There was a presentation on behalf of HTSPE, the largest and longest established of the private sector consultancy companies in overseas soil surveys, and an account of the International Soil Reference and Information Centre by the its former director, Professor David Dent. Professor Jane Rickson of the National Soil Resources Centre at Cranfield gave the delegates a lunchtime guided tour of the on-campus experimental sites and facilities in soil erosion and conservation research.

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Donation of Gordon Anderson materials

A significant accession from a pioneering soil scientist

  • August, 2011

Mrs Marion Anderson and Mrs Grace Stretton-Downes, the widow and daughter of the late Gordon Anderson, visited WOSSAC on 1st August 2011. Their purpose was to donate Gordon's soil books, documents, maps and slides. These cover a range of topics and areas, particularly his work done in Tanganyika (Tanzania) in 1940's 1960's, when Gordon did much pioneering soil mapping and pedology throughout the country, especially in the Nachingwea and Ngorogoro areas.

The collection also included rare manuscripts from Gordon's contemporaries in Tanzania, such as Geoffrey Milne. WOSSAC is most grateful to Mrs Anderson for taking the trouble to preserve and hand on these items, and the archive and soil science in general are enriched by such irreplaceable materials. WOSSAC is happy to assure Mrs Anderson and other previous and potential donors that all materials are securely held and will be made available to those interested.

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WOSSAC User Survey Launched

Tell us what you think!

  • August, 2011

It's important for us to keep in touch with users of WOSSAC, such as yourself, and the requirements of the archive. We have therefore launched a new User Survey for WOSSAC to enable us to gain an overview of the ways the archive is used. Please take a moment to complete the survey.

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Slide archive scanning underway

Extensive soil profile and landscape photo-archive captured

  • April, 2011

As the former Soil Survey of England and Wales surveyors travelled around the countryside, taking a photographic record was an important part of capturing information about the soil resources they found. This left an invaluable and systematic photographic collection of 'natural England and Wales'.

Today, the process of capturing this complete historical set of 35mm slides and photographs of the soil profiles and associated landscapes held by CSAI is well underway. The project was sponsored by the British Society of Soil Science (BSSS), and has so far captured some 5,500 slides of the UK and further abroad, comprising some 21Gb of digital data. The slides will be made available on WOSSACs sister website SoilsWorldwide (http://www.soilsworldwide.net).

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BSSS scanned materials placed online

British Society of Soil Science archive captured

  • March, 2011

Because of the long-standing and close relationship between Cranfield's National Soil Resources Institute (NSRI) and its predecessor organisations, the WOSSAC collection today contains extensive materials relating to the British Society of Soil Science. Comprising meeting notes, excursion references and many other documents besides, these materials together represent a unique insight into the development of soil science in Britain and around the world over the past several decades. The WOSSAC team are pleased to be able to publish these materials now in scanned digital form for the first time for access by interested parties and scholars. To access materials in this collection, enter a search string of 'BSSS' in the search box.

The scanning and digital capture of the material, comprising 224 documents, comprise in total some 13 Gb of data, highlighting the magnitude of the task undertaken.

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Sudanese scanned materials placed online

Full national data holdings for Sudan

  • March, 2011

Following the completion of a project sponsored by the UNEP, WOSSAC is pleased to have placed on-line digital materials comprising a systematic scanning of all holdings for Sudan. This extraordinary set of information is of tremendous importance as a support for governance in Sudan, and as a research resource. Materials provided set out the context of land evaluation in Sudan, since the first soil investigations in the 1930s.

The material held for Sudan is comprehensive, beginning with early colonial mapping and including a number of national soil assessments undertaken in the 1950s.

There are also comprehensive records from soil and land use investigations carried out by the Land Resources Division of the UK in the area of Tabora and a collection of further surveys at various scales. Finally the archive holds a comprehensive collection of reports and maps of surveys undertaken in the Nile Valley irrigated area, dating from the 1960s.

The scanning and digital capture of the material, comprising 1,578 maps and 687 reports, comprise in total some 100 Gb of data, highlighting the magnitude of the task undertaken.

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Professor Anthony Young's lecture

'Thin on the Ground : Land Resources Survey in Malawi and the Commonwealth'

  • November, 2010

Related to a great many of the soil survey maps and reports held in Wossac, Professor Antony Young gave a fascinating lecture entitled ‘Thin on the Ground : Land Resources Survey in Malawi and the Commonwealth’, based on his book of the same name, at the 2010 Nyika-Vwaza (UK) Trust annual lecture and social evening at the Royal Geographical Society, London, on 9th November, 2010.

The Nyika-Vwaza Trusts are the only Malawian and UK trusts dedicated solely to conserving the precious wildlife and habitats of Northern Malawi, in particular the Nyika National Park and the Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. On this ocassion they invited Professor Young to speak about the history of British Colonial soil survey and how the agricultural potential of Malawi has been assessed as a contribution both to Colonial history and to the history of soil science. Anthony's website is http://www.land-resources.com.

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Scanning of WOSSAC materials for Tanzania

A systematic capture of national data holdings

  • October, 2010

In a further significant development for the WOSSAC archive, we are about to commence another project on behalf of the European Union and the AEGOS project, to capture systematically the full extent of all the data holdings for Tanzania, in conjunction with colleagues in the Institute of Resource Assessment (IRA) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

WOSSAC contains a huge wealth of maps field reports and soil profile descriptions for this region and this project will provide the IRA team crucial materials in support of the ongoing development of their on-line Environmental Information Centre 'TANRIS'. The work will be conducted drawing on the technical capabilities at Cranfield to capture the reports and books held in the archive.

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Scanning of WOSSAC materials for Sudan

A systematic capture of national data holdings

  • October, 2010

In a very significant development for the WOSSAC archive, we have now commenced a key project on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme to capture systematically the full extent of all the data holdings for Sudan. WOSSAC contains a huge wealth of maps field reports and soil profile descriptions for this region and this project will provide the UNEP's 'Sudan Integrated Environment Project' crucial materials in support of the ongoing development of an on-line Environmental Information Centre, itself designed to support on-line access to research on the environment.

The work will be conducted drawing on the technical capabilities at Cranfield, boosted by the provision of a Bookeye book scanning system, capable of reproducing high quality representations of the many reports and books held in the archive. The scanner will continue the good work in Sudan as soon the task at Cranfield is completed. The project itself is sponsored by the UK Government Department DfID with funds being provided via UNEP to the project. The project is being managed in Sudan by R. Neil Munro, a soil scientist and land systems expert with long experience in this region, who has also kindly provided many materials from his personal collection to the WOSSAC project.

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Launch of the Bullock Building

  • July, 2010

In a fitting tribute to Professor Peter Bullock (1937-2008), a former Director of the Soil Survey of England and Wales and its successor in Cranfield University, SSLRC, Cranfield have named one of the key buildings on the Cranfield campus holding WOSSAC materials as 'The Bullock Building'. The building was kindly launched by Professor David Kell of BBSRC in a ceremony that brought together a wide range of friends and colleagues - many who have also had associations with WOSSAC.

The Bullock Building at Cranfield is the home of the Natural Resources Department in Cranfield within which is the National Soil Resources Institute (NSRI). The building also forms the 'hub' of Cranfield's soil activities, being also the home of the Integrated Environmental Systems Institute (IESSI), The British Society of Soil Science (BSSS), The Institute of Agri-Engineers (IAGRE) and the River Restoration Centre (RRC). Other photographs of this event are available here

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Legacy Digital Datasets

  • June, 2010

Recovering data from old digital media is a hard job! Not so long ago most PCs had 5.25 inch floppy drives (storing a huge 1.2Mb data!!). The WOSSAC archive contains a number of 5.25 diskettes and we have recently been trying to establish how to read off these datasets onto more contemporary media.

Fortunately luck was at hand and we have been able to obtain an old disk drive. Finding a cable that went with it was a harder job. However, after spreading a PC in bits across the floor and plugging the various cables in eventually we can read 5.25" diskettes again - there’s progress! Fortunately the modern operating systems still know about these drives. Now begins the laborious task of transferring the datasets themselves.

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Territory Mapping tool

  • May, 2010

A new Territory Mapping tool is released that allows users to map catalogued items dynamically from the WOSSAC database. The results are presented in a Google Maps container allowing users to see immediately the extent and density of mapping records.

Records are only shown for individual territories to allow the mapping tool to respond quickly - a drop down box allows easy selection of other territories. A further benefit is that passing the mouse over an item shows an outline momentarily on the map of the extent of the item.

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National Soil Archive comes to Cranfield

  • February, 2010

The National Soil Archive and Publication store have now been moved from their old location at the Silsoe campus to a new home on Cranfield Campus.

The publications store of books and maps is now located within easy access of the publications officer allowing a more efficient turn around on book sales. In the moving process the materials have also been organised and catalogued more efficiently.

The National Soil Archive holds not only a large collection of physical soil samples but also soil data, maps and information collected over many years. Materials include:

  • Over 150,000 Auger bore records;
  • Over 10,000 full soil profile descriptions (only a fraction of which have been captured electronically);
  • 1:10,000 scale field sheets covering almost the whole of England and Wales;
  • a large collection of published papers relating to soil;
  • a large collection of aerial photographs;
  • a substantial collection of satellite imagery (currently being transferred from the original Magnetic tape storage media);
  • an old, valuable collection of soil micro-morphology slides;
  • the historical documents of the original Soil Survey of England and Wales;
  • The WOSSAC map and document collection;

If any of these sound interesting to you and you would like to inquire about access to the material please contact us.

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WOSSAC on the move

  • February, 2010

The WOSSAC archive is on the move! Pickfords, the removals firm selected by the University, have now started to load up the soil archive materials at the Silsoe College location ready for their imminent relocation to a new home at the Cranfield campus close to NSRI staff. It is hoped this process will be completed by about Christmas time as the new facilities are put in place for their receipt.

This move will help enormously to ease the access to the archive by staff and students - something that has proved difficult over the past few years since the former Silsoe campus staff were relocated to Cranfield. The collection is now in very good shape having undergone a substantial reorganisation over the last year and can play an active role in current and ongoing soil-related global issues.

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Receipt of materials from Wye Agricultural College

  • July, 2009

The WOSSAC archive took delivery of a number of soil survey-related articles, book sand maps from Wye Agricultural College, which sadly is being closed down in a move reminiscent of the events at Silsoe College. However, the library staff kindly provided the soils materials to the WOSSAC Archive in recognition of the amassed collections now held at Cranfield.

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Receipt of materials from Neil Munro

  • June, 2009

The WOSSAC archive took delivery of a substantial load of materials, kindly donated by Neil Munro - an active soil scientist working in Sudan. The materials are being sorted through and made ready for cataloguing.

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Samplers of documents placed online

  • March, 2009

The WOSSAC archive holds a broad range of materials, from reports, to maps, to books to digital datasets and so on. To give some idea of the diversity of these materials, numbering now in the tens of thousands, a selection of interesting example samplers are provided on-line.

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Completion of substantive materials cataloguing

  • February, 2009

An intensive project of over six months in the WOSSAC archive is finally coming to an end. This has involved a concerted effort made by a large contingent of part-time staff to catalogue and order all of the outstanding materials and artefacts in the various collections in the archive. Many thousands of new reports, publications, maps, surveys and books have been entered into catalogue format and have been tagged and re-shelved. These entries are now being successively uploaded to the on-line searchable index. This work was undertaken in preparation for the imminent move of the WOSSAC archive from Cranfield’s Silsoe College campus to the Cranfield site.

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Launch of new WOSSAC website

  • June, 2008

The WOSSAC archive presents a new look for the collection website. A more contemporary, standards-compliant format improves the experience users will have and hopefully make it now easier to locate items of interest from the archive.

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Visit of Professor Tony Young

  • May, 2008

The Wossac archive received a second visit from Professor Tony Young following the publication of his recent book 'Thin on the Ground'. Tony kindly provided a range of materials collated during the writing of the book.

These materials comprised many African works not currently in the archive, as well as soil surveys of the Pitcairn Islands. These materials will now be entered into the archive.

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Tribute to Professor Peter Bullock

  • April, 2008

WOSSAC pays tribute to Professor Peter Bullock, a leading soil scientist of international repute. Peter was one of the core founders of the WOSSAC collection and archive, and his extraordinary vision and commitment to soil science led, amongst many achievements, to the implementation of WOSSAC in its current form.

Peter Bullock 1937-2008.

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Archive and collection prepared for move to Cranfield

  • March, 2008

Those familiar with Cranfield will know that sadly the Silsoe College Campus is finally to be closed with all activities there moved to the nearby main campus at Cranfield: joining with the many other environmental groups there to form the new School of Applied Science (SAS). Although at the time of writing all environmentally-focussed staff and most related facilities are now moved, the WOSSAC archive and the associated national soils collection remain still at Silsoe College. In March, 2008 a huge task has been commenced to sort, organise, catalogue and prepare the materials in the archive to move to their new home at Cranfield. It is anticipated that this process will take many months and involve the labours of many staff - this is no light undertaking! However, the end result will be that these precious materials will be relocated close to the offices of the staff - ending the current rather problematic geographical separation.

One exciting development in this process is the conversion of the enormous collection of satellite tape data held at Cranfield to contemporary storage media. We hold over 10,000 open-reel satellite tapes holding data stretching back to the early days of planetary imaging. It is amazing to think that the data from all of these tapes, now taking up several rooms, will all fit on one modern hard disk! These datasets are being processed and copied onto the Cranfield fileservers in modern image processing format such that they can be made available, respecting Copyright, to researchers and other interested parties along with other WOSSAC materials. Here is a taster of the data we hold, click each image to see more.

The Kuwait Iraq border, 25 August 1988 (Spot) Norfolk, UK, 1985 (Landsat) South Midlands, UK, 1988 (Spot)
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Materials received from Bodleian Library

  • December, 2007

The Wossac collection gratefully received a donation of a number of spare mapping items from the Bodleian Library in Oxford. These materials comprised many geological and related maps for Cyprus and Greece. These will be catalogued and entered into the reference collection.

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Launch of SoilsWorldwide

  • November, 2007

November, 2007 saw the launch of the WOSSAC archives new sister website 'SoilsWorldwide' at http://www.soilsworldwide.net. This presents for the first time on-line, access to the extensive Soil Photographic Image Catalogue (SoilPIC), a unique collection of photographic imagery from around the world showing the true extent and variety of soil conditions, profiles and associated landscapes. SoilsWorldwide was part funded by the British Society of Soil Science (BSSS).

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Use of Google Maps to show asset location

  • October, 2007

Much of the catalogue of the WOSSAC archive consists of entries that have geographical extents associated with them, be they maps, aerial imagery or reports.

It’s actually not easy to know how to present this information and not to clutter up the map - simply due to the large volume of materials we hold. The Google API offers some promising tools to help achieve this, for instance with display of objects linked to zoom levels etc.

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Anthony Young’s Book "Thin on the Ground" published

  • September, 2007

WOSSAC received a copy of Professor Anthony Young’s excellent and informative new book entitled "Thin on the Ground - Land Resource Surveys in British Overseas Territories". This book chronicles the work in British overseas territories undertaken by land resource planners, ecologists and soil surveyors as they mapped the natural resources of many countries for agriculture and rural development. Of course a great many of the documents described in this book are the very ones now held in WOSSAC. This is a fascinating read and provides an insightful exposition of how and why many of the holdings in WOSSAC were created.

Here is a link to purchase this excellent book from Amazon.
Another route to obtain the book is via http://www.thememoirclub.co.uk. Select Bookshop, scan past all the "The" titles, select Thin... and click to purchase.

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WOSSAC inventory available via Google Earth

  • June, 2007

[NOTE THIS FUNCTION IS REMOVED - USE THE MAP SEEARCH NOW] Much of the catalogue of the WOSSAC archive has geographical extents associated with it. These can be converted into placeholders that can be viewed using Google Earth. The files are in Google Earth KML and KMZ format. So far prototype files are made available (zipped up for download) for:

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Downloads available via web

  • June, 2007

Many of the materials in the WOSSAC archive are being captured in electronic format and certain of these materials are now made available on a provisional basis from the WOSSAC website. To see the materials available to date, select a full text search and select only the checkbox concerning downloads. An icon in the first column of the results table denotes the presence of a downloadable copy of the item, be it a PDF or a scanned bitmap file. Note that some of these files can be large in size!

FOOTNOTE - to avoid confusion - the WOSSAC website no longer uses this icon - the lists now show instead the new download icon .

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New accession of HTSPE maps

  • May, 2007

WOSSAC was the recipient of a substantial collection of maps from HTSPE. Some further 2,500 maps arrived on pallets which were unloaded into the archive. These comprise largely African soil maps and topographical studies. The materials are being shelved at present and should hopefully soon appear on the on-line catalogue.

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John Makin et al’s Book "Developing Countries: Evaluation of Land Potential" published

  • January, 2007

The fascinating story of LRD/LRDC has been captured in this most illuminating book, written by John Makin, John Bennet, Martin Brunt and Chris Griffin. The book tells the story of the Land Resources Division (LRD) of the British Ministry of Overseas Development in their work across some 60 developing countries between 1956 to 2001. The book tells the story behind the organisation itself, and also many of the surveys and investigations which now occupy the archive shelves of WOSSAC.

Here is a link to purchase this excellent book from Amazon.

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Search engine improved

  • November, 2006

The WOSSAC collection search engine has received an overhaul and now presents item information to users in a more intuitive manner, including the ability to identify the 'shelfmark' for items in the collection. This facilitates pre-preparation undertaken before a session in the archive. Items sought can be easily located once on the floor of the archive.

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Accession of materials from Reen Ysselmuiden

  • July, 2006

The WOSSAC collection received a significant collection of materials from Mr Reen Ysselmuiden, an experienced and accomplished land and soil surveyor. Reen presented a substantial collection of soil and land survey reports stretching back over his career in Indonesia.

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Upgrade of the hosted HTSPE webpages

  • May, 2006

The WOSSAC archive hosts a number of major collections, the most significant of which is that of HTSPE Ltd. A series of web pages were created to present the subset of materials from HTSPE within the wider WOSSAC collection following the design of the HTSPE website allowing the materials to be fully integrated into the HTSPE web experience.

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Visit of Dr David Dent, ISRIC

  • April, 2006

The WOSSAC team receive a visit from Dr David Dent, Director of ISRIC, the World Data Center for Soils who are responsible for collecting, archiving, and distributing data and research information.

One of the key topics of this meeting was to develop the means to coordinate the development of soil-related collections such as those of ISRIC and WOSSAC to contribute to a 'live soils data resource and archive' in the future.

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Materials donation from Professor Donatello Magaldi

  • April, 2006

The WOSSAC team received a kind donation from Professor Donatello Magaldi, Prof.Ordinario di Geologia Applicata DISAT-Università di L'Aquila of several key soils documents for Lombardy, Ireland, Kenya and PNG.

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Accession of former NRI Imagery for WOSSAC

  • March, 2006

A comprehensive set of satellite and other imagery files and prints were acquired from the University of Greenwich Library at Chatham, representing part of the former NRI collection. These images are predominantly of African scenes and will now be entered within the WOSSAC catalogue system.

NRI, or the Natural Resources Institute was a key organisation for conducting soil and landscape research around the world and it is hoped this acquisition will form an important component of the contemporary WOSSAC archive.

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Google Earth as an interface for WOSSAC

  • January, 2006

Google Earth is fast becoming a mapping phenomena! One attractive feature of GE is its ability to host user-defined files. Accordingly, a project has commenced a project to see how easily the vast contents of the WOSSAC archive could be made available within GE. User files are held as 'KML' or 'KMZ' spatial metadata files. [FOTNOTE - our new search utility now has a mapping tool that shows the holding spatially]

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Accession of HTSPE Ltd. Topographic map collection

  • January, 2006

The WOSSAC collection has received a vast number of topographical maps from around the world, forming part of the former HTSPE Topographic map collection. Arriving together with with three large map chests, these maps were collected over a period of many decades, representing together a unique collection of mapping from around the world. The process of cataloguing these maps will take a considerable time.

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WOSSAC Collection due to be formally Launched

  • 18th October, 2005

A formal launch event for the WOSSAC collection and archive is being held on 18/10/2005 at the 2005 Plenary Meeting of the European Soil Bureau Network. This will mark the end of the first phase of WOSSAC, namely the securing and preservation of the extraordinary materials it contains, and the beginning if the second phase of the project, whereby these materials are to be made easily accessible and available for consultation by interested parties. Work is still underway to gain grant support to secure a sound financial footing for the archive in future years, but the progress to the current time has been very promising and productive. Further information on the wider European-level project can be located on-line at the European Soil Portal.

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Launch of new WOSSAC website

  • September, 2005

The WOSSAC project launches a newly overhauled website offering significantly enhanced options for searching through the contents of the catalogue, as well as for reporting the occasional error (!) in the data entries. The website has been warmly received by the key stakeholders associated with WOSSAC.

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Accession of HTSPE Ltd. Collection

  • 28th January, 2005

HTSPE Ltd. present their archive materials to the WOSSAC collection at Cranfield. The WOSSAC project will host the HTSPE Collection of soil-related reports and maps and other media for safe-keeping. The HTSPE Collection is an enormously significant archive representing over 50 years of work by HTSPE and the precedent Huntings Technical Services Ltd. conducted internationally, pertaining to themes such as soil survey, geology, natural resource management, land evaluation and suitability, topography, remote sensing and GIS. The Collection has three components. Firstly, it comprises paper-based books, reports and related survey documents, many of which contain associated maps, charts, figures and illustrations. It is estimated there are some 3,500 items in this category. Secondly there are a substantial number of 'stand-alone' maps produced either directly by the projects or acquired as part of those activities. It is estimated there are some 3,000 items in this category. Thirdly there are a large number of digital data storage media holding computer-compatible datasets associated with these projects. There are many thousand items in this latter category. The HTSPE Collection comprises all these documents, maps and media. After an initial period of cataloguing, we shall be establishing the best means for interested parties to access these materials.

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Visit from Dr Brian Eavis

  • 19th January, 2005

The WOSSAC team received a donation of a series of soil-related publications, from Dr Brian Eavis, formerly of LRDC. These will be catalogued into the system and made available.

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Receipt of BBSRC SRI Soil Publication Materials

  • 4th January, 2005

The WOSSAC team received a donation of a series of soil-related publications, notably concerning vertisols from BBSRCs Silsoe Research Institute (SRI) library. These will be catalogued into the system and made available.

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Visit from David Riley

  • 25th November, 2004

The WOSSAC team were grateful to receive a donation of a series of African soil survey materials from David Riley which will help boost the archive holdings.

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Visit from Professor Anthony Young

  • 5th July, 2004

The WOSSAC team were delighted to receive a visit from the eminent soil scientist Professor Anthony Young, who was keen to learn about the work of the project. Professor Young’s website at http://www.land-resources.com outlines his long-standing experience in all aspects of land resources, including survey, evaluation, planning, conservation and management.

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WOSSAC - the establishment of a World Soil Survey Catalogue and Archive

  • 1st January, 2004

The WOSSAC team have recently commenced the process of contacting a wide range of persons and organisations who may have an interest in the project and its aims. If you hold such materials and would wish to assist the project, we would invite you to get in touch with the WOSSAC team directly.