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AGRICULTURAL SOILS

Brochure 3 in Soil Survey Series

Capability Classes & Beyond

January 21, 2004
Land Use Committee
Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society
Member of the CACNA Coalition

Agricultural Soils1

Soil Survey.  There are 111 soils identified in the Soil Survey.  The Soil Survey identified 46 soils that with a high level of management were suitable for alfalfa hay, grass hay, pasture, and corn silage  (pages 178 - 181, Table 5).   In western Oregon, agricultural land is land of predominantly Class I, II, III and IV soils [OAR 660-015-0000(3)]; 43 soils were identified as agricultural lands because their soils were I - IV, irrigated or unirrigated.

Agricultural Land2 — in western Oregon is land of predominantly Class I, II, III and IV soils as as classified by the NRCS.  It also includes land in other soil classes that is suitable for farm use taking into consideration soil fertility; suitability for grazing; climatic conditions; existing and future availability of water for farm irrigation purposes; existing land use patterns; technological and energy inputs required; and accepted farming practices; and land that is necessary to permit farm practices to be undertaken on adjacent or nearby agricultural lands.

Soil Surveys.  The Natural Resource Conservation Service soil surveys are the main or most readily available, and most universally accepted, source of information regarding farm and forest capabilities.  The soil surveys not only provide what is often the only data available; the methodology used in the soil surveys serves as the bench mark for gathering new or additional data.

Value Of Survey

Unrated Soils.   Sixty-five (65) soils were not rated as suitable for alfalfa hay, grass hay, pasture, and corn silage.  However, of the 46 soils rated, four were Class VI, non-irrigated.

All 46 rated soils had a Capability  Class I - IV except one, Brockman Variant Very Gravelly Loam (13), had a IVs, non-irrigated rating, but was not identified in Table 5.

What if the soils in question are not one of the 46 soils rated with a high level of management and suitable for alfalfa hay, grass hay, pasture, and corn silage, and/or their capability class is Class V-VIII?  Are these soils not agricultural soils and not agricultural land?  They might not be, but they might be as the definition of agricultural land is much broader than capability classes.2

Capability Classes, the broadest groups are designated by Roman numerals I through VIII (pages 110 - 111, Soil Survey).  The numerals indicate progressively greater limitations and narrow choices for practical use.  Capability subclasses are soil groups within one class.  They are designated by adding a small letter, e, w, s, or c, to the class numeral, for example IIe.  The letter e shows that the main limitation is risk of erosion unless close-growing plant cover is maintained; w shows that water in or on the soil interferes with plant growth or cultivation (in some soils the wetness can be partly corrected by artificial drainage); s shows that the soil is limited mainly because it is shallow, drought, or stony; and c, used in only some parts of the United States, shows that the chief limitation is climate that is very cold or very dry.

More Information

Agricultural Land. A crucial compliance question as defined by Goal 3 is whether the land is agricultural land.2  Redesignation of resource lands to nonresource does not obviate the requirement that comprehensive plan and land use regulation amendments comply with the statewide planning goals. DLCD v. Curry County, 33 Or LUBA 728 (1997).

Site Specific Work.  Would you like to learn more about the Soil Survey of Josephine County, Oregon and/or the soils of your property?  Consider contacting:

Dennis E. Hutchison
Certified Professional Soil Scientist/Classifier
1578 Joelson Road
Umpqua, OR 97486
Phone: 541-673-9783
Email: pjhdeh@wizzards.net

This brochure is one of five in the “soil survey” series.

1.         Soil Survey
2.         2nd & 3rd Order Soil Surveys
3.         Agricultural Soils
4.         Forest Soils
5.         On-Site Soil Investigations

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2012 Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society