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UC Cooperative Extension Ventura County
669 County Square Dr. Suite 100
Ventura CA 93003
Phone: 805.645.1451
Fax: 805.645.1474

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How this survey was made

Soil scientists made this survey to learn what kinds of soils are in the Ventura Area, where they are located, and how they can he used. The soil scientists went into the county knowing they likely would find many soils they had already seen and perhaps some they had not. As they traveled over the county, they observed the steepness, length, and shape of slopes, the size and speed of streams, the kinds of native plants or crops, the kinds of rock, and many facts about the soils. They dug many holes to expose soil profiles. A profile is the sequence of natural layers, or horizons, in a soil; it extends from the surface down into the parent material that has not been changed much by leaching or by the action of plant roots.

The soil scientists made comparisons among the profiles they studied, and they compared these profiles with those in counties nearby and in places more distant. They classified and named the soils according to nationwide, uniform procedures. The soil series and the soil phase are the categories of soil classification most used in a local survey.

Soils that have profiles almost alike make up a soil series. Except for different texture in the surface layer, all the soils of one series have major horizons that are similar in thickness, arrangement, and other important characteristics. Each soil series is named for a town or other geographic feature near the place where a soil of that series was first observed and mapped. Calleguas and Camarillo, for example, are the names of two soil series. All the soils in the United States having the same series name are essentially alike in those characteristics that affect their behavior in the undisturbed landscape.

Soils of one series can differ in texture of the surface soil and in slope, stoniness, or some other characteristic that affects use of the soils by man. On the basis of such differences, a soil series is divided into phases. The name of a soil phase indicates a feature that affects management. For example, Calleguas shaly loam, 9 to 30 percent slopes, eroded, is one of two phases within the Calleguas series.

After a guide for classifying and naming the soils had been worked out, the soil scientists drew the boundaries of the individual soils on aerial photographs. These photographs show buildings, field borders, trees, and other details that help in drawing boundaries accurately. The soil map in the back of this publication was prepared from the aerial photographs.

The areas shown on a soil map are called mapping units. On most maps detailed enough to be useful in planning the management of farms and fields, a mapping unit is nearly equivalent to a soil phase. It is not exactly equivalent, because it is not practical to show on such a map all the small, scattered bits of soil of some other kind that have been seen within an area that is dominantly of a recognized soil phase.

Some mapping units are made up of soils of different series, or of different phases within one series. Two such kinds of mapping units are shown on the soil map of the Ventura Area: soil complexes and undifferentiated groups.

A soil complex consists of areas of two or more soils, so intricately mixed or so small in size that they cannot be shown separately on the soil map. Each area of a complex contains some of each of the two or more dominant soils, and the pattern and relative proportions are about the same in all areas. The name of a soil complex consists of the names of the dominant soils joined by a hyphen. Castaic-Balcom complex, 15 to 30 percent slopes, is an example.

An undifferentiated group is made up of two or more soils that could be delineated individually but are shown as one unit because, for the purpose of the soil survey, there is little value in separa ting them. The pattern and proportion of soils are not uniform. An area shown on the map may be made up of only one of the dominant soils, or of two or more. The name of an undifferentiated group consists of the names of the dominant soils, joined by ‘and.’ Castaic and Saugus soils, 30 to 75 percent slopes, eroded, is an example.

In most areas surveyed there are places where the soil material is so rocky, so shallow, or so severely eroded that it cannot be classified by soil series. These places are shown on the soil map and are described in the survey, but they are called land types and are given descriptive names. Sedimentary rock land is a land type in the Ventura Area.

While a soil survey is in progress, samples of soils are taken as needed for laboratory measurements and for engineering tests. Laboratory data from the same kinds of soils in other places are assembled. Data on yields of crops under defined practices are assembled from farm records and from field or plot experiments on the same kinds of soils. Yields under defined management are estimated for all the soils.

But only part of a soil survey is done when the soils have been named, described, and delineated on the map, and the laboratory data and yield data have been assembled. The mass of detailed information then needs to be organized in such a way as to be readily useful to different groups of users, among them farmers, managers of rangeland, and engineers.

On the basis of yield and practice tables and other data, the soil scientists set up trial groups. They test these groups by further study and by consultation with farmers, agronomists, engineers, and others, then adjust the groups according to the results of their studies and consultation. Thus, the groups that are finally evolved reflect up-to-date knowledge of the soils and their behavior under present methods of use and management.