Describing soils

The names people use for soils will always reflect the needs of the day and the understanding people have for the part soil plays in underpinning many of our activities.

These pages attempt to provide background information about the different naming systems that have been used over the years, and, where possible, indicate how they relate to each other.

Overview: History of soil description

A brief history on the development of soil classification systems used in New Zealand and how they relate to those used internationally.

The New Zealand Soil Classification (NZSC)

The classification represents the best attempt to classify New Zealand soils, at our current state of knowledge.

Genetic Soil Classification (New Zealand – legacy system)

NZG recognises "soil groups" and relates them to the environmental factors that most influenced their character.

Series names

Series names are used to distinguish similar soils at a finer level of classification than is possible with either the Genetic or NZSC classifications.

US Soil Taxonomy (ST)

An elaborate classification of soil types developed by United States Department of Agriculture and the National Cooperative Soil Survey

World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB)

An international soil classification system for naming soils and creating legends for soil maps.

Visual Soil Assessment (VSA) Field Guide

The VSA Field Guide has been developed to help land managers assess soil quality easily, quickly, reliably and cheaply on a paddock scale.

IPCC soil categories

The New Zealand system for quantifying changes in the soil carbon reservoir