New system and smartphone app to support open collaboration on soil data

SoilInfo app

Current global soil information systems tend to suffer from inconsistencies and limited spatial detail. Various international efforts are aimed at remedying this situation. In collaboration, ISRIC has been developing Global Soil Information Facilities as a framework and platform to support widespread, open collaboration in the assembly, collation and production of global soil information.

Soils are now widely recognized as a non-renewable natural resource and as a provider of a wide range of ecosystem services, for example as natural sinks for atmospheric carbon. Hence the growing demand for up to date soil information. Within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership ISRIC World Soil Information has developed the GSIF (Global Soil Information Facilities) system. Some major outputs of GSIF are the new “SoilGrids1km” Soil Information System at 1 km resolution and the accompanying app for mobile devices “SoilInfo App”.

The system specifications and initial results of accuracy assessments are discussed in detail in the recent issue of Plos ONE (doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105992). “Uncertainties in the initial predictions are still rather large”, says Tom Hengl (GSIF project coordinator), “and our team is working hard on further refining and expanding the system. We welcome contributions of soil profile data and environmental co-variate data, as well modelling expertise from the international community”.

Output of the SoilGrids1km system can be used to address a wide range of global environmental and societal issues. For example, the soil information generated through SoilGrids1km is currently being applied within the context of a collaborative effort of the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) and the Global Yield Gap Atlas (GYGA) projects to evaluate and map the effective root zone depth and associated available soil water holding capacity in support to assessing the potential for enhancing rainfed cereal crop productivity in Africa.

SoilGrids1km are available for download under a Creative Commons non-commercial license via A mobile phone app called “SoilInfo” ( is available for free download at Google Play and iTunes. “If you are often in the field or use soil data for spatial planning or modelling, please test the app and send us some feedback so that we may consider all proposed changes in upcoming  revisions”, says Tom Hengl.