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Soil and Land Survey Directory

Department of Agriculture Soil Surveys | Soil and Land Survey Directory

This Soil and Land Survey Directory is based on the report: 'a directory to soil survey information' that was prepared by John Martin (former Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs) in 1987. Some listings here have been updated since this report was published.

Soil and Land Directory
History of Soil Survey in Victoria

Department of Agriculture Surveys - Early Surveys in Association with CSIR

The first soil survey carried out by the former Department of Agriculture was commenced at Woorinen (near Swan Hill) in 1928, in collaboration with the former Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). During the following 14 years, seven detailed surveys were carried out in irrigation districts along the Murray River as cooperative projects with CSIR.

These early surveys were carried out to provide basic data for the investigation of district problems in the mid-Murray horticultural settlements. Areas surveyed were at Kerang, Merbein, Mildura, Moira, Murrabit, Nyah and Woorinen.

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Detailed Irrigation Region Surveys (1943 - 1975)

A number of detailed soil surveys were carried out in the northern plains of Victoria, from Shepparton to Swan Hill and Robinvale as well as in the Central Gippsland area. These surveys were to be used for planning, investigation of district problems and water allocation.

Nine major reports were published between 1944 - 1971 in the Technical Bulletin series. Over 300 generalised soil types (e.g. Kerang clay, Shepparton fine sandy loam) were mapped and published at a scale of 1:32 000. An estimated 55 000 soil profiles (all hand-dug to at least a depth of one metre) were described, classified and sampled for laboratory analysis during this time. The surveyors (usually in teams of two) walked on traverse lines spaced approximately 500 metres apart and described soils at regular intervals using a hand auger. Most of the survey reports were published between 1944 - 1971. Three of the remaining irrigation district surveys were published in 1978 (Torumbarry), 1986 (Nangiloc) and 1987 (Bacchus Marsh). The total area mapped in all the former Department of Agriculture irrigation area surveys was 140 000 hectares.

Soil survey was also carried out on a broader scale on unirrigated country. These surveys included two on land which was considered to have erosion risk (.ie. Coleraine and Dookie). A soil survey unit was established in Horsham in 1967. From here, a program of detailed soil mapping took place in the irrigation areas and more broader soil/landform mapping was carried out in the dryland cereal areas. Uses of these surveys ranged from farm planning and layout of research stations to suitability for various irrigated crops.

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Regional Surveys (post 1975)

A number of soil surveys outside of the major irrigation districts were carried out after 1975. These included surveys of the Eastern Wimmera (1984), South Western Victoria (1985) and Westernport Bay Catchment (1975). The total area mapped in all these surveys covered more than 3 million hectares.

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Soil Conservation Authority Surveys

A program of regional land use surveys commenced in 1954. The aim of these surveys was to obtain information required to determine the most appropriate land uses for an area, and the best methods for their development and combined productivity. The first of these surveys covered a large tract of country in south-western Victoria (comprising the former Shires of Portland, Wannon and Glenelg). Similar surveys soon followed in the Grampians catchment and surrounding country and in the Mallee region.

By 1957, the techniques employed on these regional surveys had become streamlined. The terms ‘land units’, ‘land systems’ and ‘geographic zones’ were introduced to differentiate between the scale and detail obtained in the surveys. The Geographic Zone described the landforms, regional geology and dominant soil groups. Land Systems were mapped at a larger (1:250 000) scale and described the landforms, climate, parent material, topography, soils and vegetation. Land Units were mapped at more detailed scales and provided more detailed landform information.

A survey of the Glenmaggie catchment was commenced in 1958, followed by the Lake Hume and Eildon catchments in 1959. By 1961, reconnaissance surveys had covered about a third of the State.

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Department of Conservation Surveys

The 1970’s and 1980’s were a period when the former Soil Conservation Authority and the later Land Protection Division of the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands undertook more detailed land capability surveys for local government and larger regional (1:250 000) Land System surveys, particularly of the northern catchments (Avoca, Loddon, Campaspe). Regional surveys were finalised in the 1980’s and 1990’s with the completion of the northern catchments and Central and East Gippsland studies.

The land capability studies were localised in nature, often focusing on Shires that had competing landuse pressures (particularly rural-residential and areas of peri-urban growth). These were completed during the 90's.

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