Land resource regions and major land resource areas of the United States, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Basin. USDA Handbook 296.

  • Soil Survey Staff
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Preface: Natural vegetation is a result of the combination of geography, soils, and climate. People learned early in human history that soils that produced grass and trees could also produce grain, fruits, and vegetables. Early soil scientists recognized this relationship. Some of their earliest publications included a description of the climate and vegetation (or crop types) typical for particular soils. “Chestnut soils of the temperate to cool semiarid regions of grain and cattle grazing” is one example. Different social, economic, and political cultures can be considered outgrowths of the various types of soils, crops, and climate that occur in different regions. For example, cattle ranchers in western South Dakota are studies in contrast to potato farmers in northern Maine. Early farmers and ranchers realized that the different soils and climates they encountered required them to grow certain types of crops in order to survive economically. Such terms as “Corn Belt” and “Cotton Belt” were coined because of the crops typically grown by the early settlers. These were very early versions of land resource areas. As soil mapping progressed across the country, soil scientists worked with other natural resource managers to subdivide land into resource units with similar soils, climate, and vegetation or crop types. This work allowed a few soil scientists and natural resource planners to provide soil interpretations and soil conservation recommendations that were useful to many landowners in a region instead of to a few limited individuals. Those pioneer efforts resulted in the publication of the first edition of Agricultural Handbook 296 in 1965. The United States was subdivided into a number of land resource regions that were made up of many major land resource areas. The similar climate, soils, and land use activities in each land resource region helped natural resource planners to target efforts in education and financial and technical assistance. Agricultural Handbook 296 was used when decisions about regional and national agricultural issues were made. It helped to identify the need for research and resource inventories, and it became the vehicle for extrapolating the results of research across political boundaries. It also became the basis for organizing and operating natural resource conservation programs. Today, soil survey offices are organized to serve groups of the major land resource areas defined in this handbook. The handbook was updated in 1978, and the second edition was printed in 1981. This 2006 version of the handbook is the third edition.

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  • MLRA
  • Major land resource areas

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  • Soil Survey Staff

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