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December program highlights Illinois Centennial Soil Archive Project

Two soil samples collected in jars sitting on a shelf inside a shed.

URBANA, Ill. — Illinois soils tell both a story and reveal a history of how soils have changed over the centuries. To understand more, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign needs help from residents and landowners. During a free program, Andrew Margenot, Illinois Extension specialist and associate professor in the Department of Crop Sciences, part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, will visit southern Illinois to share recent findings and discuss how local residents can get involved with the Illinois Centennial Soil Archive Project. 

A key piece of Illinois' agricultural heritage is a world-class, one-of-a-kind soil sample archive collected when local soils were first surveyed. As early as 1899, soil types across the state were mapped by sampling fields to three-foot depth and characterizing the distinct soil layers. Predecessors had the foresight to keep records of sampling locations and to store these soil samples on campus.

Margenot and team have spent four years recovering and curating the archive of soils sampled from 1899 through the 2000s. With the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education CouncilIllinois Farm Bureau, and residents, researchers now wish to resample these locations to identify how soils have changed over time in Illinois.

Margenot will discuss findings and share how landowners can contribute to the project during a free program at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the Giant City Visitor's Center at 1-245 Giant City Rd in Makanda.

In a recent ACES interview, Margenot shared project goals that will "Yield unprecedented insight into our state's soil resource base and enable improvements in soil fertility management and conservation."

"The original soils and approximately 450 locations we seek to resample are located on private land, often fields," says Margenot. "We are looking to identify and contact landowners and producers to ask permission to sample soils."

To register, visit To learn more about the project or to discover a map with the location of sample sites, visit

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in programming, contact Chris Evans at or 618-695-3383. Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time for meeting your needs.

SOURCE: Andrew Margenot, Extension specialist, associate professor, Department of Crop Sciences, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 

WRITER: Heather Willis, marketing and communications program coordinator, Illinois Extension

PHOTO: Soil sample collected and stored inside of a glass jar as part of the Illinois Centennial Soil Archive Project. By Andrew Margenot, ACES. 

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.