Modernizing our Agricultural Heritage: The Illinois Centennial Soil Archive Project 

 A key piece of our agricultural heritage in Illinois is a world-class, one-of-a-kind soil sample archive collected when Illinois soils were first being surveyed. Beginning in 1899, soil types across the state were mapped by sampling fields to 3 foot depth and characterizing the distinct soil layers. This effort supported advancements in Illinois agriculture for much of the early 20th century.

Our predecessors had the foresight to keep records of sampling locations and to store these soil samples at University of Illinois. Supported by the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC) and Illinois Farm Bureau, we have spent the past four years recovering and curating the archive of soils sampled from 1899 through the 2000s.

Now, we wish to resample these same locations in order to identify how soils have changed over time in Illinois. By doing so, we can understand soil changes as far back as 1899 to present day – over 120 years. This would yield unprecedented insight to our state’s soil resource base, and enable improvements in soil fertility management and conservation, including much needed updates to the Illinois Agronomy Handbook. 

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

 To view the locations, click here for a Google Map. The QR code below also links to the Google Map with the sampling locations marked. If you click on the pin of a specific location, there is an embedded link to “sign up” with your name and contact information for us to follow up. Or, you can contact us directly by email (please see below). 

 Our sampling would have negligible impact: a 1.5” diameter probe would be used to sample soils to 3 foot depth, at three points within a 10-15 ft area. All soil data would be provided to the farmer/landowner. The location would be anonymized (county-level) to protect privacy of the specific sampling location. 

 Questions? Please contact us at or

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About the Author: Andrew Margenot

Dr. Andrew Margenot is a soil scientist and faculty member at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. After his doctoral research on soil fertility in East Africa, he joined the Illinois agricultural scene in 2017, where he leads a research team that evaluates nutrient biogeochemistry in our state and the greater North Central US region. Dr. Margenot’s research focuses in particular on phosphorus management, soil health, and carbon crediting, with the goal of supporting efficient use of nutrients for crop productivity that support environmental quality.

One Comment

  1. robert horzmann April 21, 2023 at 12:47 pm

    My family own the site shown in Calhoun County. If you would like to retest the area please contact me at 314-227 3449. I am less reachable by email.

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