Dr. Jonathan Deenik shares his knowledge of soils with
farmers throughout the Pacific.
You may never have heard of a mollisol or a dystric
inceptisol or be able to tell one from the other, but these and other soil
types are literally the basis of all life, in the Islands and beyond. It’s
vital to understand what soil you’re dealing with and what its characteristics
are, whether you’re growing an orchard, digging a fishpond, or building a road
or house. Varying physical, chemical, and biological properties mean different
soils perform differently; they’re suited to specific uses and require specific
management. Jonathan Deenik’s Hawai‘i Soil Atlas gives growers, builders, and
other interested professionals and community members this information, and
Dr. Jonathan Deenik taking a forest soil sample.
Despite their small total landmass, the Hawaiian Islands
have tremendous diversity in soil types—57 on the island of Kaua‘i alone!
Soil-forming factors such as climate, topography, biota, and parent material
can vary dramatically over small distances: soils formed on the dry leeward
coastal plains differ from those in the wet upland forests or those formed from
recent lava flows or volcanic ash deposits. The Interactive Soil Map portion of
the Atlas makes such distinctions clear. Here’s the link to the Interactive
Soil Map: http://gis.ctahr.hawaii.edu/SoilAtlas#map.
Dr. Deenik, a specialist in the Department of Tropical Plant
and Soil Sciences, worked with Joshua Silva, a recent MS graduate from TPSS,
associate professor Tomoaki Miura, researcher Russell Yost, and IT technicians
Nathan Dorman and William Connor to create the Soil Map, which allows users to
locate, identify, and learn about any soil in the Hawaiian Islands. It
condenses key data from the USDA NRCS Hawaii Soil Survey into a language and
format understandable to a wide audience. Scrolling over a map or typing in an
area name, users get concise descriptions of Hawai‘i’s 297 different soil and
land cover types, with general information on topographic location and climate
and more detail on soil attributes like water retention, fertility,
acidity/alkalinity, organic matter, and physical structure.
The Atlas also includes essential plant nutrients and
properties related to soil productivity, including target levels to enable
diagnosis of nutrient sufficiency/deficiency. There are supplemental maps
showing additional characteristics such as soil shrink–swell potential, a
glossary, and further resources. In short, it’s a one-stop guide to what’s
beneath your feet—one that may well make you rethink just what you’re walking