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National Systems

Deep yellow Acrisol derived from granite in hilly terrain, China

Many national soil classification systems exist that often focused on the specific characteristics of the soils within the national territory. In other countries international systems (FAO, WRB or Soil Taxonomy) were adapted to local edaphic conditions.



The Australian system is a highly-developed, detailed hierarchical classification with special emphasis on highly-weathered soils and soils of arid and semi-arid regions. It is based on a large amount of high-quality data.



The Canadian system of Soil classification (third edition, 1988) is a hierarchical system in which the classes are conceptual, based upon the generalization of properties of real bodies of soil. Taxa are defined on the basis of observable and measurable soil properties that reflect processes of soil genesis and environmental factors. The development of the system has progressed with the increasing knowledge of the soils of Canada obtained through pedological surveys carried out over an 80-year period. The system has been influenced strongly by concepts developed in other countries, but some aspects are uniquely Canadian. The system is imperfect because it is based on a limited knowledge of the vast population of soils in the country. However, the system does make it possible to assign soils throughout Canada to taxa at various levels of generalization and to organize the knowledge of soils in such a way that relationships between factors of the environment and soil development can be seen. It is possible to define the kinds of soils that occur within units on soil maps, and to provide a basis for evaluating mapped areas of soil for a variety of potential uses.



This new system names soil types and links them to a comprehensive reference base. The book takes into account all that is currently known on the soils in Europe and further afield. Based on clarified and modern concepts, it offers a clear and well defined language.

More than just a soil classification system, it is a coherent method for organizing all the available information. Above all, it is an effective tool that conveys the necessary information and establishes correlations between different regions.


A key and list of Norwegian soil series, organized by detailed WRB second-level classification.


The legend of the Soil Map of the Russian Federated Soviet Republic 1:2.5M (1988) has been correlated with the Revised FAO and the WRB legend.

South Africa

The first soil classification system specifically for South Africa was published in 1977. It was based on many years of survey information from several sources and was called “Soil Classification - a Binomial System for South Africa”, known as the “red book”. It uses unique combinations of topsoil and subsoil horizons (layers) to place a soil into a specific soil form. Certain other characteristics within the soil form are then applied to define the soil series. The full background is given in the introduction to the Binomial System.

This classification system was refined in 1991 and published as: “Soil Classification – a Taxonomic System for South Africa” (known as the “blue book”).

The 1991 system has a greater number of possibilities and is generally useid in South Africa today. The main application of the 1977 system is the national Land Type Survey at 1:250 000 scale.