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National Soils Archive

Image showing The National Soils Archive storage at our Aberdeen site
The National Soils Archive contains a collection of representative soil samples from all over Scotland.

The National Soils Archive is held at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen. Our core activity is the long term storage and maintenance of this valuable resource and we are supported by the Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services Division of the Scottish Government.

The soil samples stored in the National Soils Archive have been collected from 1934 to the present day and we also hold associated data about them within the Scottish Soils Database. They are a reference to the state of the soils in the past and we can use the samples to test new analyses and to monitor changes in soil over time.

We hold samples from:

  • The systematic Soil Survey of Scotland
  • The National Soil Inventory of Scotland (NSIS) 1978-87 and NSIS2 (2007-9)
  • Various long-term and nationally significant experiments including samples held on behalf of other organisations

New samples that are continually being added such that we now have more than 48,000 air-dried soil samples collected from around 14,000 locations.

In order to avoid contamination or changes in conditions during storage, the samples are kept air-dried, cool and dark in either glass or plastic containers. We also have a soil DNA archive with samples preserved at minus 80°C for future use.

We welcome enquiries from organisations who wish to use the archived soil for scientific studies and from those who would like to donate samples - contact nationalsoilsarchive@hutton.ac.uk for more information or view our access policy. The NSA is a valuable collection and, as there are finite amounts of archived soil, there are limits and conditions on its use to safeguard the integrity of the remaining sample material and to ensure that use of this national resource is maximised for the benefit of all.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.