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Vernacular Systems

Vernacular systems are developed by the land users. Their structure is either nominal, giving unique names to soils or landscapes, or descriptive, naming soils by their characteristics such as red, hot, fat, or sandy. Soils are distinguished by obvious characteristics, such as physical appearance (e.g., color, texture, landscape position), performance (e.g., production capability, flooding), and accompanying vegetation. These distinctions are often based on characteristics important to land management and largely they have been ignored by the scientific community until recently, with anthropologists and geographers being the first to document them. Vernacular systems can provide outsiders a language to communicate with local land users, especially regarding agricultural management and resource tenure. Vernacular systems can also provide technicians and scientists insight into natural resource management systems that can prove valuable in inventorying and developing local resources.
(Source: http://ag.arizona.edu/OALS/IALC/soils/classifsystems.html)

Ethnopedology, the term coined by Williams and Ortiz-Solorio (1981, p. 336), is the study of these vernacular systems. The anthropologist Harold C. Conklin first started documenting vernacular systems in the 1950s. Studies conducted by the Office of Arid Lands Studies, University of Arizona, show that vernacular systems in arid lands can be very detailed with comparable usefulness to scientific systems (e.g., the Peul's system in Mauritania) or conversely may have no pedologic usefulness (e.g., the Bedouin's system in Saudi Arabia which implies that differences in soils are not perceived to be important to their livelihood). In semi-arid California the vernacular system of Malibu encompasses only one soil, the infamous "Malibu blue clay" (called Diablo soils under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), system) that limits building development and reduces property values because septic-tank drainage-fields are not allowed on that soil.
(Source: http://ag.arizona.edu/OALS/IALC/soils/classifsystems.html)