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State Soil 

Harney Silt Loam - Kansas State Soil

Did you know?

Harney silt loam was adopted as the Kansas State Soil on April 12, 1990, when Governor Mike Hayden signed Senate Bill 96. Kansas is one of only seven states to have named a state soil. It took five years through a strong grassroots effort to get Harney named as the state soil.

Harney silt loam possesses the ideal qualities of a prairie soil. Prime farmland has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food and fiber. Kansas has more acres of prairie soils than any other state. Harney silt loam covers almost four million acres in 26 westcentral Kansas counties.

Kansas has over 300 different soil types across its 52 million-acre surface area. Crop acres account for 56 percent or just over 29 million acres while range and pasture lands account for over 19 million acres or 37 percent. Nearly, 25 million of the 52 million total acres (48 percent) are considered prime farmlands.

Kansas soils directly impact the economic well being of its people providing nearly $6 billion in annual income. Our soils are what help make us the number one state in wheat production, in grain sorghum production, in sorghum silage production and near the top in red meat production.**

Soils in every Kansas county have been identified and mapped. All counties will have a published survey by 1994.

Why Do You Need to Care about Kansas Soil?

Even though Kansas has a great agricultural heritage and is blessed with abundantly rich soils, soil erosion by wind and water continue to eat away at our food and fiber production base.

About 190 million tons of Kansas topsoil are degraded each year through man's activities. Five tons of topsoil spread over an acre is about the thickness of a dime or 3/32 inch.

Soils are not easily renewed in Nature. It takes about 500 years for an inch of topsoil to develop under prairie grasses. Unprotected crop fields can lose an inch of topsoil in just one or two years if exposed to wind erosion and heavy rains. There was a net loss of 208,000 agricultural acres to permanent nonagricultural uses from 1982 to 1987. This loss is irreversible as many of these acres ended up as subdivisions, malls, parking lots, highway corridors, water impoundments and the like.

For more information about Kansas soils or soils in your county, contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service/conservation district or Extension Service office. You can find them in the telephone directory under Government - United States Department of Agriculture or Government - County.

*National Resources Inventory, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service **

1988 Report, Kansas State Board of Agriculture

What's so important about soil?

Soil is KANSAS' most valuable resource. Combined with the state's climate and water supply, soil supports our No. 1 industry - agriculture. Agriculture accounts for nearly $6 billion each year to the Kansas economy.

How did our soils come to be so good?

Kansas state soil evolved under prairie grasslands and over eons developed the rich, deep topsoil used by farmers and ranchers today. The vast grassland sea gave way to the plow as pioneers sought to raise grain crops for themselves and their livestock. It has the right soil quality, growing season and moisture supply to produce sustained high crop yields when modern agricultural methods are used. Kansas soils are known around the world for their exceptional qualities.

Why a state soil?

Due to the state's unique soil legacy and to commemorate the completion of the state's most comprehensive soil inventory by the USDA Soil Conservation Service, it was proposed that a typical prairie soil be selected to serve as an acknowledgment to the great agricultural heritage in Kansas. It also serves as a standard against which other soils can be compared.

Why Harney silt loam?

Harney silt loam depicts all the desirable qualities of an ideal prairie soil, and it is the most extensive soil in the state covering 3,976,000 acres in westcentral Kansas. A variety of cash crops, irrigated and dryland, are raised on Harney silt loam. Livestock including cattle, sheep and hogs get their food directly from this soil.

What is Harney silt loam?

Harney is a very deep, nearly level to moderately sloping, well-drained soil on flat ridgetops and sideslopes.

This soil, typically has a dark grayish brown silt loam surface layer about 12 inches deep. Below this lies the subsoil which is about 23 inches deep. The upper part of this layer is grayish brown silty clay loam and the lower, brown calcareous silty clay loam. The parent layer goes from a depth of 35 to 70 inches and is calcareous silt loam. (See color profile. See laboratory data.)

The name "Harney," meaning people, is adopted from "harahey," an ancient Wichita Indian term for "Pawnee Indian" stemming from when Coronado journeyed across Kansas. 1

1Dr. Patricia J. O'Brien, professor of social anthropology and social work, Kansas State University, Manhattan