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Paulins Kill: A New Soil Series for Northern New Jersey

It is not unusual for new soil series to be set up during the course of a soil survey update; however, it may be quite unusual for such a thing to occur so many years after a soil survey has been completed! But such is the case for a new soil series that has recently been established for use in Sussex and Warren Counties in New Jersey.

A soil profile of the Paulins Kill series, taken during the November 2000 field review for the Sussex County soil survey update. Note the high rock fragment content and thick dark surface horizon. The numbers on the tape indicate depth in inches.This new soil, named the “Paulins Kill” series, had its beginnings approximately 16 years ago when it was first identified by soil scientists Richard Shaw and Fred Schoenagel during their field data collection for the soil survey update for Sussex County. At that time, it was decided that this soil was to be correlated as a “taxadjunct” to the Hoosic series, which essentially meant that it resembled the Hoosic series, but differed slightly from that series with respect to certain physical and/or chemical properties. This taxadjunct differed from the actual Hoosic series by having a surface horizon that was much darker in color and greater in thickness than is typical for the Hoosic series, and also seemed to have a higher water holding capacity than does Hoosic. Because of these differences, it was hoped that eventually a new series could be set up to give this soil its own identity to distinguish it from Hoosic.

That chance came in the fall of 2013 when Resource Soil Scientist Fred Schoenagel, coordinating with the 12-TOL MLRA Soil Survey Office in Tolland, Connecticut, developed a project plan to collect additional field data to set up this new soil series. A minimum of 10 full soils descriptions, described to a depth of 60 to 72 inches below the ground surface, were required by National Cooperative Soil Survey standards to be collected for the purpose of correlating the new series and establishing its range in characteristics. From January 2014 to June 2016, Fred was able to collect a total of 13 soil descriptions with assistance from NRCS field office staff, Earth Team volunteers, and 12-TOL Soil Scientists when available to help with digging, describing, and sampling this soil. All soils descriptions were collected from hand-dug soil pits excavated using shovels and augers.

A representative example (called a “typical pedon”) of the new soil had been found along a stretch of the Paulins Kill in Sussex County; consequently, the new series was given the name “Paulins Kill” to reflect its proximity to this water body. It is also a fitting name due to the fact that this soil is intimately tied to the Paulins Kill, which is the remnant of glacial streams that flowed out from now-extinct proglacial lakes where the parent material from which the Paulins Kill series formed had been deposited.

The parent material of Paulins Kill is a form of outwash, which is glacial material deposited by meltwater running off a melting or “receding” glacier, and is associated with the Wisconsinan continental glacier that occurred approximately 22,000 years ago. That glacier created a series of proglacial lakes within deeply-excavated valleys as it was receding to the north. Outwash pouring into these lakes initially formed delta deposits that were subsequently reworked when dams formed at the ends of the lakes failed and allowed the impounded water to violently and quickly exit the lakes. This reworking and reshaping of initial materials created some of the unique landforms upon which Paulins Kill is found that range from steep side slopes to broad, nearly level summits.

The Paulins Kill series is distinguished by a thick, darkly-colored surface horizon overlying a light-colored, sometimes reddish, subsurface horizon. At depth is the parent material horizon, or substratum, that is typically pale colored sand and gravel. As can be seen in the soil profile photo, this soil is “skeletal”, meaning that is has on average greater than 35 percent by volume rock fragments throughout its profile, which it inherited from its parent material along with its dominant textures of sandy loam and coarse sandy loam above the substratum and coarse sand or loamy coarse sand in the substratum.

Despite the coarse textures found in this soil, Paulins Kill is a very productive agricultural soil and performs very similarly to the Hazen series with which it is geographically associated. And as with Hazen, this new series is considered a prime farmland soil. This soil is found within the Minisink and Kittatinny Valleys of Sussex and Warren Counties in New Jersey.

The Official Soil Series Description (OSD) of the Paulins Kill series can be viewed here.

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updated October 5, 2016