Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Favourite Soil: Illinois Soils

My Favourite Soil this week is written by Dave Rahe and has been republished from his blog Observations in Agriculture with some minor edits.

Jess Drake @soilduck on Twitter asked if anyone had a story to tell about their favorite soil and why it is their favorite. I can’t narrow it down to one really, but there several soils in Illinois that fascinate me for various reasons.

I grew up in the Mississippi River Valley in Monroe County (soil map here). Two fascinating soils on the home farm are Fults and Landes. Fults is a dark silty clay underlain by sandy and loamy sediments. Landes is a sandy loam. Neither is particularly productive in terms of Illinois soils, but that is home.

Tamalco is a moderately well drained soil on low lying ridges in south central and southern Illinois. It is distinctive because of the 7.5YR and 5YR hues in the upper subsoil. It is not a major soil, just interesting to see and distinctive. Another thing that makes it fascinating is the high sodium in the subsoil below the red layer.


Worthen is a well drained soil with a dark, very thick surface layer. The colors in this soil are classic earth tones. Much of the horseradish in Illinois was grown on Worthen and its catena mate Littleton, soils in Madison and St. Clair County at one time.

Cisne represents the southern Illinois claypan region and is worthy of recognition because of its large extent.

Drummer is the State Soil in Illinois. It is very extensive in the area covered by the Wisconsinan Glaciation. It is also a worthy representative of the wet, dark colored prairie soils that make Illinois such a productive agricultural state. Other similar soils that are also very extensive in Illinois include Sable and Virden soils.

Wyanet soils were mapped as Parr when I was a field soil scientist working on soil surveys. I always liked the look of this soil especially where it was formed in the Tiskilwa Till. In those areas, 7.5 YR hues are common. Redder than 10YR is not usual in Illinois at least in matrix colors.

Muscatune (formerly mapped Muscatine in Illinois) is one of the most productive soils in the world. We would like all of our soils to look like Muscatune. Some similar soils in Illinois that are probably equally productive with modern management are Bethalto, Ipava, Herrick, and Flanagan.

You can find more information on US soils at the USDA website and Illinois Soil Mapping.

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