North Dakota State Soil
Most every North Dakota kid has learned that the state bird is the western meadowlark and the state flower is the prairie wild rose. We have other official state designations, the most recent of course being the designation of the chokecherry as our state fruit.
What many among us may have forgotten or never learned, however, is that way back in 1900 North Dakota named a state soil: the Williams series. This soil is a deep, well drained, moderately slowly permeable soil that is found on glacial till plains and moraines. This naturally fertile dark grayish brown loam is high in organic matter, and, as we are so apt to say “is good soil!”
As you would expect, the Williams soil is it is one of the most extensive and economically important soils in the state. It covers around two million acres of North Dakota and in its natural state supports, and was largely formed by northern mixed grass prairie. Some of the more important grasses on this soil include western wheatgrass (our state grass) as well as blue grama, needle and threat, green needlegrass, and prairie Junegrass.
But much of this soil has been converted to cropland. The Williams soil is capable of producing abundant harvests of wheat, barley, and other small grains. So between the forage this soil can produce for livestock in its native state, and the high crop yields, the Williams soil is very important to our states culture and economic base.
It is interesting to note that the Williams soil is named after Williams County, but the type location for the soil is in Mountrail County near White Earth. Obviously we do not always name things for where they were first officially described.
The Williams series is more formally known as a fine-loamy, mixed typic argiboroll. The suffix “boroll” identifies the soils as a mollisol or prairie soil. Prairie soils are some of the most productive soils in the world. They are much more productive than, for example the soils that form under deciduous or coniferous forest. The prairies are the breadbaskets of the world, and here in North Dakota, we have chosen to recognize the Williams soil to represent and characterize the bounty our prairie soils can produce.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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