Minnesota's Soil Types

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Much of what we eat is a product of the soil that lies beneath.
Much of what we eat is a product of the soil that lies beneath. (Image: Various types of beans image by Nikolay Okhitin from Fotolia.com)

People may not realize it, but soil is a resource that greatly affects the planet. The quality of soil determines the productivity of fields, forests and waterways as well. Minnesota’s soil is a resource that is conducive for productive agriculture in the south-central parts of the state and is a factor in the productivity of the forests of Minnesota. Minnesota’s soil has an impact on the overall environment of Minnesota.

Alfisols

Alfisols cover much of the land mass of Minnesota. This type of soil covers part of the land that is cultivated and part of the forest land. Alfisols are formed underneath forest foliage and can be productive if preserved, but can break down rapidly when faced with erosion.

The alf in the term alfisols originates from the soil term pedalfer. Alf is in reference to the chemical symbols that make up alfisols, aluminum (Al) and iron (Fe). The top layer of alfisols is typically light gray or brown in color and contains less clay than the subsoil.

Mollisols

Mollisols cover much of the land mass of Minnesota and play a vital role in Minnesota’s agricultural productivity. The term for this type of soil comes from the Latin word mollis, which means soft. The most notable feature of this Minnesota soil type is its thick, dark-colored top layer that is rich in nutrients. Mollisols are found in what was formally known as the prairie regions of Minnesota. This type of soil is typically loose and low density on the surface, hence the Latin word for soft in the name.

Inceptisols

While alfisols and mollisols soil types are noted as soil orders on the University of Michigan Extension web site, inceptisols is a soil type that is listed under soil sub orders, Inceptisols is a soil type that is common to Minnesota. The Latin word incepium gives us the term for this type of soil, which is formed from the element ept. This type of Minnesota soil changes its properties down deeper, however, the processes of soil formation have been restrained from the lack of force of soil-forming factors (see Reference.2).

Entisols

Entisols is a soil type that is found throughout Minnesota. Entisols, like inceptisols are noted under soil sub orders. Entisols are formed from the element ent, which is a reference to recent soil. Entisols are usually derived from sandy soils that have parent material comprised of weather resilient quartz and alluvium found on recent river bottoms.

Histosols

This type of Minnesota soil has been growing in importance in the state. The term histosols is derived from the Greek term histos (tissue), which refers to the formative element in the soil ist. The remains of plants in wet settings such as marshlands and bogs form the basis for histosols. Histosols are noted under the sub orders of Minnesota’s soils.

Spodosols

While spodosols are not a common occurrence in uniform extensive regions, they can still be found throughout much of Minnesota’s northeastern quadrant. Od is the formative element of this type of Minnesota soil and is in reference to the build-up of organic material, iron and aluminum. Spodosols are noted under the sub orders of Minnesota’s soils.

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