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Harney Silt Loam

Steam tractor turns virgin soil, between 1890 and 1912Some people consider soil to be Kansas' most valuable resource. Soil is why many 19th century immigrants came to Kansas and why buffalo found Kansas so hospitable. Combined with the state's climate and water supply, soil supports the state's number top industry: agriculture. Harney silt loam was adopted as the Kansas state soil on April 12, 1990, when Governor Mike Hayden signed Senate Bill 96. Five years of strong grassroots efforts are responsible for obtaining this recognition.

Because of the state's unique soil legacy and 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. Kansas has more acres of prairie soils than any other state, and 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.

Almost four million acres in 26 west-central Kansas counties contain harney silt. The name "harney," meaning people, is adopted from "harahey," a traditional Wichita Indian term for "Pawnee Indian" stemming from when Coronado journeyed across Kansas. Soils are not easily renewed in nature. It takes many hundreds of 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 and water erosion.

Entry: Harney Silt Loam

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: July 2011

Date Modified: February 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.