Harney Silt Loam - Kansas State Soil
Did you know?
Harney silt loam was adopted as the Kansas State
Soil on April 12, 1990, when Governor Mike Hayden
signed Senate Bill 96. Kansas is one of only seven
states to have named a state soil. It took five years
through a strong grassroots effort to get Harney
named as the state soil.
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. Kansas has more acres
of prairie soils than any other state. Harney silt
loam covers almost four million acres in 26
westcentral Kansas counties.
Kansas has over 300 different soil types across
its 52 million-acre surface area. Crop acres account
for 56 percent or just over 29 million acres while
range and pasture lands account for over 19 million
acres or 37 percent. Nearly, 25 million of the 52
million total acres (48 percent) are considered prime
Kansas soils directly impact the economic well
being of its people providing nearly $6 billion in
annual income. Our soils are what help make us the
number one state in wheat production, in grain
sorghum production, in sorghum silage production and
near the top in red meat production.**
Soils in every Kansas county have been identified and
mapped. All counties will have a published survey by
Why Do You Need to Care about
Even though Kansas has a great agricultural heritage
and is blessed with abundantly rich soils, soil erosion
by wind and water continue to eat away at our food and
fiber production base.
About 190 million tons of Kansas topsoil are degraded
each year through man's activities. Five tons of topsoil
spread over an acre is about the thickness of a dime or
Soils are not easily renewed in Nature. It takes about
500 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
erosion and heavy rains. There was a net loss of 208,000
agricultural acres to permanent nonagricultural uses from
1982 to 1987. This loss is irreversible as many of these
acres ended up as subdivisions, malls, parking lots,
highway corridors, water impoundments and the like.
For more information about Kansas soils or soils in
your county, contact your local Natural Resources
Conservation Service/conservation district or Extension
Service office. You can find them in the telephone
directory under Government - United States Department of
Agriculture or Government - County.
*National Resources Inventory, USDA Natural Resources
Conservation Service **
1988 Report, Kansas State Board of Agriculture
What's so important about soil?
Soil is KANSAS' most valuable resource. Combined with
the state's climate and water supply, soil supports our
No. 1 industry - agriculture. Agriculture accounts for
nearly $6 billion each year to the Kansas economy.
How did our soils come to be so good?
Kansas state soil evolved under prairie grasslands and
over eons developed the rich, deep topsoil used by
farmers and ranchers today. The vast grassland sea gave
way to the plow as pioneers sought to raise grain crops
for themselves and their livestock. It has the right soil
quality, growing season and moisture supply to produce
sustained high crop yields when modern agricultural
methods are used. Kansas soils are known around the world
for their exceptional qualities.
Why a state soil?
Due to the state's unique soil legacy and to
commemorate 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.
Why Harney silt loam?
Harney silt loam depicts all the desirable qualities
of an ideal prairie soil, and it is the most extensive
soil in the state covering 3,976,000 acres in westcentral
Kansas. A variety of cash crops, irrigated and dryland,
are raised on Harney silt loam. Livestock including
cattle, sheep and hogs get their food directly from this
What is Harney silt loam?
Harney is a very deep, nearly level to moderately
sloping, well-drained soil on flat ridgetops and
This soil, typically has a dark grayish brown silt
loam surface layer about 12 inches deep. Below this lies
the subsoil which is about 23 inches deep. The upper part
of this layer is grayish brown silty clay loam and the
lower, brown calcareous silty clay loam. The parent layer
goes from a depth of 35 to 70 inches and is calcareous
silt loam. (See color profile.
See laboratory data.)
The name "Harney," meaning people, is
adopted from "harahey," an ancient Wichita
Indian term for "Pawnee Indian" stemming from
when Coronado journeyed across Kansas. 1
1Dr. Patricia J. O'Brien, professor of social
anthropology and social work, Kansas State University,
< Back to Central Great Plains
MLRA Soil Survey Office