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Its Official: Dirt Ain’t Just Dirt Anymore

December 10, 2010
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While I wasn’t looking or listening this past summer, our Legislature declared that we now have an official Manitoba soil. I kid you not.
Not that I would have objected – to an official soil or to the one that was chosen. It’s just that I never thought in a million years that we’d need an OFFICIAL soil.
I can understand the usefulness of having official birds and flowers and trees. We Manitobans have a unique official bird – the Great Grey Owl. (Many states have far too repetitive official birds – cardinals, blue jays, and meadowlarks.) We also have a rather common but heartening flower – the crocus, and a boring tree – the White Spruce.
After a little checking, I discovered that every state in the U.S. and most provinces in Canada have official soils. You can look it up. In Canada official soils are named after towns or cities, and the soils themselves have bizarre names. For instance, Prince Edward Island’s soil is called Charlottetown and is Orthic Humo-Ferric Podzol; Quebec’s, called Ste. Rosalie, is similar, I guess — Orthic Humic Gleysol.
What’s our newly declared official Manitoba soil? Newdale Soil.
According to the experts, Newdale Soil is “a valuable soil of the eastern Prairies in a group known as Black Chernozems, which are dark, grassland soils. They are rich in organic matter, located near the surface and look black in colour. Manitoba has more Black Chernozems than any other province.” It’s reasonably widespread through the western part of the province, has a large depth (often more than 40 inches or one meter), and is very fertile.

Our Newdale soil is pretty unique. There are only two “Chernozem belts” in the world: here on the Canadian prairies and in eastern Europe and Asia — from Southern Romania to Northeast Ukraine, Southern Russia and into Siberia.

I can tell you from experience that Newdale soil can be very thick and sticky, especially when wet. My car got stuck in it one rainy spring. The wheel wells got packed with what the locals call black gumbo. I called it muck and many other unprintable terms.

Check out the dirt in your area. Is it official?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily permalink
    December 11, 2010 4:11 am

    Well, fancy that! Who knew? Although after reading your very interesting post; it makes perfect sense that each state/territory would have an official soil. (btw, so envious that the Great Grey is your official bird).

    I’ve looked up Vermont’s and our official soil is “Turnbridge””. Names after a town here. I need to look a littler further into this new concept of “soil series”.

    Apparently, there is a permanent exhibit of all the state soils at the Smithsonian Museum. Now that’s some serious dirt!

    Now that my morning cup o’ joe is kicking in: the soil series comprises 2 other soils and all three are considered the Turnbridge series. The other 2 are Cabot and Vergennes; because all 3 of these soils behave somewhat consistently in their characteristics.

    Again, fancy that! Thanks for the new information – now getting dirty can take on a host of new meanings! Great article! More please …

  2. Dawn permalink
    January 29, 2011 5:31 pm

    Where did you find out about Manitoba having an official soil? I have looked to find if BC has one and my google efforts have turned up dry. Thanks for the info. Neat stuff that.

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