After Canada abandoning the UNCCD, another shocking story this morning – NY Senator John J. Bonacic is trying to name a new NY state soil – the “black dirt” of Orange County, near NYC. Most audaciously, he’s trying to designate it as “the official home of the most fertile soil in the state of New York,” raising the ire of many a productive farmer across the state. One roadblock is that there already IS a state soil – the beautiful (and mellifluous) Honeoye. Unfortunately, Honeoye’s only got common-law status in N.Y. – while recognized by the NRCS since the 1980s, it’s never been made official. Bonacic didn’t even bother to find out that there’s already a state soil, and making matters worse, did not refer to it by its official US Soil Taxonomy name, which would probably be “Haplosaprists“. Actually, on second thought, maybe “black dirt” is catchier.
The NRCS tells us that “Honeoye soils are used for corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, vegetables, alfalfa, grass pasture and hay, and grape and apple orchards. Woodlots contain sugar maple, white ash, red and white oak, hickory, and associated species. These productive soils occur on about 500,000 acres in New York State.” Vegetables, forages, corn and beans, apples, and maple syrup – that’s what NY State is all about! Black dirt soils mostly grow onions, which are great, but do they really represent all of NY?
The “black dirt” soils in question are what’s known as Organic soils (in Canada) or Histosols (in the US) – a rich, dark soil, formed from very high organic matter contents. Previously bogs, moors, peat, or muck, they usually need to be drained before being farmed. Of course, this drainage and aeration greatly accelerates the decomposition of the organic matter in the soils, leading to major soil carbon losses, and subsidence. Is THAT what NY state is all about?
So far, the debate seems to have focused primarily on who can craft the best puns, but it’s definitely a hot news item to follow. And – come on! What are soil scientists if not conservative? Gotta resist those changes!