State soil, plant and seed labels

Carol Bray
Isanti County Master Gardener

Every state has a state soil and Minnesota’s is Lester. Included in a recent agriculture bill is a Senate provision to designate Lester soil as the state soil. The purpose is to help the University of Minnesota celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the soil science program and in recognition of the 40-year-old Minnesota Association of Professional Soil Scientists in 2013. Also, a Smithsonian soil exhibit is expected to come to Minnesota in 2013.

Lester soil is very definitive: Surface layer: very dark grayish brown loam; Subsurface layer: brown clay loam; Subsoil: dark yellowish brown clay loam and Substratum: yellowish brown loam. Lester soils are in 17 different counties in south-central Minnesota. They are of moderate extent and total over 600,000 acres. These soils formed under woody vegetation that has been removed in most areas for agricultural production. The principal crops are corn and soybeans. These soils are very productive and of significant importance to the economy in Minnesota.

Lester soils are well drained and formed in loamy, calcareous glacial till on ground moraines. The mean annual precipitation is about 28 inches, and the mean annual soil temp is 49 degrees F.

A large section of the bill will help consumers choose hardy stock for Minnesota’s extreme growing conditions by requiring new labeling. (Effective August 1, 2012)

It would define “non-hardy” as a plant that cannot be expected to survive or produce flowers in certain growing zones and would require non-hardy nursery stock to be labeled as such.

Similarly, nursery stock collected from the wild must be labeled as such when sold; unless it has been grown in nursery rows for at least two years. Additionally, vegetable and flower seed packets could list the number of seeds in the packet, instead of the net weight.

The labeling laws are great news. And, don’t you wish you had Lester (soil, that is)?

For more information, visit the University of Minnesota Extension website at or call the Isanti County Master Gardeners at 763-689-8254.

Sources: USDA/NRCS and MN House of Rep. Session Weekly publication.