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Starting in the soil

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

The Red River Valley is known globally as some of the best farmland in the world, but there are still significant variances as to the types of soil that are found here.

This “valley” is really the bottom of Glacial Lake Agassiz, a massive, ice-dammed lake.

The lake began to develop as ice from the last ice age melted northward about 12,000 years ago.

As the huge ice sheet slowly melted, soils were shifted, piled, and re-arranged throughout the region. That’s what creates the distinct soil types found here.

There are six types of soil, and most land has a combination of one, two, or even three types. Soil type is based on the texture and size of particles found in the soil and can be loamy, sandy, peaty, silty, chalky, or clay.

Soils families are given names and associated productivity indexes. The productivity indexes indicate the response of the soil to agricultural management and the suitability of the soil to crop production. Typically, the higher the rating on a scale to 100, the more suited the soil is to the production of wheat, soybeans, and corn.

The very best soils in the Red River Valley have productivity scores in the 90s. While this metric is a good gauge of the production capacity of the soil and therefore the value, it is only one metric. There are soils with high productivity scores that are rocky or flood-prone. There are also soils that are highly productive but have productivity scores in the 70’s.

While it is important to understand soil types and productivity indexes, one needs to be cautious not to over-rely on these metrics alone. A number of other factors come into play when valuing land. We will talk about some of these other metrics in the coming weeks.

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