Ballad of the Lester Soil

Places to see Lester


The Lester soil was first proposed in 1939, in McLeod County – near Lester Prairie, Minnesota. The soil was established in 1945, in Dakota County, Minnesota. Lester developed in the prairie/forest interface and is currently mapped in 16 Minnesota Counties. Lester soils are well drained and formed in loamy, calcareous glacial till on ground moraines. They have a dark grayish brown loam surface with an elluvial horizon and an argillic horizon with clay loam and loam subsoils. Lester soils have properties developed from both grassland and forest environments and are primarily used for forage, corn and soybean production.

In 1985, the Minnesota Association of Professional Soil Scientists (MAPSS), formed a committee to designate a state soil. The members voted to designate Lester as their state soil in 1987. In 2012, a significant legislative effort was undertaken to establish Lester as the "Official Minnesota State Soil". The culmination of this effort was the signing of the legislation establishing Lester as the "Official Minnesota State Soil" by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on April 28th, 2012.

Areas where Lester has been mapped.


The photo at the left is a Lester soil profile as it would look if you dug a hole to a depth of 78 inches. You would see color, texture and structure change as you went down. Soil scientists describe the layers as "horizons" using the scientific notation on the right side of the soil photo. The following is a brief description of each horizon.

A Horizon

– This is the surface horizon. It is darker than other horizons as it contains the most organic matter. Organic matter coats and stains the soil particles. The organic matter comes from annual accumulation of plant material that decomposes in the soil each year.

E Horizon

– This horizon is grayer than the other layers since it has been leached of clay and organic matter by water movement through the soil. Soils that have trees growing on them long term have these horizons as the decomposing leaf litter is more acid. Soils that have grasses growing on them typically lack E horizons.

Bt Horizon

– This horizon has clay accumulation that leached from the horizons above. This layer has the most clay in the Lester profile and has the most effect on water movement, compaction, and workability. The lower part of this horizon has the most clay and organic coatings in root and earth worm pores and faces of peds.

Bk Horizon

– Calcium carbonate (lime) accumulates in this horizon as a result of being leached from the surface when the soil was first forming about 12,000 years before present. It often has a higher pH than any other horizon.

C Horizon

– This is the unaltered parent material produced by glaciers grinding up rocks and stones as they moved through Minnesota. It has had little or no soil development and looks much like it did when first deposited.

Scientists also classify soils according to a National taxonomic key (NRCS Keys to Soil Taxonomy, 11th Edition, 2010 ). Lester is classified as a: Mollic Hapludalf, fine-loamy, mixed, superactive, mesic.

Click here to view the Official Series Description of Lester

Soil - Our sustainable resource:

Lester is mapped in central and south central Minnesota. All of our soils in Minnesota directly support crop production, horticulture, livestock and poultry, dairy, energy production, forestry and fiber production, home lawns, recreation areas and parks, wastewater and biosolid treatment. The indirect benefits of this primary production include the production of food, meat and dairy products, and wood and paper products. With careful and intelligent management that includes soil and water conservation practices, our critical soil resources highlighted by the Minnesota State Soil - Lester, are sustainable for us and future generations.