Soil Survey of Grayson County, Virginia
Prepared by R. E. Devereux, United States Department of Agriculture; and
G. W. Patteson, Virginia Agriculture Experiment Station
Grayson County is in the southwestern part of Virginia, its southern boundary forming part of the North Carolina-Virginia State line. A very small part of the western boundary is formed by the the Virginia-Tennessee State line which continues as the dividing line between North Carolina and Tennessee. The shape of the county is that of an irregular triangle. The western and northern boundaries, which are very irregular, follow the tops of mountain ridges. Independence, the county seat, is about 90 miles northwest of Winston-Salem, N.C., and 35 miles south of Wytheville, Va. The total area of the county is 451 square miles, or 288,640 acres.
Grayson County lies almost entirely in the Appalachian Mountain region and may be described as a plateau deeply cut by streams and broken by mountains and by high hills which have round tops and steep slopes. Only a small part of the mounains and hills is too steep for pasture land. The highest elevations are the Iron Mountain ridges along the northern boundary of the county and a succession of more or less disconnected elevations extending from the southwest corner through the center in an east-northeast direction. These elevations include Whitetop, Rogers, Buck, and Point Lookout Mountains. The Iron Mountain ridges are a series of more or less continuous parallel ridges with no outstanding peaks. There are some comparatively flat areas on the tops of these ridges, but for the most part the tops are narrow, the slopes are steep and rough and the intervening valleys are narrow.
The greater part of the county (probably 90 percent) comprises irregular, disconnected round-topped hills and mountains with fair-sized comparatively smooth areas on the tops, in the high coves, and in many of the valleys which are broad in places. One of the smoothest large areas is southeast of Galax in the so-called “glades”, where a square mile or more is unusually flat for mountain country. An area several square miles in extent, which is much less hilly than the greater part of the county, occupies the Elk Creek Valley section in the vicinity of Elk Creek. Several sections of less prominence, similiar to the Elk Creek Valley section, are in different parts of the county.
Many of the bottoms along the streams are rather wide, considering the size of the streams. The valley of the largest stream, New River, is an exception. The strips of first bottom land range in width from a few feet to one half mile, the most common widths being between 100 and 200 yards. One of the largest bodies of bottom land is on Elk Creek near the the town of Elk Creek, where it reaches a width of about one half mile at one point and is of more than ordinary width for several miles along the stream.
All the streams are swift-flowing, and they furnish many good sites for small power plants. The general slope of the greater part of the county is to the southeast.
The elevation ranges from 2,600 feet above sea level at the point where New River leaves the county to more than 5,000 feet at the tops of some of the mountains. The general elevation of the county places it among the highest counties in the State, and it is called by many the ” roof of Virginia.” Mount Rogers, rising to an elevation of 5,720 feet above sea level, and Whitetop, to 5,519 feet are the highest two mountains in Virginia. Several other mountains are between 4,000 and 5,000 feet above sea level.
The area comprising the present Grayson County was first settled by immigrants, mainly of English and Scotch-Irish descent. Almost all the white inhabitants are descended from the original settlers. The first family, presumably the Hale family, settled in Elk Creek section about the middle of the eighteenth century and some of their descendants still live in the community. The Bridle Creek community is said to have been settled soon afterward. Most of the colored people live around the larger settlements.
According to the 1930 census, the population of the county is 20,017. The average density is 47.1 persons to the square mile, and the density is a out the same in all sections. Most of the homes are located along the streams, in the valleys, and in the smoother sections.
Grayson County was formed from Wythe in 1793 and named in honor of William Grayson, one of the first two United States Senators from Virginia. Originally it included the area now comprising Carroll County. Independence, the county seat, is a small village located near the center of the county, about 15 miles from the nearest railroad. Galax, the largest town, is on the eastern oundary, lying partly in Carroll County. In 1930 its population was 2,544. Fries, a cotton-mill town on New River in the northeastern part of the county, is the next largest place. It has a population of 2,205. Important community centers are Elk Creek, Comers Rock, Mouth of Wilson, Grant, Trout dale, Spring Valley, and Baywood.
Branches of the NorfoIk & Western Railway touch the county at Galax, Fries, and Whitetop. The Elk Creek section is also served by another branch of the Norfolk & Western, which passes within a few miles of the county line at Speedwell in Wythe County. Until recently highways have been rather poor, but now very good State highways extend north and south , and east and west through Independence and entirely across the county. These highways run in such a way as to serve most sections and, when improvements now under way on them are complete, will further open up the county to bus and truck transportation.
There are 77 schools for white children and 8 for colored children, scattered at convenient locations, with a total enrollment of 5,431. Five of the schools are accredited high schools and three are nonaceredited high schools. The high school enrollment in 1930 was 494. Pupils are transported to five schools by bus.
The county is well served by rural free delivery of mail and a number of local post offices. The rural telephone system is fairly good.
Galax, the most important trading center for farmers of Grayson County, has three furniture factories and a hosiery mill. It serves as a market for some farm produce and as a shipping point for livestock, tanbark, and various other forest products. A-small woolen mill located at Mouth of Wilson, 12 miles west of Independence, handles large quantities of the wool crop.
The climate of Grayson County is continental; that is, there are wide extremes between the winter and summer temperatures. The temperature, as well as the rainfall, is influenced to a certain degree by the high altitude of the mountains. The climate is considered healthful. The summers are comparatively short, and, owing to the high altitude, the days are seldom sultry and the nights are usually cool. The fall temperatures are moderate. During the winter severe weather is experienced, and very little farm work can be done between December and April. Snow often covers the ground for several weeks at a time.
The rainfall is plentiful and for the most part well distributed throughout the growing season. The heaviest amount falls in the spring and summer and the lowest during the fall, at which time most of the harvesting is done. Owing to differences in elevation, the amount of rainfall and the temperature differ in different parts of the county, but no data for Grayson County are available to show just what the differences are.
Partly because of the short and rather cool growing season, the agriculture is limited to a comparatively few crops. The climate, however, with its comparatively high rainfall and numerous foggy days is ideal for the growing of good pasture grasses, as attested by the number of high-grade feeder cattle that are sold each year. The climate of Grayson County also favors the growing of apples, grapes, berries, potatoes, cabbage, buckwheat, and garden vegetables.
As there is no weather bureau station in Grayson County, table I has been compiled from records of the Weather Bureau station at Jefferson, Ashe County, N.C. The data given are representative of climate conditions in Grayson County, Va. [This table has been omitted here]
Ki1ling frost average last in spring April 29, average first in fall, Oct. 9; latest in spring May 26; and earliest in fall, Sept. 13.
The history of agricultural development in Grayson County begins with the first settlers who came into this section of the county for the purpose of trapping, hunting and fishing. Small clearings were made around the home for the production of food and feed crops. As the county was isolated and transportation facilities were limited, the people bought and sold very little. When the first fields cleared were “worn out” by continuous cropping frest land was taken up. As there was no sale for timber, most of it was killed, cut, and burned in order to get it out of the way. The population grew until extensive areas were cleared in this manner. The worn-out fields came into grass which furnished good pasturage for livestock.
The large rural population still produces most of its food and feed and derives its cash income largely from livestock. Grayson County is one of the most extensively cleared counties in the about 80 percent of the land being cleared and in farms averaging 86 acres in extent, 87.4 percent of which are operated by the owners. There are few large farms. No extensive agricultural industry other than the raising of livestock, has developed, and there is no discrimination in land usage. Bottoms, hills, and mountains of different soils are all, more or less, used for the same purpose.
Grayson County is essentiallv a county of home owners who operation their own farms. An average of only $69.92 a farm was expended for labor in 1929. Most of the laborers are employed by the day and paid from $1 to $1.25 and board. In renting land, the owner furnishes the team, implements, and two thirds of the fertilizer, seed, and other cash costs, and the tenant receives one third of the crops as his share. Very little outlay is made for commercial fertilizers.
Most of the land is too steep for the satisfactory operation. of heavy machinery, and, as a consequence, comparatively few tractors, binders, and like implements are used. A large part of the small grain is cut with cradles, corn is usually cut by hand, and horse-drawn mowers are used for cutting hay. Ground sleds, to haul the crops, are widely used on the steep land. The dwellings, except those in the mountains, are comfortable, but the barns and outbuildings are not very satisfactory.
Almost all the land is owned by natives of the county, and there is not much change in ownership. Assessed land values have risen from $11.50 an acre in 1900 to $52.44 in 1930.
The present-day agriculture consists of the raising of cattle and the production of corn and hay, together with a variety of minor crops. The pastures of the county will easily carry more livestock than the local feed supplies will winter. The cattle are pastured during tile summer and many of them are carried through the winter. Some of the cattle are bought in the spring and. brought into the county. There are about 3 acres in permanent pasture for each acre of cultivated crops. The pastures consist of bluegrass, redtop, orchard grasses and white Dutch clover, with a sprinkling of other grasses. About 5 acres, on an average, are required for each 1,000 pounds of livestock.
Grayson County supports a thriving livestock industry. This is, in fact, the chief pursuit of the farmers and furnishes 75 percent or more of their gross income. The value of livestock in 1929 was $1,730,499. Cattle and dairy products account for considerably more than half the wealth in the livestock industry. On April 1, 1930, there were 19.520 head of cattle in the county. Practically all the cattle are of the beef breeds, and 75 percent of them are either high grades or purebred. About 70 percent of the beef cattle are Herefords or grades of this breed, and the rest are Shorthorns and Angus or grades. Two of the largest and best registered Hereford herds in Virginia are in Grayson County. The cattle are all bred and raised in the county. They are sold as stockers and feeders, usually to the farmers in the limestone valleys of the counties adjoining on the north. Grayson County is justly proud of its boast that it has the finest grade of stockers and feeders in Virginia. The quality of the beef cattle compares favorably with that of the beef cattle of the Middle-West. The predominance of well-bred cattle in all sections of the county is very noticeable. The stockers and feeders are sold off the pastures at the end of the grazing season, when they are from 15 months to 21/2 years old.
Very few dairy cattle are kept, yet the value of shipments of sour cream produced by the farm cows, most of which are of beef breeds amounts to more than $200,000 annually. Some of the cream is shipped as far as Columbus, Ohio.
The 1930 census reports 31,768 head of sheep and lambs on April 1 for (pl. 1, B). About 90 percent of them are of Hampshire and Shropshire breeding, and most of the remainder are Dorsets and Southdowns. The lamb crop is the main source of income from sheep. Lambing takes place in the spring, and the lambs are sent to market about July, most of them being shipped to Jersey City, N.J. Some are markted in Lancaster, Pa., and in Baltimore, Md. The breeding flocks furnish a good crop of wool, most of which is used by local and nearby mills. One mill, at Mouth of Wilson, has been in operation since 1884. At first it operated on an exchange basis, but now it buys the wool outright.
Hogs are raised for a home supply of meat.
Turkeys are an important source of income. Travelers through the county are impressed with the fact that there seems to be a drove ranging from 15 to 50 birds in every field. Almost every farm has a flock, which roams the fields throughout the summer and fall until nearly Thanksgiving, when they begin to be marketed. The total number of turkeys raised in the county m 1929 was 26,335.
Only a small quantity of fruit is grown on a commercial scale, but a few apple trees and here and there grapevines may be seen on nearly every well-established farm. These supply the home needs and some fruit is sold locally. The soils are adapted to apples, and the climate favors their production. This industry would doubtless have been developed many years ago had it not been for lack of transportation facilities. Garden vegetables suitable for this climate do well, and most of the farmers have good gardens. The quality of vegetables, especially potatoes, cabbage, and beans, is good. The potatoes are mealy, and the other vegetables are crisp and brittle, possessing qualities similar to the vegetables grown in southern New England.
The gathering of nuts, bark, herbs, and roots of various plants which are used for medicinal purposes, and also galax leaves for decorations, is a source of considerable income to some of the people living in the more remote sections of the mountains.
The roads are being rapidly improved, and with this improvement in transportation facilities there will doubtless be greater attention paid to land utilization and to the productivity and suitability of the soils for different crops.
The principal field crops are hay, corn, spring oats, wheat, rye, buckwheat, and dry edible field beans. In 1929 the percentage of cropped land devoted to each crop was about as follows: Hay, 38.5 percent; corn, 26.4 percent; small grains, 18.8 percent; and all other cultivated crops, 16.3 percent. The crop yields are on the whole about average for the State. For instance, hay yields slightly more than the State average and corn slightly less. Hay occupied 20,369 acres in 1929 and corn 13,992 acres. All the field crops are used as food and feed locally, except the comparatively small edible dry-bean crop. Rather large quantities of flour, pork, and corn for food, and some feed for livestock are purchased outside the county.
Small grains, such as oats, wheat, rye, and barley, comprise about one fifth of the acreage in crops. Wheat is perhaps the most widely grown. Some of the wheat, a small quantity of buckwheat, some pumpkins, and sorghum are grown for home use. Practically all the beans are sold. In a few places in the county, however, the quantity of wheat, corn, and meat produced is not sufficient for home consumption and for feeding the work animals.
Average acre yields of the principal crops for the 4-year period 1921-25, compared with the yields on the best farms in the county and the State averages are given in table 2.
|Hay (all varieties)||1.23||2.5||1|
The first settlers in the country now included in found little or no open land, except small areas of poorly drained bottom land and a few high mountain meadows. At the time most of the clearing of the forest was done, there was practically no market, within a reasonable distance, for even the choicest logs, so most of them were rolled into piles and burned. Since the best trees grew on the best soil, the choicest timber was disposed of in this way.
No reliable records exist regarding the composition of the early forests, but from what can be seen of the remnants it seems probable that on the finer-grained soils, represented by the Porters loam and Ashe loam, the forest was made up of high-quality hardwoods. White oak, yellow poplar, northern red oak (frequently called water oak), walnut, hickory, lin (linden), cucumbertree, ash, and beech predominated on the moist northern slopes, with chestnut, chestnut oak, locust, black oak, black gum, pitch (or black) pine, and spruce pine coming in on slopes with a southern exposure. On the lighter and coarser soils of good depth, represented by the Chandler, Talladega, and coarse-grained Ashe soils, the forests contained a considerable but varying admixture of high-quality white pine, especially on the northern and eastern slopes Among the hardwoods, chestnut was the outstanding tree, with white oak, chestnut oak, yellow poplar, northern red oak, and black locust making up most of the remainder, except on dry southern slopes where black oak, post oak, scarlet oak (also called Spanish oak), black gum, pitch pine, and spruce pine predominated.
On the Muskingum and Ranger soils, the type of timber was similar to that on the other loose soils, except that it was smaller and quality, especially in places where the underlying rock of poorer quality, especially in places where the underlying rock lay near the surface. Here white pine gave way entirely to spruce pine and pitch pine.
Hemlock was and still is the characteristic tree of valley bottoms and lower slopes, especially north slopes on which there is much rock outcrop. On the tops of the high mountains near the western end of the county, dense stands of red spruce and balsam fir (locally known as lashorn) share, with the natural mountain meadows, these, the highest mountains in the State.
It is probable that the original forests compared favorably in both quantity and quality with the best in the southern Appalachians. The present forests are a mere remnant of the original, as the best timber was cut and burned to clear the land. Most of the remaining forest has had the best white pine, walnut, yellow poplar, and white oak cut and shipped or floated out of the county. The few remaining blocks of original forest owe their preservation to one of these reasons: poor quality, inaccessibility, or sentiment on the part of the owner. Most of the large trees are overmature individuals in which decay exceeds growth. At the best the old forests are at a standstill.
The second-growth forests are of the following two general types: (1) Cut-over hardwood and (2) second-growth thickets coming in on abandoned farm or pasture land.
The cut-over hardwoods are, as a rule, little better than weed patches. Everything that was regarded as merchantable timber was cut, and the culls were left behind. Pro mising young timber was damaged in the logging, overtopped by the cull trees left after logging, and crowded by sprouts. Most of the cut over forests occupy transitional areas between forest land and pasture land. The common practice is to kill the large trees, cut and burn the brush, then grow a crop or two of corn among the stumps preparatory to sowing grass. This procedure gives good results on soils and slopes which do not wash, but on the lighter and looser soils, especially those occurring on steep slopes, it is only a question of a few years before the surface soil washes away and the field is abandoned. Such sites should, without question, be devoted to growing timber-the only crop capable of holding the soil and maintaining fertility.
The second-growth thickets are composed largely of white pine which appears to be the ideal tree for use in reclaming areas that have been unwisely cleared. This tree seeds prolifically, and it thrives on soils too poor for any hardwood of value to live on. Twenty-five-year-old white pines growing on a typical gullied hillside were found to average 35 feet in height and to range from 6 to 14 inches across the stump. Erosion in this thicket had been checked long enough for a 2-inch layer of litter and humus to accumulate.
SOILS AND CROPS
Grayson County is one of the best grassland counties in the State. Only the neighboring counties of Carroll and Floyd, in the southwestern part of the State and Loudon and Rappahannock in northern Virginia, contain so large a proportion of cleared land. The determining factors influencing good grassland conditions are large areas of fairly productive soils, soils high in potash, and favorable climatic conditions.
The farmers pursue a live-at-home policy and derive most of their cash income from the sale of cattle. The cash income of many of the farmers is very small, but under the present system of farming the people can subsist with only a small outlay of cash. The soils and climate offer advantages for the maintenance of a self-sufficing type of agriculture. Even the farmers in the Piedmont Plateau or coastal-plain regions lean too heavily on one or more cash crops at the expense of growing the necessary products for home consumption and the production of feed for cattle and work animals.
The parts of the county best developed for agricultural purposes are around Elk Creek, Comers Rock, Grant, Mouth of Wilson, Grassy Creek, Bridle Creek, and Independence. The Ashe, Porters, and Congaree Soils are the most important soils, and they dominate the agriculture. The southwestern part of the county, around Whitetop, was not settled until comparatively recent times, and the land has not been cleared so extensively or so fully developed as have the more accessible parts. Ashe stony loam, steep phase, Muskingum stony loam, steep phase, the latter occurring along the northern border of the county, and some of the soils in the “river-hill section” are largely undeveloped.
The main reason for the raising of cattle on such a large scale is owing to the fact that the soils and climatic conditions favor the growing of bluegrass, timothy, orchard grass, and redtop. Bluegrass appears to be almost indigenous, but it was not growing here when the first settlers arrived. It spreads rapidly on these mountain soils after the land is cleared and the grass given an opportunity. As new lands were brought into cultivation, grass took possession of the abandoned fields. Another reason for the raising of cattle is that the surface features of the greater part of Grayson County are not favorable for extensive cultivation of crops but can be used for pasture grasses. The only areas that can easily and economically be used for cropping are the bottom lands, the smooth slopes the foot-hills, and some of the flatter-topped mountain ridges and rounded knobs.
The Ashe and Porters soils are good grasslands because of their texture, structure, organic-matter c~ntent, mineral elements, and moisture-holding capacity. These favorable features, together with the prevailingly cool temperature and heavy rainfall, are essential factors for the production of bluegrass and associated pasture grasses. These soils are new and young and are constantly being renewed by potash material from the decomposing rocks which underlie them. It is the natural fertility of these soils, together with the favorable climatic conditions, that renders them good soils for pasture grasses. It is true that some of the best soils in the East, for the production of grass, are naturally the most fertile and productive. An example of this is the bluegrass region around Lexington, Ky.
Some of the best pasture lands in the county are in the higher coves and on the tops of mountains. The climate is cooler on these higher elevations and the rainfall is heavier-factors favorable for the production of grass. The Porters soils, lying on slightly lower elevations than the Ashe, are also good grass soils, but they are not considered quite so good as the Ashe soils. Some of the pastures are on the Talladega and Cecil soils and also on the bottom lands. The bottom lands, or the Congaree and Wehadkee soils, would produce good pasture, but these soils are needed for the growing of corn and hay crops.
Corn is the most important cultivated crop and is widely distributed throughout the county. Nearly every farmer grows some corn for home use, for feed for cattle, for fattening hogs, and for feeding work animals. Most of the corn is grown on the soils in the first bottoms, because these soils contain considerable plant food, a fair amount of organic matter, and have good moisture-holding capacity; at the base of slopes; and on the smoother parts of the lower-lying mountains. On the highest mountains the frost-free period is too short for the maturing of corn. Both the climate and soils are fairly favorable for the production of corn because the moisture supply is usually sufficient and there is considerable organic matter in the surface soil.
The next crop of importance is hay, most of which is produced on the bottom lands and on the smoother parts of the uplands. It is used for roughage for cattle and as feed for work animals during the winter. The farmers depend largely on the bottom lands for the production of the greater part of the hay, and these narrow strips of land, extending back into the mountains, are considered very valuable for this purpose.
The surface relief of Grayson County, which lies in the high mountainous section of southwestern Virginia and bordering the North Carolina State line, is characterized by mountain peaks with steep slopes, many rounded mountain knobs and broad ridges with moderately smooth or fairly gently rolling slopes, and some comparatively smooth or rolling areas. The land ranges in elevation from about 2,000 to 5,700 feet above sea level. Natural surface drainage is everywhere well established, except in a few spots in the first bottoms. A surprisingly small amount of erosion has taken place, considering the steepness of the slopes. This is owing in large measure to the character of the soils and also to the fact that perhaps 75 percent of the cleared land has been covered with grass since the country was cleared of its growth of beautiful hardwoods.
That Grayson County is one of the banner counties of the State for pasture grasses and for the raising of livestock is due to the character of the soils combined with the favorable climatic conditions. It is one of the outstanding counties in the State in that about 80 percent of the land, exciliding the steep phases of the Ashe and Muskingurn stony loams is cleared. The Unaka National Forest includes large bodies of the rough stony land.
The soils contain more organic matter than do the piedmont soils farther east in the State, owing to the fact that the cleared areas have been in pasture grasses for a long time. The wooded areas have a thin covering of leaf mold on the surface and a noticeable amount of organic matter in the topmost 2 or 3 inches of soil.
Twelve soil types, 5 phases of types, and 1 miscellaneous classification of material occur in Grayson County. There are no sands or clays, the dominant soils being mellow friable loams having friable crumbly clay loam or clay subsoils. Since no difference in the uses of the different soils or the crops grown on them exists, and because the soils of similar color, surface relief, and drainage conditions are of widely different character and agricultural value, it appears that the most practical grouping is on the basis of the geological source of the parent material. Especially is this true as there is such a close relationship between the chemical and physical composition of the soils and the rocks from which they are derived. The influence of the parent material is not only revealed in the surface soils and the subsoils but is strongly impressed on the agriculture. Based on these facts the soils of Grayson County may be divided into four groups as follows: (1) Soils from granite, (2) soils from schist, (3) soils from sandstone and slate, and (4) alluvial soils. In addition, a miscellaneous classification, rock outcrop, is mapped.
In the following pages of this report, the soils of Grayson County are described in detail and their agricultural importance is discussed. Their distribution is shown on the accompanying soil map, and table 3 gives the acreage and proportionate extent of each soil mapped.
Table 3 — Acerage and proportionate extent of the soils mapped in Grayson County, Va.
|Type of Soil||Acres||Percent|
|Ashe loam, smooth phase||5,504||1.9|
|Ashe coarse sandy loam||5,440||1.9|
|Ashe coarse sandy loam, steep phase||11,264||3.9|
|Ashe Stony loam,||30,784||10.7|
|Ashe Stone Loam, steep phase||12,160||4.2|
|Porter’s Loam, smooth phase||7,488||2.6|
|Chandler Silt Loam||6,592||2.3|
|Muskingum stony loam||23,168||8.0|
|Muskingum stony loam, steep phase||4,928||1.7|
|Ranger Sil Loam||4,288||1.5|
|Wehadkee Silt Loam||3,776||1.3|
SOILS FROM GRANITES
This group of soils includes all the Ashe, Porters, and Cecil soils mapped in Grayson County. These soils comprise the most extensive groups and cover the greater part of the county, extending throughout the central, western, and to more or less extent the eastern part. They have been developed from material derived from decomposing granite and gileiss rocks which are high in potash, the soils, particularly the subsoils, containirig a high percentage of potash. The light-colored coarse-grained soil in the vicinity of Comers Rock has given rise to the coarse-textured Ashe soils locally known as “gritty loam” or ” white pine land.” In the southeastern part of the county the granites are more or less intermixed with mica schists and slaty rocks, and as a result the soils are variable in character and are not quite so productive as those from granites.
Erosion, particularly gullying is less noticeable on these soils than on any other upland soils in the county. This is probably owing to the loaminess and friable consistence of both the surface soils and subsoils, which allows them to absorb a large amount of rainfall and gives them good moisture holding capacity.
These soils range in color from light gray or light brown to reddish brown in the surface soils and from brownish yellow to red in the subsoils. The Ashe soils are gray or light-brown soils having vellow subsoils, and the Porters are easily distinguished from the Ashe in that they have decidedly brown surface soils and reddish-brown subsoils. The Cecil soil, however, has a brown or reddish- brown surface soil and a distinctly red subsoil.
The Ashe and Porters soils dominate the agriculture of the county. They are the most productive soils in the county, as they are the most highly developed. With the exception of Ashe stony loam, steep phase, a very large percentage of these soils is cleared and used for pasture or for general farming. Bluegrass and other grasses thrive better on these than on any other upland soil.
Ashe loam.-Ashe loam is the most extensive and one of the most important soils in Grayson County. The surface soil, to a depth ranging from about 6 to 10 inches, is light-brown or brownish-yellow loam which is mellow and friable and seldom clods or bakes when cultivated under ordinary moisture conditions. The subsoil, extending to a depth of 28 to 30 inches, is light brownish-yellow or deep-yellow clay or clay loam. The material is friable and crumbly and readily crushes to a friable mass. Below this layer is brownish-yellow or yellow friable clay containing some small mica scales which render the material slightly gray when rubbed between the fingers and of more friable consistence than the layer above. This layer varies considerably in thickness, but within a few inches it grades into mingled light grayish-white and yellowish-white soft disintegrated granite or gneiss. A few mica scales are generally present in both the surface soil and subsoil but not in sufficient quantities to give the material the greasy feel characteristic of the associated Chandler silt loam.
In coves and other situations conducive to the accumulation of surface wash and vegetable matter, the surface soil, in places, reaches a depth of 18 inches and is dark brown. On some of the high mountain tops and in some of the coves on the hi g her mountains, the surface soil is black or very dark gray loam from 8 to 15 inches thick, containing a large quantity of organic matter. It is underlain by brownish-yellow friable clay. Such spots are really Burton loam, but, owing to their small extent, were included with Ashe loam in mapping. Another important variation occurs in the extreme western end of the county. Here the surface soil is grayish-yellow or very light brown loam or silt loam, and the subsoil is yellow silty clay loam or light clay, which is firm but friable and crumbly. The light color and the silty character of the soil are noticeable in this part of the county. The finer texture of this soil throughout is owing to the fact that it is derived from the fine-grained granite (rhyolite). In a few places some angular granite rocks occur on the surface but not in serious quantities to interfere seriously with cultivation.
In many places, spots of Porters loam are included with in mapping, and in some places it is difficult to draw a sharp boundary between Asbe loam and Porters loam as they grade into each other. Ashe loam occurs in large continuous and. irregularly shaped areas throughout all parts of the county except the extreme southeastern corner and a strip across the northern border. Some of the larger and more important areas are in the vicinity of Spring Valley, Fallville, Stone School, Grubbs Chapel, Redridge School: Rugby School, Whitetop, Sulphur Spring Church, and to the north, south: and east of Independence.
Although Ashe loam occupies practically all positions; from the lower vailey plains to the tops of mountains, for the most part it comprises rolling intermountain country, that is, the knolls and mountain ridges which have comparatively smooth or fairly steep slopes. All the land is well drained. Very little gullying or deep erosion has taken place, but sheet erosion is noticeable where the soil has been in cultivated crops.
About 85 percent of the land is cleared and is either used for farm crops or pasture. A large part is in pasture. Taken as a whole, the pastures on this soil are perhaps the best in the county, and they help to support a prosperous li’estock industry. The pasture grasses include bluegrass, redtop, white Dutch clover, and orchard grass. Bluegrass does better on Ashe loam, perhaps, than on any other soil in the county. This is owing to the texture, structure, and color of the soil, high altitude, heavy rainfall, high humidity, and temperature, all of which are favorable for the growing of bluegrass. Substantial and well-painted homes may be seen on Ashe loam.
Corn is the principal grain crop, although some wheat, oats, and buckwheat are grown. Corn yields range from about 25 to 40 bushels an acre, but as high as 50 or 60 bushels have been obtained where the soil was heavily fertilized and properly cultivated. The yields of wheat range from about 10 to 25 bushels, spring oats from 20 to 35 bushels, rye from 10 to 20 bushels, and buckwheat from about 10 to 20 bushels. Corn seldom receives any fertilizer, especially where manure has been applied to the land. Wheat and oats are given an application rangmg from 200 to 300 pounds of a 2-10-2 mixture, or if manure h as been applied the formula will be 0-10-4. Potatoes, cabbage, beans, and garden vegtables do well on this soil, and sorghum is grown on small patches with satisfactory results. Apples and other fruits common to this section of the State give excellent yields. It is generally conceded that the yields of all crops on this soil average about 10 percent better than the county averages.
The usual rotation on Ashe loam is corn followed by fall-sown wheat, rye, or spring oats. The grasses and clover mixtures (timothy, redtop or orchard grass and clover) are sown in the small- grain crop in the spring, and a hay crop is cut from the resulting stand for 1, 2, or several years, depending on the productivity of the soil. When it becomes unprofitable to cut the grass for hay, the land is grazed for a year or two before returning it to corn. Ashe loam possesses those physical qualities which enable it to be built up to a high state of productivity, and this is easily maintained by broader rotation and soil management.
Ashe loam, smooth phase.-Ashe loam, smooth phase, differs from typical Ashe loam in that it has much smoother surface relief, that is, it is developed on the hilly and low mountain areas having comparatively smooth slupes. By virtue of its position, the underlying rocks lie deeper below the surface than in Ashe loam. This is an advantage in exceptionally dry seasons, as the deep subsoil contains a large amount of soil moisture.
Ashe loam, smooth phase, is one of the less extensive soils of the county, but it is important because of its smooth relief, ease of cultivation, and high productivity. Some of the larger areas are developed east of Elk Creek, northwest of Grant, and in the northeast corner of the county south of Spring Valley.
Most of the land is cleared. This is one of the best upland soils in the county. Yields of corn range from 30 to 60 bushels an acre, and the land also produces large yields of wheat. It produces good pasture but not so good as Ashe loam. This is probably owing to the fact that there is less rain and the temperature is warmer in the lower-lying areas of this soil than prevails throughout the Ashe loam areas. Birdeye beans do well, also apples, potatoes, cabbage, and garden vegetables.
Table 4 shows the results of mechanical analyses of samples of the surface soil, the subsurface soil, and the subsoil of typical Ashe loam. [Omitted here]
Ashe coarse sandy loam.-Ashe coarse sandy loam, locally called “white pine land” or “gritty land “, is easily distinguished from the other soils of the county by the presence of a large quantity of coarse sand or fine gravel on the surface and mixed with the soil. The surface soil in cultivated fields is light gray or gray, drying out on top to almost white or pale yellowish gray. To a depth ranging from 6 to 12 inches the material composing the soil is mainly loam, with a large quantity of coarse angular sand and fine angular gravel. The quantity of this coarse material varies from place to place and resembles so-called “millstone grit.” The subsoil, which continues to a depth ranging from 30 to 36 inches, is yellow or light brownish-yellow sandy clay or light clay, containing much coarse sand and fine gravel. This layer grades into soft, decomposed, rather loose coarse-grained granitic material of a mingled white, yellow, and brown coloration, which extends downward to a depth, in some places, of several feet before passing into the solid rock. This soil differs from the other Ashe soils in Grayson County in that it is lighter in color, more porous and contains the fine gravel.
This is one of the less extensive and unimportant soils, and it occurs in only a few small areas, the largest being in the north-center part of the county in the vicinity of Lundy School. Smaller bodies are around Bartons Crossroads, in the vicinity of Carsonville and between Comers Rock and Elk Creek.
The surface relief ranges from hilly to sloping, but most of the land can be cultivated. In general it has not gullied to a great extent but in one or two places deep gullies with almost perpendicular walls are in evidence. Gullies once started cut down quickly and deeply through the soft underlying rock material.
This soil was originally forested to white pine from which the name “white pine land” was derived. Most of the land is cleared and is used for the production of crops. It is naturally a less productive soil than Ashe loam, but it is highly prized because of imcomparatively smooth surface relief and because it is easily cultivated and warms up early in the spring. The common crops of the county are grown on it, but it is not a very good soil for pasture grasses. It is one of the best soils in the county for the production of birdeye beans. This crop produces a good yield of seed without a very rank vine. Yields range from 10 to 14 bushels an acre. Corn is one of the principal crops grown, and the yields are only fair except where the soil has been heavily fertilized or manured. Some apple trees are growing on this soil, and it is one of the best soil in the county for growing garden vegtables.
Ashe coarse sandy loam, steep phase differs from Ashe coarse sandy loam in havmg much steeper surface relief throughout. It is more badly gullied and more subject to serious erosion than the typical soil. This tendency to erode on the steep slopes prevents much of the soil from being cultivated. This fact is recognized by the farmers, and considerably less of the land is cleared than of any of the associated soils. The surface soil and subsoil are practically identical with Ashe coarse sandy loam, except perhaps the subsoil layer is not quite so thick, and in many places the disintegrated rock lies near the surface.
Several fair-sized areas of Ashe coarse sandy loam, steep phase, and mapped, mainly throughout the north-central part of the county around Rugby, Volney, Flatridge, and Comers Rock and northeast of Independence. Very little of this steep land is cleared and cultivated. Most of it is in hardwood forest, but it seems to be partictarlarly well suited to white pine. Crop yields are low and the pasture are poor. The land should be devoted to forestry.
Ashe stony loam.–Ashe stony loam differs from Ashe loam mainly in that it has a large amount of stone on the surface, occupied higher, steeper slopes and tops of the mountains and hills above Ashe loam, and has a somewhat thinner subsoil. The surface soil is practically the same as that of Ashe loam and the subsoil also is similar to that of Ashe loam, except that the soft disintegrated rock is reached at a depth ranging from 12 to 30 inches. In many places the subsoil is entirely absent, however, and there is only a thin mantle of soil resting on the soft rock or solid bedrock. Angular rock fragments, in quantities suflicient to give the land a decidedly stony character, are scattered over the surface and mixed throughout the surface soil, and to less extent occur in the subsoil.
Ashe stony loam occupies Jarge and rather continuous areas in the central and western parts of the county. Large areas occur west of Mountain View School, north of Bridle Creek, east and west of Grubbs Chapel, and from the Grayson-Smyth County line southeastward almost to the Grayson-Ashe County line. Rather large areas of this stony soil occur on the tops and high slopes of such elevations as Whitetop, Rogers. Buck, and Point Lookout Mountains.
Much of the land has been cleared and is in permanent pasture. This soil is really better suited for pasture than for general farming. Small areas, however, are devoted to the production of corn, small grains, and hay. Yields are slightly less than those obtained on Ashe loam, as the steeper surface relief and the presence of stone are in many places a hindrance to cultivation. Taken as a whole, the stony loam is not so accessible as the loam, and for this reason it should be largely in pasture. The rougher and more stony areas should be devoted to forestry.
Ashe stony loam, steep phase.-Ashe stony loam, steep phase, differs from Ashe stony loam in that it has rougher and steeper surface relief. It comprises the very steep mountain sides, peaks, and narrow tops of the mountain ridges. In North Carolina and other States, land with such topography has been classed as rough stony land. In addition to being extremely rough, this soil is dominantly stony, large loose rock and ledges of solid rock being common. In most places the surface relief is so steep that only a thin covering of soil has accumulated, and in some places, of course, there is no subsoil an(l outcrops of solid rock are numerous. In places where soil has developed, the material is similar to the Ashe soils, that is, it is derived from the granites and gneiss rock. On some of the higher mountains, especially on Whitetop Mountain, are small areas of black soil composed almost entirely of organic matter. Such areas would have been mapped as Burton loam had they been of sufficient size to have been separated on the map of the scale used.
Ashe stony loam, steep phase, occurs mainly in large areas in the western part of the county on Whitetop, Rogers, and Pine Mountains. There are fairly large areas on Buck and Point Lookout Mountains. All this steep land is in forest, and this is the best use to which it can be put. The tree growth over a large part of the land is not so good as on the deeper soils of the granite group, but it is much better than that on Muskingum stony loam, steep phase. In the Rogers and Whitetop Mountain sections the forest trees are largely red spruce, balsam fir, birch, maple, and sourwood, with a sprinkling of oak and chestnut. Owing to the high position of this land, tile steep slopes. and general inaccessibility, timber is more difficult to remove than it is from the typical soil or from any other soils of the Ashe and Porters series.
Porters loam–Porters loam occurs in close association with Ashe loam but usually lies at lower elevations. It is really the brown soil of the mountains. The surface soil in cultivated fields is brown grayish-brown or loam to a depth ranging from 6 to 10 inches. It is mellow, friable, easily tilled, and rarely clods or bakes. In wooded areas the topmost 2 or 3 inches of material are dark grayish brown owing to the presence of a large quantity of organic matter. A very thin covering of leaf mold lies on the surface in most places. The subsoil ranges from dark yellowish-brown to reddish-brown clay or clay loam, extending to a depth between 24 and 30 inches. It is friable and crumbly and readily crushes down to a friable mass. It contains a noticeable (juantity of small mica scales. This layer grades into reddish-yejlow soft disintegrated granite gneiss or schist rock containing specks of black and white, and this material, in turn, passes at varyizig depths into light-colored soft disintegrated rock.
A few rock fragments are scattered over the surface in some places. In places the subsoil is only a few inches thick, and locally the soft rock adjoins the suirface soil. In some of the coves and at the bases of slopes the surface soil is deeper, of decidedly dark brown color, and contains a large amount of organic matter. On some of the knolls and slopes the surface soil is reddish-brown heavy loam or clay loam. There is considerable varioation in the color, texture, and depth throughout areas of this soil. Included with this soil and occurring in small areas in the vicinity of Independence, Bridle Creek, and Grant arc small areas of dark red or maroon smooth friable clay. Such areas are typical Rabun loam but owing to their small extent are included with the Porters soil. Such soil is derived from dark-colored liomblende schist or diorite rocks as contrasted to the granite rocks giving rise to the Porters soils.
Porters loam is one of the extensive, importatant and widely distributed soils of Grayson County. It occurs in rather large continuous areas in the southeastern corner, east of New River. Several fair-sized areas lie north of New River in the northeastern part, and other areas occur in the south-central and western parts.
Porters loam occurs on approximately as steep slopes as Ashe loam, but it is developed on the lower slopes of the high hills and mountains. It is naturally well drained, but there is a comparatively small amount of gullying. Surface erosion is noticeable on the steeper slopes in the cultivated fields. The greater part of Porters loam is cleared and used for pasture and for the production of corn. A small acreage is devoted to wheat. Perhaps two thirds of the cleared land is in pasture, some of which is bluegrass but the bluegrass is not quite so good for pasture on this soil as on Ashe loam. Corn yields from 20 to 35 bushels an acre wheat from 10 to 20 bushels, oats from 25 to 40 bushels, and potatoes from 100 to 200 bushels. Cabbage, potatoes, and garden vegetables suitable to the climate are successfully grown. Considered as a whole Porters loam is not so productive as Ashe loam particulaily in the areas of Porters loam derived from slaty rock.
Porters loam, smooth phase.–Porters loam, smooth phase, differs from typical Porters loam in that it has a somewhat smoother surface relief, the land being sufficiently smooth in many places to allow the use of tractors and other heavy farm machinery. The smooth phase also differs from the typical soil in having a heavier-textured subsoil and somewhat darker surface soil. The granite rock from which this soil is derived lies at a greater depth below the surface, and the subsoil layer is uniformly thicker than in Porters loam.
Porters loam, smooth phase, occurs in several fair-sized areas in the north-central part of the county, also around Independence and to the west thereof, around Bridle Creek, along Grassy Creek, in the vicinity of Grant and Spring Valley, and north of Lime Mine. The surface soil, being darker, resembles Cecil loam in some respects.
Practically all this smooth land is cleared and is either under cultivation or in pasture. Yields of corn and hay are as good as those obtained oil any upland soil in the county. Because of its smooth surface relief, the land is easier to cultivate than most of the mountain soils. The soil does not erode easily, and it holds manures and fertilizers exceptionally well. Much of this soil has been built up to a rather high state of productivity, and it is considered one of the good soils in the county.
Cecil loam.-Cecil loam is the reddest soil in the county. It is one of the inextensive soils but is fairly important agriculturally. It occurs in a few small areas west and southwest of Galax, the largest area occurring between Galax and Oldtown, and several smaller bodies are in the southeastern corner of the county in the so-called “glade” section, the largest being in the vicinity of Big Springs Church and a fair sized area around Baywood.
The 5- to 7-inch surface soil of Cecil loam is yellowish-brown or reddish-brown mellow friable loam containing, in many places, scattered quartz fragments. In many parts of the Baywood section the quartz fragments are numerous, and some of tliem are as large as a man’s head. On some of the eroded knolls the surface soil is red loam or clay loam. The subsoil, extending to a depth ranging from 24 to 36 inches, is stiff but brittle red clay, and below this, extending to various depths, is light-red friable clay which carries many small mica scales. At a depth ranging from 45 to 50 inches, is soft disintegrated granite or slaty schist rock of mingled yellow, white, and black streaked colors and containing much mica.
Included with mapped areas of Cecil loam are small bodies of dark chocolate-brown, dark-red or reddish-brown clay loam or loam, having a dark-red smooth clay subsoil. The material in such areas is derived from a dark-colored basic rock, and the soil has somewhat the characteristics of the spots of Rabun soil which are included in Porters loam. They are also similar to the Davidson soils in the Piedmont Plateau. Cecil loam in this county differs from the typical piedmont Cecil soil in that it is less uniform in color, has a thinner subsoil layer. and does not contain the coarse sand particlesprevalent in the Cecil soils of the piedmont region.
Cecil loam is one of the good agricultural soils of Grayson County. Its surface relief is as smooth as any of the other upland soils, and the greater part of it can be easily cultivated. It is used mainly for the production of corn and wheat, and to some extent for pasture. It is not so good a grass soil as the Porters or Ashe soils. Clovers and other leguminous crops do well when the soil is limed and manured. Owing to the heavy character of the subsoil, this soil holds manures and any soil amendinents exceptionally well.
SOILS FROM SCHIST
The second group of soils includes the so-called mica soils, isinglass soils. Chandler silt loam comprise the group. These soils are easily identifled by their shiny appearance, greasy feel, and friable consistence caused by the presence of a large quantity of small mica scales or the surface and throughout the soil. The steepness of slope, together with the loose light friable lower subsoil material, and the presence of bedrock lying in most places at a depth ranging from 5 to 10 feet below the surface has caused these soils to erode and gully more than any other soils in the county. It is difficult to check erosion and prevent deep gullying when the soil has been denuded of the forest growth or grassa covering.
These soils are derived from mica schists, with some chloritic schists, and are developed in the southeastern part of the county on both sides of New River. This section has been invaded by numerous streams which have cut deep channels, presenting steep slopes and narrow intervening ridges. In color, Talladega loam resembles Porters loam and Chandler silt loam resembles Ashe loam. There is a noticeable difference in the texture, consistence, and content of finely divided mica between these soils and the Ashe and Porters soils.
At one time, Talladega loam and Chandler silt loam were extensively cleared and farmed, but large bodies are now being allowed to return to forest. Erosion is largely the cause of destruction of large areas of once fairly productive land. The flatter tops of the ridges and the smoother slopes are farmed, and good yields of corn, cabbage, potatoes. and apples are obtained, but the yields are not so high as those obtained on the Ashe and Porters soils. The Talladega and Chandler soils are only fair or poor pasture-grass soils, not because they will not produce grass but the cattle soon destroy it by trampling, after which gullies begin to form.
The quantities of potash and some other mineral elements in these soils are as high as those in the granite soils. Only a small percentage of the mica schist soils is under cultivation.
Chandler silt loam.-Chandler silt loam is developed in close association with Talladega loam and occurs in the southern and eastern parts of the county. Several fair-sized areas are near the North Carolina line south of Independence along New River, and on the eastern side of New River around Peach Bottom. One large area on the eastern side of New River is about 3 miles northwest of Galax.
The surface soil of Chandler silt loam, to a depth ranging from about 6 to 10 inches, is pale-yellow or light-brown silt loam having a greasy slick feel. In cultivated fields it contains only a small quantity of organic matter, hut in wooded areas a thin covering of leaf mold is present. The subsoil, to a depth ranging from about 18 to 24 inches, is deep-yellow or yellow silty clay loam or heavy silt loam, which is friable and crumbly. This material has a smooth flourlike feel when rubbed between the fingers, also a greasy feel, owing to the presence of a large quantity of fine mica scales. This layer grades into pale-yellow silt loam containing specks and streaks of tight gray, which extends to a depth ranging from about 30 to 40 inches and contains a large quantity of finely divided mica scales. Below this is a mingled almost white and yellowish-brown soft decomposed mica schist or talc schist, from which the soil is derived.
Variations occur in the depth color and texture of the surface. Areas of this soil grade into Talladega loam on one side and into Ashe loam on the other. In a few places the soil is brown rather heavy silt loam or clay loam. In many places, the soft rock lies near the surface and there is only a thin layer of subsoil. In a few places where the surface relief is fairly smooth, the subsoil may extend to a depth ranging from 4 to 5 feet.
The surface relief of Chandler silt loam ranges from gently rolling and mountainous to areas with rather precipitous slopes. The crests of the ridges represent the smoothest areas of the soil. Many of the hill slopes are too steep for cultivation. Drainage is everywhere excellent. The cultivated slopes erode badly, and gullies are regularly formed. When kept in permanent pasture this land suffers from sheet erosion, owing to the trampling of cattle and over-grazing. Large areas once farmed or pastured have been abandoned and are now reverting to forest. This is one of the poorer soils of the county, which is reflected in the appearance of the houses, barns, and general surroundings. The poorness of this soil is owing mainly to its physical characteristics. which are such as to make it subject to serious erosion. Inherently. it is as high in potash and other plant-food elements as the Ashe or Porters soils of granitic origin.
Chandler silt loam may rightly be termed the light-colored equivalent of Talladega loam. It is somewhat finer in texture, less productive, and more subject to erosion than Talladega loam. It is used for practically the same crops. but the yields are less. Only a small percentage of the land is under cultivation. The tree growth on it is good, and the soil seems to be especially well suited to the growing of white pine. Pasture grasses do not hold on this soil as well as on the Ashe and Porters soils of the granite soils group, and cultivation has to be carried on more carefullv in order to prevent washing and gullying.
Talladega loam.-Talladega loam has a light-brown or reddish-yellow surface soil about 6 inches thick. It is mellow, friable, and has a slightly greasy feel. The subsoil. which extends to a depth ranging from 18 to 24 inches. is yellowish-red or light-red clay loam or silty clay loam. containing a large quantity of fine mica scales which impart a shiny appearance and a greasy feel to the soil. This material bakes on becoming very dry. but otherwise it is very friable. It grades into reddish -yellow light. friable, micaceous loam, and this, at various depths, passes into the disintegrated soil composed of mica schists and other fine-grained rocks. Considerable variation occurs in the color, thickness and consistence of the subsoil. In some places it ranges from 3 to 4 feet in depth, and in other places it is very thin, and the soft rock comes near the surface, or even outcrops.
On top of the broader smoother ridges, where sheet erosion has not progressed so rapidly the surface soil is brown or reddish-brown clay loam or silty clay loam to a depth ranging from 6 to 12 inches. The color resembles that of Cecil loam mapped in the eastern part of the county. Included also in mapping are a few spots of Chandler silt loam and Porters loam.
Several large areas of Talladega loam occur in the southern and southeastern parts of the county. Some of the largest are southeast of Independence along New River and along the North Carolina State line. A number of small bodies lie east of New River in the southeastern part of the county, and a large area surrounds Longview Church.
This soil is developed in the so-called “river-hill section” of the county. Most of the larger areas occupy the steep hillsides on both sides of New River. The surface relief is strongly hilly. Many deep gullies have been formed on the steeper slopes, giving a broken, rough, choppy surface relief. After erosion has once broken through the surface soil, the underlying material erodes very easily. Large areas, once cultivated or in pasture, have been abandoned on accomit of erosion and are now reverting to forest.
Although Talladega loam is a slightly deeper and stronger soil than Chandler silt loam, it is not so good as Ashe loam or Porters loam. Because of its steep surface and strong tendency to gullying, it cannot be farmed so easily as Porters loani or Ashe loam. Pasture grasses do not hold so well on this soil, and trampling over the pastures by cattle soon breaks the sod and erosion begins. On the smoother areas, where there is a brown capping of soil, crop yields are fairly good, but in general yields are low. Corn produces from 5 to 15 bushels an acre. In places where the surface relief is favorable, this soil produces good apples.
Perhaps the best use for this land is forestry. White pine, especially, thrives on Talladega loam.
SOILS FROM SANDSTONE AND SLATE
The third group of soils, locally known as the “sandstone and slate soils”, includes the soils of the Muskingum series and Ranger silt loam. These soils occur on high ridges and mountains along the northern border of the county, forming a rather continuous body, particularly from Fries to the western boundary. The Muskingum soils are derived from light-gray or brownish-gray sandstones. The surface soils are brown, mellow, and friable, and the subsoils are brownish-yellow friable and crumbly clay loams. The underlying sandstone rocks are everywhere near the surface. Therefore the subsoil is thin or, in some places, lacking.
These soils are naturally low in the mineral plant-food elements, because the sandstones from which they are derived are low in potash and iron-bearing minerals. The organic-matter content also is low.
Ranger silt loam is readily distinguished from the Muskingum soils by the purple or blue cast of both surface soil and subsoil. This soil is derived from a purple slate or massive fine-grained rock, and the soil is naturally silty or finer in texture and slightly more productive than the Muskingum soils.
Only a comparatively small percentage of the soils of this group is cleared and cultivated. Some of Muskingum stony loam and much of its steep phase are incliided in the Unak a National Forest. Sheet erosion has been active on these soils, but gullying cannot become deep because the bedrock is near the surface.
In general the same type of farming is practiced on these soils as on the granite soils, but crop yields are much lower and the pasture grasses are of poorer quality. The buildings, farm equipment, livestock, crops, and pastures on these sandstone and slate soils indicate less prosperous conditions than those prevailing on the granite soils.
Muskingum loam.-The 6- to 12-inch surface soil of. Muskingum loam ranges from grayish-brown to light-brown loam grading into brownish-yellow loam in the lower 2 or 3 inches of the a er. It is very friable, mellow, and easily tilled. In some areas this layer contains a noticeable amount of fine sand or very fine sand. In some places the surface soil is dark brown, owing to an accumulation of considerable organic matter. The subsoil is brownish-yellow fine sandy clay extending to a depth ranging from 21 to 40 inches. Below this is soft light-colored sandstone. The subsoil is crumbly and friable and in places is very thin, as the soft disintegrated rock lies within a few inches of the surface soil. Locally the subsoil in small areas is yellowish-red or reddish-brown flue sandy clay. A few sandstone fragments are scattered over the surface and mixed with the surface soil and subsoil in places.
Muskingum loam is developed in the northeastern part of the county northwest of Galax and in the extreme northern part. All the land is well drained, as its surface relief ranges from rolling to steeply sloping through out the mountainous country. Practically no gullying has taken place but considerable sheet erosion has moved much of the surface soil from the higher to the lower positions.
Probably 50 percent of the land is cleared and used for the production of subsistence crops and for pasture. Although this is not a good pasture-grass soil and does not ordinarily produce a good sod, when properly treated some of the flatter areas which have the best moisture conditions afford fair grazing. Most of the soil can be cultivated, but the steeper parts should be left in forest. Corn yields range from about 15 to 25 bushels an acre. A smaller acreage is devoted to the production of wheat, yields of which are in general low. The yield of beans is fair, but much lower than the yield obtained on the Porters or Ashe soils. Apples do well on this soil. Potatoes and garden vegetables suited to this climate are successfully grown.
Muskingum stony loam.-Muskingum stony loam differs essentially from Muskingum loam in that a large quantity of sandstone fragments is scattered over the surface, the suhsoil layer is generally thinner, and the rocks lie nearer the surface. The surface soil is a light shade of grayish~brown loam from 3 to 7 inches thick. The soil is yellow or reddish-brown fine sandy clay to a depth ranging from 18 to 30 inches, where it passes into yellow or red disintegrated sandstone or into sandy clay and sandstone fragments, and these, in turn, into bedrock. In many places, however, the subsoil is extremely thin, and bedrock lies near the surface or even outcrops. The rock fragments are blocky and angular, and they range from one half inch to 6 inches in diameter, some of them being even larger. The outcropping of solid rock occurs on the steeper slopes.
This soil occurs along the entire northern border of the county, occupying a large, almost continuous body that is broken only by areas of Muskingum stony loam, steep phase. A large part of this soil in Grayson County is included in the Unaka National Forest. The surface relief is slightly rougher than that of the loam.
This is one of the poorer soils of the county, and its best use is for forestry. The stand of trees is in general smaller and of poorer quality than those on the Ashe and Porters soils.
Some of the areas which have the thickest subsoil and fairly smooth surface relief are used for the production of apples. The quality of the fruit and the yield in such areas is good where the trees have been given good care and the soil heavily fertilized with the proper ingredients. Yields of corn and hay are low, 15 bushels an acre being about the average for corn. Pasture grasses do not yield well on this soil. Gullying and erosion, however, are not so noticeable on this soil as on the so called “isinglass soils” of the rougher hilly section of the county. This soil cannot erode very deeply because bedrock is everywhere near the surface.
Muskingum stony loam, steep phase.-Muskingum stony loam, steep phase, is rough stony land. It occupies the roughest sections of the mountainous part of the sandstone and shale soil areas in Grayson County. It is steep, rough, and broken in surface relief an has very little surface soil or subsoil over the rock. In fact, in many places the bedrock outcrops. Large loose rocks are scattered over the surface, in addition to the numerous outcrops of solid rock. In only a few places is the soil of sufficient depth to support a fair tree growth.
Muskingum stony loam, steep phase, occurs in large areas along the northern border of the county. Most of it is included in the Unaka National Forest. Under present economic conditions the only use to which the land can be put is forestry. However, it must be borne in mind that the tree growth on this steep soil is the smallest and poorest in quality of any in the county. It consist of a scrubby growth of chestnut, scrub oak, chinquapin, and hazelnut.
Ranger silt loam.-The color of Ranger silt loam renders this soil rather distinctive in appearance. In most places, the color from a short distance has a bluish-gray or purplish slate-gray cast. The surface soil, to a depth ranging from about 3 to 7 inches, is smooth, mellow, and friable slate loam. It is underlain, to a depth ranging from 7 to 24 inches, by bluish-gray or purplish-gray silty clay loam which grades into, or is underlain by, slate or schist rock. The rock in places is massive, p orous, and soft and in some places lies very near the surface. Both the surface soil and subsoil assume the color of the rock from which they are derived.
Near Trout Dale the soil varies considerably in color, texture, and depth. The surface soil of some of it is very dark ray, whereas in other places it is distinctly pinkish gray. The soil also varies from a slatelike color or slightly purplish gray to yellowish brown or even reddish brown in places.
Ranger silt loam is one of the less extensive soils of the county, and it occurs in a few fair-sized areas in the northwestern part. The largest bodies lie southwest and east of Trout Dale, southwest of Bartons Chapel, and northwest of Lundy School. This soil occupies hilly and steep slopes and some of the tops of the mountain ridges. It is hilly and mountainous around Trout Dale.
This soil is considered slightly more productive than the Muskingum soils, and a larger proportion of it has been cleared and used.
AGRICULTURAL METHODS AND MANAGEMENT, AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE BEST UTILIZATION OF GRAYSON COUNTY SOILS
The farmers of Grayson County do not have a large cash income, but they are prosperous. Everyone has a good garden. It is necessary to produce very little food and feed, the fertilizer bill is small,and the farmers do most of their own work. Under such conditions, a seemingly small cash income will support a prosperous people.
The high yields obtained on the best farms are the result of better rotations, lime, more legumes, and better fertilization, and not because of a great natural difference in the fertility of the different soils. As a matter of fact, most of the soils can be raised to a high state of productivity if good soil-management practices are followed. The average yields are the result of poor management. Rotation and soil-management practices are not generally such as will maintain the fertility of the soil. Cultivated land is frequently left bare. The legume acreage is small in comparison to the total crop acreage. The county agent estimates that only one twentieth enough lime is used. The average application of fertilizer for field crops is 200 pounds an acre, regardless of the kind of fertilizer, crop, or soil. Thesmall grains, dry beans, and 80 or 90 percent of the corn are the field crops to which fertilizer is applied.
Most of the lime used is ground limestone which is conveniently and cheaply supplied from a zinc mine located just across the county line in Wythe County, where lime is produced as a by-product, and from other plants in the nearby limestone valleys. A small plant in the western part of Grayson County at Grant supplies some ground limestone to that community. Some burnt and hydrated lime is brought in from plants in the limestone valleys. Until recently superphosphate (acid phosphate) was about the only form of commercial fertilizer used. Even now it is 60 percent or more of the total amount. The other fertilizers used are of such analyses as 0-10-4, 0-12-5,. 114~l0~2, 2-8-2, 2-12-4, 4-16-4, and 6-18-6. The highest analyses have so far been used only experimentally. Most of the livestock is fed on the land where the manure is needed, and therefore very little of the manure is lost.
Such a program is the foundation of a sound conservative system of agriculture. The full success of the program is not realized until, and unless, it is carried out efficiently. With the approval of the extension specialists at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, some suggestions for improving the existing practices are given as follows:
The deficiency in the food and feed crop requirements should be made up. This should be br6ught about by increased acre yields rather than through an increased acreage. Present yields are no better than the average for the State.
A more discriminating use of the land should be the first step. Soils such as Muskingum stony loam, Ashe coarse sandy loam, steep phase, Talladega loam, and Chandler silt loam are poorly suited to food and feed crops but are well suited to forests. Other soils, as described in the Soils and Crops section of this report, are best suited to certain crops.
More carefully planned rotations which would keep the land covered at all times, especially in winter, is the next step for soil improvement. A legume, preferably clover, should be in the rotation every 3 or 4 years. The steepness of most of the land makes a long rotation, and as little plowing as possible, desirable.
As is common practice among the best farmers, all land should be limed once m the rotation. All the soils of Grayson County are acid, some more so than others. Generally speaking, the deeper-red and darker-colored soils are the most acid and the light-colored more or less sandy soils, such as Muskingum stony loam and Ashe coarse sandy loam, are the least acid. An abundance of lime is available at reasonable prices. The only handicap to its use is the rather long haul from the railroad over much of the county. Just as the different crops vary in fertilizer requirements so do the different soils vary. These questions should receive more serious attention. Great economy could be effected by more nearly using the kind of fertilizer the different crops and soils need. Individual farmers should work this problem out for themselves. Muskingum stony loam and Ashe coarse sandy loam are comparatively low in potash and need about twice as much as the other soils of the county. However, a complete fertilizer (one containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) is recommended for all soils and crops when the land is in an average state of fertility. For land that will produce 45 or more bushels of corn an acre, superphosphate is suitable, except for Muskingum stony loam and Ashe coarse sandy loam, which should receive an 0-12-5 fertilizer. Corn should receive from 200 to 300 pounds an acre, small grains from 300 to 400 pounds, and hay about the same as small grains. The present custom of fertilizing all crops and soils with the same fertilizer at the rate of rarely more than 200 pounds an acre is not efficient. The quality of the fertilizer, as well as the kind, is also deserving of attention. Finally, the selection of the proper variety of good quality seed is important.
Space will not allow a more thorough discussion, but as Grayson County is behind much of Virginia in methods of growing crops, the farmers will profitibly giving further study to the following points, to which attention is called:
- Selection of the crop to suit the soil,
- better rotations,
- more lime and legumes (4) more fertilizer an acre of the kind to suit the particular crop and soil, and
- better seed of the right Variety.
In a livestock country, such as Grayson County, pasture grasses are important. Three times as much land is devoted to pasture as to all other crops combined. This important source of wealth at present receives no attention. By proper treatment and management, pastures can be made more profitable just as can other crops. The time to begin grazing in the spring and the time to stop in the fall should be studied, as overgrazing is injurious. Finally, pastures should be fertilized and imed just as other crops are. In the light of present knowledge the following pasture treatment is recommended:
- Top dressing with applications ranging from 400 to 500 pounds of lime per acre once every 6 or 8 years. Neither the lime nor superphosphate will give best results when used alone.
- Fairly good results are obtained with a top dressing of superphosphate alone applied at a rate ranging from 400 to 500 pounds an acre.
- The fertilizer and lime should be applied as soon as possible after plant growth starts in the spring, never later than May 1.
- Weeds should be mowed off in August.
- If there is a heavy stand of broomsedge the land should be disked and seeded with 2 pounds of white Dutch clover, 4 pounds of alsike, 3 pounds of redtop, and 10 pounds of Kentucky bluegrass an acre.
- On bare spots, a mixture of 14 pounds of orchard grass, 6 pounds of sheep fescue, 3 pounds of redtop, and 4 pounds of alsike an acre should be sown, after applying manure to the land and making a shallow seed bed.
Cultivation or seeding does not pay except as noted under recommendations 5 and 6. Results should not be expected so quickly as on cultivated crops. In fact, maximum results usually will not be obtained until about the end of the fourth year, although improvement is noticed in less time. The first effect seen is a noticeably larger amount of clover.
These recommendations are for pastures that are considered fairly good. Some nitrogen in the fertilizer will give quicker results than superphosphate alone, but on account of the cost of nitrogen it probably does not pay to use it except on the poor fields. A complete fertilizer should be used on poor pastures. On sandy soils the proportion of potash should be increased.
According to Litton, Grayson County is particularly well adapted for raising beef cattle and sheep. In producing these two classes of livestock it is possible to utilize a greater amount of land to advantage, help improve the productivity of the soil, and send to market a finished product that is readily salable.
The consuming public is becoming more and more discriminating in favor of big -quality foods. This is particularly true of the urban classes, on whom the farmers are dependent for the sale of most of their meat animals. And, if the producers do not supply animals of good type that will dress out the highest percentage of high-quality cuts, some substitute is made. Especially is this true in supplying the market with spring lambs.
The three phases that control the production of quality in animals are: (1) breeding, (2) feeding, an (3) care. Grayson County is noted for its use of better sires, but to be able to continue this improvement it is necessary to give careful attention to the selection of uniform sires by all the producers. Not only must they be purebred, but they must have good quality and correct conformation. The breeding females must be constantly culled for production. Each animal retained for use in the herd or flock should be better than the one replaced. By following this system, it will be possible to improve the quality of the animals.
The beef animal and tbe sheep are built to handle large quantities of roughage and pasture. In feeding market animals a system of more economical crop production and pasture improvement by fertilization should be used. Much can be done in the way of economical feeding by the proper combinations of feeds that the animals may make more efficient use of them.
In general, and taken over a period of years, grazing tbe cow herd will prove more profitable than grazing heavy steers. Most farms in Grayson County do not produce enough grain to winter-finish cattle. The trend in consumer demands is for light cuts of beef well finished. Keeping tbese facts in mind, it would seem that a cow-and-calf project would prove the most economical phase of beef pro. duction. The heavy-steer producer and the feed-lot buyer are always on the lookout for cattle with more quality and early-maturing characteristics.
According to O’Byrne, there are on almost every farm, areas which, because of poor soil, steep slope, excessive rocks, or abuse, are unsuited to either cultivation or pasture. Timber must be grown on these areas if they are to contribute to the farm income, an the will yield income in accordance with the way they are managed. If allowed to produce slow-growing trees of low quality, the yield and returns will be low. If well stocked with valuable species, protected from fire and excessive grazing, and cut with due regard to the future, the wooded areas should become important contributors to the farm income. It all comes down to a question as to the wise use of land. The more intensive uses to which soils may be put are to cultivated crops and pasture, but if texture and slope are such that the soil washes away under such use, timber becomes the best permanent crop. This soil survey has shown definitely that certain soil types are ideal for cultivation or for pasture, and that other soil types, because of their loose texture, can be successfully cultivated on moderate slopes only. Still others are so lacking in fertility or have been so ruined by faulty use, that they cannot be profitably used for either cultivated crops or for pasture.
If this soil-survey report is to be of full value to the farmers of Grayson County each of them must study his own farm in the light of the facts brought out and determine to what use each part of his farm is best suited, whether it be crop, crop and pasture rotation, permanent pasture, or timber growing; In considering how they should be treated, those areas which are indicated as beina beet suited to timber growing will be discussed under four general heads, based on their present conditions, as follows: (1) Virgin-forest land, (2) cut-over forest land, (3) soils subject to erosion (including those now badly gullied), and (4) white pine thickets.
Virgin-forest areas are few, and most of them are situated in comparatively inaccessible places. Little can be done with the timber until improved markets or transportation facilities make it financially possible. Assuming that such areas are to be continued in forest, it is recommended that the overmature trees be marketed just as soon as this can be done at a profit, but that abundant provision be made to reseed the areas made vacant by their removal, even though it may involve leaving a few overmature trees. So far as may be possible, inferior trees, both species and individuals, should be cut or girdled, in order that their places may be taken by young trees of greater promise.
Most of the cut-over forests are in progress of being converted to pasture land. The owner, however, would do well to assure himself that the soil and slope are such that the pasture may be maintained without excessive erosion and that the value of the forage crop will be sufficient to justify the expense of clearing. If the land does not meet these requirements it should be maintained in timber. If seedling growth of the better varieties is present in sufficient numbers to insure a full stand, the cull trees of all descriptions should be removed as rapidly as the wood can be utilized. If insufficient seedling growth is present, it may be necessary to retain some of the better individuals from among the cull trees, until they have had time to reseed the area. Where seed trees of the more desirable species are lacking it will be necessary to resort to artificial reforestation.
Soils subject to erosion should be reforested as rapidly as possible and kept in timber, at least until such time as the economic situation may justify the expense of adequate erosion control. That it was a mistake ever to have cleared many of the steep slopes in the Chandler and Talladega soil areas is shown by the large amount of land that has been gullied and abandoned. With even the most careful management, the surface soil on many of these areas is washing away faster than the natural weathering process can replace it. The result under such conditions is inevitable, and the sooner this fact is recognized and steps taken to reforest such lands the better.
Where seed trees are available, especially white pines, these areas reseed naturally and successfully. White pine and black locust seem to be the most suitable species.
White pine thickets mark the location of many fields that have been eroded and abandoned. It is of interest to note that these thickets all seem to be of about the same age (from 20 to 25 years old) and probably came in on land abandoned at the time of the business depression. in 1907. These white pines seem to be unusually thrifty and free from diseases that beset the trees farther north. They are, however, all young trees with many dead limbs extending to the ground. So long as these limbs persist the wood laid on will be knotty and consequently of low value. To correct this, it is suggested that the owner select about 150 trees an acre (this gives a spacing of about 17 feet each way) and prune off the dead branches to a height of 16 feet. This will insure at least one good clear log to each tree and will greatly enhance the value of the final crop. The unpruned trees are those that will be taken out from time to time in thinning operations.
The question, What trees are the most profitable to grow? cannot be answered without considering the soil. Each variety of tree makes its best growth under certain conditions, and under other condi- tions it will not thrive. In most virgin and cut-over forests, and on other land which has not been deprived of its natural fertility, the range is wide. Almost any of the trees discussed in the following paragraphs should do well. Before resorting to artificial reforestation, advice should be obtained from a forester thoroughly familiar with local conditions.
Black walnut is the most valuable cabinet wood native to the United States. It requires a fertile soil of good depth and rather high moisture content. It does not do well when grown in pure plantings but should be in a mixture with other hardwoods. It will not grow well with pines. A stand of, these. trees is best obtaind by planting the nuts as soon as they are mature. If held over the winter, the nuts should be stratified in moist sand.
Chestnut oak is probably the most valuable of the oaks. Its wood is regarded as the equal of white oak for most purposes, and in addition it yields tanbark that is frequently worth as much as the wood. This tree will grow on drier, thinner soils than white oak and will grow faster than white oak on good soils. A stand of chestnut oaks should be obtained by planting the acorns as soon as they fall.
Northern red oak, or water oak, grows more rapidly than white oak, and although its wood is not quite so strong as white oak, it sells for practically the same price. It requires a good soil with plenty of moisture for best development. When used in artificial reforestation, the acorns should be stratified over winter and planted in the spring.
Yellow poplar is typically a tree of the coves where, in the deep rich moist soils, it grows rapidly and to great size. Since soils of this type will be largely devoted to agricultural use, yellow poplar will be less important in the forests of the future than it was in those of the past. It is, however, a valuable tree that reseeds itself naturally by means of numerous wind-disseminated seeds.
Black locust seems to have occurred generally in the original forests and is one of the few trees to increase under agricultural conditions. This is probably owing to the fact that it sprouts vigorously from both root and stump and also to the fact that it does not interfere with the growth of grass. As a matter of fact, locust is a legume and therefore builds up the nitrogen content of the soil in which it grows. Locust is a conspicuous tree in many pastures and should be used considerably in reclaiming eroded soils. Its branching root system stops washing, and it seems to grow on almost any soil if drainage is good. As fence-post material, black locust is superior to any species native to this part of the country. When it is desired to plant black locust, the seed should be planted in rows in good soil and transplanted to the permanent location at the end of one growing season.
White pine is the characteristic tree of the lighter, looser soils and is particularly valuable in that it is able to thrive on soils very low in fertility. A loose soil of good depth seems to be the only requirement. This, together with the fact that white pine is a tree of rapid growth and high value, makes it the ideal tree for reforestation work on almost all the abandoned farm land. Wherever seed trees are available, white pine reseeds itself abundantly by means of its light, wind-blown seeds. White pine is particularly recommended for reclaiming those areas of Chandler, Talladega, Muskingum, and coarse-textured Ashe soils that have been unwisely cleared of tree growth.
Shortleaf pine is not so common or so valuable a tree as white pine, but it is better suited for planting on the heavier soils represented by the Porters soils. Like white pine, however, this tree will live and thrive on soils so depleted of fertility by unwise farming that the native hardwoods could not live.
The trees mentioned do not, of course, include all the worth:while trees. They do, however, include those that seem to be most worth encouraging. The natural forest for this section is mixed with hardwoods with a varying admixture of pine, and the tendency will always be to work back toward that type of forest.
SOILS AND THEIR INTERPRETATION
Grayson County lies in the high mountainous southwestern part of Virginia, at an altitude ranging from about 2,000 to 5,700 feet above sea level. Some of the mountains have very steep sl6pes, whereas the general surface relief consists of rounded, comparatively smooth slopes. All the land is exceptionally well drained, except narrow strips of first-bottom land. Owing to the high elevation, the climate is cool, the rainfall heavy, and fogs are prevalent.
Grayson County is in the region of gray-brown podzolic soils, although in the eastern p art of the county, at the lower elevations, small areas of red soils, which typically belong to the yellow and red soils region, are developed. The soils have been formed under a forest cover of deciduous trees. They range in color from gray brown to brown. In the wooded areas there is a thin layer of leaf mold on the surface and a noticeable amount of organic matter in the first 2 or 3 inches of soil. In the coves and on the smoother parts of some of the highest mountains are areas with black surface soils which contain a large amount of organic matter. In one place on Whitetop Mountain a small area of peat has developed, being derived from the decay of mosses and ferns in addition to the forest debris.
In this cool climate the soils are frozen for a long time during the winter, and there has been less leaching out of the soluble mineral elements and also of the Organic matter than in the soils of the Piedmont Plateau. The high elevation gives climatic conditions similar to those in the New England States. The soils, therefore, in texture, color, and friable consistence, are somewhat similar to the brown soils of southern New England.
One important characteristic about the soils in Grayson County is that they are young and have inmature profiles. The solum, over the greater part of the county is shallow, that is, it ranges from about 2 to 4 feet in thickness, except in a few places. This is owing to the fact that sheet erosion has kept close pace with the disintegration and decomposition of the underlying rocks. Another striking feature in connection with the solum is the absence of a definite line of demarcation between the A and B or between the B and C horizons, that is there a gradation from the A horizion into the B horizon. There has been comparatively little eluviation in the A horizon or illuviation in the B horizon. The soils are residual, that is, they have been formed in situ from the underlying rocks, except the narrow strips of alluvial material. The soils express the inhibiting influence of the parent material, that is, the minerals contained in the rock occur throughout the soil profile. There is a close relationshipbetween the soils and the geology of the county, and this is distinctly shown by the soil map. The Soils contain a large amount of potash, as shown in table 5. [Omitted here].
R. J. Holden, professor of geology at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Va., identified the rock formations in Grayson County. There are extensive areas of granite and granite gneiss covering roughly the south-central and southwestern parts of the county and extending in broken areas over the southeastern part. One area of fine-grained rhyolite occurs in the southwestern part, and areas of coarse-grained granite arc scattered over the belt, particularly in the Comers Rock vicinity. The weathering of these rocks Ilas given rise to the Ashe, Porters, and Cecil soils. Small areas of homblende schist and dark-colored basic intrusive rock are responsible for a part of the Cecil soil and also the spots of Rabun soil included in Porters loam.
A profile description of Ashe loam taken one half mile south of Fall ville from an area in pasture grass is as follows:
A. 0 to 8 Inches, light-brown mellow and friable loam.
B1. 8 to 30 inches, light brownish-yellow rather heavy clay loam or clay. The material In this layer is friable and crumbly, had no definite breakage or cleavage planes, and readily crushes to a friable mass.
B2. 30 to 42 inches, brownish-yellow clay loam which is lighter ill texture than the material In the layer above and also contains a considerable quantity of small mica scales.
C. At a depth of 54 Inches, mingled light-gray, almost white, and yellowish-gray disintegrated granite or gneiss.
The Porters soils differ from the Ashe mainly in having a brown A horizon and a reddish-brown B horizon. They are developed on lower elevations, usually from 1,500 to 2,500 feet above sea level, whereas the Ashe soils are typically developed at elevations ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 feet. There is a slight difference in climatic conditious at these elevations, which probably accounts for the reddish-brown color in the B horizon. The Cecil soils occur on still lower elevations than the Porters, and they have developed a decidedly heavy red B horizon.
Another important formation is the schist rocks, largely the mica schists, together with some chloritic schists. These rocks occur in bands running in a northeast-southwest direction through the southeastern part of the county. They are fine grained and contain a large quantity of finely divided mica scales, and they have produced soils with profiles differing in structural characteristics from those of the Ashe and Porters soils. The Talladega soils are somewhat similar in color characteristics to the Pbrters soils, and the Chandler soils have somewhat the appearance of the Ashe soils. The Talladega and Chandler soils differ from the Porters and Ashe in that they contain a high percentage of finely divided mica scales, particularly in the B horizon and underlying material. The mica scales give to the soil a slick, greasy feel and render the material very friable and crumbly. This probably accounts in large measure for the heavy erosion and deep gullying in many places on the Talladega and Chandler soils. In some places, however, the solum is deeper in these soils than in the Ashe and Porters.
Across the northern border of the county are areas of light~colored sandstone and conglonierates. These formations are entirely different from the granitic formations, and the resulting soils are also different. These sandstones give rise to the Muskinguin soils which have brown A horizons, brownish-yellow B horizons, and are very friable throughout. The solum is very thin except in the smoother-surfaced areas. Muskingum soils contain more sand, less feldspathic material, are more friable, more porous, and more thoroughly leached of alkaline earths than the Ashe and Porters soils.
In close proximity to the sandstones, in some places lying between the sandstones and the granites, are scattered areas of slate or shale. The material is purplish-gray soft slate or massive light-colored soft rock, probably volcanic ash. The weathering of this rock has given rise to tbe Ranger soils. The peculiar color of the Ranger soils is inherited from the parent rock, as the solum of the Ranger soils is very thin and the profile is extremely young.
Developed in the first bottoms are narrow strips of recent alluvial materials which have been washed from the surrounding uplands or from similar soils in other localities, brought down by the streams, and deposited during times of overflow. Fresh materials are constantly being added. These materials are so young that no uniform profile has developed and besides, poor drainage would undoubtedly retard the development of a normal profile. They are classed as the Congaree and Wehadkee soils.
Grayson County lies in the high mountainous section of the south-western part of Virginia, bordering the, North Carolina State line. It comprises an area of 451 square miles. The range in elevation is from about 2,000 to 5,700 feet above sea level. The temperature is moderate, and rainfall is abundant.
The Ashe and Porters soils are the most important soils in the county and cover the greater part of it. These, together with the Cecil soils, are the granite soils and they dominate the agriculture of the county and produce the best pasture grasses. The Congaree and Wehadkee soils, which are naturally strong and productive, are used for the production of corn and y. Some areas of Talladega loam, Chandler Silt loam, Ranger silt loam, and Muskingum loam are under cultivation and are used to some extent for pasture. The steep phases of the Ashe and Muskingum soils, the rougher-surfaced areas of the stony members of these series, and parts of the Talladega, Chandler, and Ranger soils, are too rough in many places for pastures and can be used only for forestry.
The soils are dominantly loams in texture, being mellow friable, and containing a comparatively high percentage of organic matter. The soils, particularly in the subsoils, are rich in potash. They are continually being added to by new material formed from the decay mg underlying rocks. These factors, together with the climate, favor the growth of bluegrass and other good pasture grasses.
Grayson County is one of the outstanding counties in the State for pasture grasses and for the raising of livestock. A large part of the land is cleared, and about three fourths of the cleared land is in pasture. The remaining one fourth is generally used in the production of corn and hay, although some wheat, oats, rye, buck-wheat, and birdeye beans are grown.
Livestock, which is the source of about 75 percent of the gross income of the farmers, is comprised mostly of beef cattle, but several thousand sheep and a large number of turkeys are also raised. There are two reasons for such an extensive livestock industry in Grayson County. In the first place, the surface relief of a large part of the mountain soils prohibits the economical and convenient use of machinery or even ordinary farming implements, and in the second place, the soils and climate favor the production of pasture grasses and the raising of beef cattle.
In addition to the staple products, such as hay and corn, and the raising of livestock, some revenue is derived from the sale of sour cream, birdeye beans, cabbage, and potatoes. Garden vegetables of excellent quality are successfully grown, and the soils and climate favor the production of apples. A self-sufficing agriculture can be maintained over the greater part of the county.