Soils typical of semiarid regions are extensive in the lower elevations of the southern half of the state. These have developed by gradual weathering and leaching of coarse textured sands and gravels washed down from surrounding mountains. They create landscapes having many colors, varying between red, yellow, brown, and gray. Many of them retain characteristics acquired during cycles of heavier rainfall related to continental and alpine glaciers. They can be quite fertile, if irrigated, but if not properly managed can form dense subsurface layers, called caliche, that are in places harder than concrete.
In cooler and moister areas in the northern one-third of the state and along the eastern counties, soils typical of the Great Plains are common. These are dark colored, fine textured silts and clays similar to the soils found in the wheat belt of Kansas and Oklahoma. They are quite fertile and extensively cultivated for both dry-land and irrigated crops. In some places, older soils pre-dating the last glacial episode can be found. These are used extensively for agriculture, but also must be carefully managed to sustain their economic importance. The youngest soils are found along the Río Grande Valley and in the San Juan basin. They are irrigated for alfalfa production and a variety of other field crops. Thin soils and rock outcrops dominate the higher elevations in all of the mountain ranges throughout the state. For the most part these remain uncultivated. "New Mexico" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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