The soils of Quitman County are derived from the alluvium of the Mississippi River bottoms. Two main classes of soil have been deposited here: The sandy and loamy and the clayey type. The loam soils, especially the courser varieties, contain quite a bit of clay. There is also silt found. On the list of soil-forming materials there are lime, clay, phosphorus, marls, and potassium.
Soil types are clay, clay loam, silty loam, and fine sandy loam.
The most outstanding series found in Quitman County may be divided into two main groups: Sharkey Soils and Sarpy Soils. These are opposite in nature, the Sharkey having heavy clay subsoils, and locally called “buckshot” land, and the Sarpy being composed of light-textured subsoils. In some small areas we have the Yazoo series, and in the southeast part of the county is an area of the Collins type.
Surface soils of the Sharkey series run from a snuff-color to drab, while the subsoils seem to be of several different decided colors, producing a mottled effect. In certain lowlands the surface soil is nearly black, this being caused by organic matter which has been left by water standing a greater part of the year. Also this matter is often deposited back from the principal drainage sources by this quiet overflow water. On drying, the soil cracks, and is locally known as “buckshot.”
Sarpy soils are characteristically known as brown on the surface, and lighter-brown in the subsoil. The texture is much lighter in the subsoil than at the surface. The surface color varies from place to place, running from brown to brownish-drab, or very dark, almost black when wet. The rather open structure of the subsoils and light texture give chance to good drainage in these soils.
The silty clay loam of the Yazoo series is found here but is not extensive. The top soil is of a brownish color and the subsoil is yellow. Due to the impervious character of the subsoil, it is much less productive than associated Sharkey soils.
In a certain part of the county, in the vicinity of Crowder (just on the dividing line of Panola and Quitman counties) is the Collins series, extremely light and pliable in texture. This is very rich, and would be highly productive except for the lack of proper drainage.
The Sharkey very firm sandy loam, of brown to light-brown color and heavier with depth, is crumbly, but becomes plastic when wet. It is well adapted to the raising of cotton, corn, oats, cowpeas, and forage crops. This type is well suited to rose culture.
The Sharkey clay, found in Quitman County, is so closely associated with other types that it is hard to state with accuracy its separate value. General rotation of crops greatly improves this, as well as other types. The color on the surface is of a rather mottled color, becoming somewhat lighter deeper down. The sub-soil is more plastic than the surface material. This soil can be plowed in a very wet condition, and any clods which form will crumble down and settle after intermittent periods of rainy and dry weather, which we usually have in the spring. It is known in Quitman County, as well as throughout the Mississippi bottoms, as “buckshot” land.
Sharkey silty clay loam is usually found between the areas of the Sarpy soils and the better drained phase of the Sharkey clay. It lies slightly higher as a rule, than the better-drained phase of the Sharkey clay and is high enough for successful cultivation, without artificial drainage. Cotton, corn, and forage crops grow abundantly here.
The Sarpy clay is a strong soil, and good yields are obtained without the use of a fertilizer. Originally, we found this soil heavily timbered with sweet gum, overcup oak, red oak, and pecan, with a thick undergrowth of cane. This clay is a dark-brown to a dark-drab clay on the surface, and turning into a yellowish brown-rusty brown and drab color. It is plastic to a good extent.
This surface soil of the Sarpy fine sandy loam consists of a light brown, loamy fine sand. In places, the subsoil passes from a yellowish brown to a mottled effect. The type seems to be of little importance. However, cotton does very well here, also Irish and sweet potatoes and cowpeas are raised on this type. This type, by reason of good drainage, is good for vegetables and melons.
The colors found in the Sarpy silt loam are light brown and yellowish-brown in the subsoil, while the surface is dark brown. The silt loam usually occurs just back from the Sarpy very fine sandy loam, and sometimes lies between that type and the Sarpy silty clay loam. It is strong soil, well suited to all the common crops, and where there is rotation in crops, it becomes highly productive. Red clover and lespedeza are grown as forage crops; also sorghum and sweet potatoes do well. There was on this soil much forest growth, consisting of cottonwood, sycamore, red oak, sweet gum, pecan and other hardwoods.
O’Neal, Jim, former county agent, Quitman County
Logan, William N., The Soils of Mississippi, Technical Bulletins, Numbers 4 and 7
Works Progress Administration for Mississippi, Source Material for Mississippi History, Quitman County, Vol. LX, Chapter III, pages 21-23, Compiled by State-Wide Historical Research Project, Susie V. Powell, State Supervisor, Illustrated, 1936-1938.