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In the terminology of North American agriculture, muck is a soil made up primarily of humus from drained swampland. It is known as black soil in The Fens of eastern England, where it was originally mainly fen and bog. It is used there, as in the United States, for growing specialty crops such as onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Holland Marsh, north of Toronto, Ontario, is the site of the Muck Crops Research Station, a part of the University of Guelph.
Muck farming on drained swamps is an important part of agriculture in New York, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida, where mostly vegetables are grown. American "muckers" often have roots from the Netherlands or Eastern Europe, where their ancestors practiced a similar type of farming. The soils are deep, dark colored, and friable, often underlain by marl, or marly clay. The muckland of Torrey Farms of Elba, New York, which covers the counties of Orleans, Niagara, and Genesee, is thought to be the largest continuous section of muckland in the world.
Muck farming is controversial, because the drainage of wetlands destroys wildlife habitats and results in a variety of environmental problems. It is unlikely that any more will be created in the United States, because of environmental regulations. It is prone to problems. As the soil is very light, windbreaks are necessary to protect these fields in dry weather. It also can catch fire and burn underground for months. Oxidation also removes a portion of the soil each year, so it becomes progressively shallower. Some muck land has been reclaimed and restored as wetlands for wildlife preserves.
The word muck has much usage in the English language, referring in some cases to agricultural soil, and in others to dirt in general, and animal dung in particular. Origins are probably from Norse, Danish, and Proto-Germanic roots referring to cow dung.
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- Barbagallo, Tricia (June 1, 2005). "Black Beach: The Mucklands of Canastota, New York" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-22.
- The Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, established on muck land returned as much as possible to the original state
- An example of a typical muck farming operation
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