Major Types of Soil in India And Their Characteristics
How Many Types of Soil Are Found in India?
There are eight major types of soil in India, but first, let’s understand the meaning of soil.
The upper layer of the earth’s crust is formed by soil capable of supporting life. It is made up of loose rock materials and humus.
The soil-forming processes are mainly influenced by the parent rock, climate, vegetation, and animal life. According to the definition, it is a mixture of substances composed of minerals, water, air, decayed plants, and animal matter; it includes all the things which support life on earth together.
Table of Contents
Major Types of Soil In India
In India, the central board of soil conservation has divided soils into 8 broad categories, which are:
Alluvial Soil in India
The alluvium is the fine particles of rocks carried out and stored by running water at the river banks, creating fertile soil, namely alluvial soil.
The most important and widespread category of the soil is alluvial soil. Alluvial soil in India covers about 15 lakh sq. km area in India, which means 46 percent of the total area. It is rich in potash, phosphorous, and lime but lacks nitrogen and humus in it.
It is the most fertile soil, and it supports any kind of crop in it. Basically, this soil is suitable for Kharif and Rabi crops like cereals, cotton, oilseeds, and sugarcane. The Ganga-Brahmaputra valley is very useful for jute cultivation.
Further, the significant microorganisms present in this soil are Bacillus, Actinomycetes, Streptomyces, Penicillium, and Chaetomium.
This kind of soil is basically found in the northern plains from Punjab to West Bengal in the west, Assam in the east, Bihar, Haryana, and Orissa. They have been brought down and layaway by three great Himalayan rivers- Ganga, Brahmaputra, Sutlej, and their tributaries.
Mostly all the large river basins are made up of alluvial soil. These rivers contain a large amount of alluvial soil in their basins.
We can divide the alluvial soil in India into various parts that are as follows: –
- KHADAR– The fertile ones are known as khadar. Khadar soil is lighter in color than bhangar soil. It is found in the new river beds.
- BHANGAR– Bhangar is the older version of alluvial soil, and we can also say that it is the older version of khadar. It is less fertile in comparison to khadar soil. Bhangar soil is darker in color.
- Bhabar: It is found at the foot of the Himalayas and is generally found in low-lying areas. It is assembled with stony pebbles and coarse-grained semi-soils. Many kinds of cereal grow well in this soil.
- Usher: when aged sediments lose some of the minerals and nutrients and gradually become infertile, it is called the usher. It is sometimes detrimental to plant growth.
A recent update in Bihar (State of India) – One of the sweet spots of Alluvial soil and having highly fertile soil suitable for agriculture – is suffering through natural disasters every year. As per a recent report, out of 3 million hectares of fertile soil, 2.45 lakh hectares are under the “high flood risk” region. The same report shows events of high-magnitude floods from 1998 to 2019 and some drought events in 2021. This creates an urgency to take measures against the upcoming extremities for food loss.
Let’s go deeper into understanding the remaining major soils of India.
Black or Regur Soil
- These are volcanic soils of west-central India, covering 5.46 lakh sq. km of the area. They are rich in magnitude, ferrous, and humus, suitable for cotton, coarse grains, sunflower, groundnuts and citrus fruits, oilseeds, etc.
- Other essential elements of black soils include 6-8% of magnesium carbonate and lime, 9-10% iron oxide, 10% alumina, and less than 0.5% of potash. However, this soil has poor nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and organic carbon content.
- As it is named black soil, its color is also black. They are also called cotton soils because of cotton cultivation in it. They usually Retain the moisture in them and become sticky in the rainy season.
- A few demerits of this soil type include low infiltration rate, little workable moisture, poor moisture, drainage stress, and deep soils prone to salinity and sodicity in subsoil if irrigated.
- This soil is found in the areas where 100cm average rainfall occurs (often between 50 to 80cm).
- This soil covers the plateaus of Maharashtra, Southern Madhya Pradesh, and Saurashtra, and it extends eastwards in the south along the Godavari and Krishna valleys.
- Black soils contain about 30 – 80% clay and are considered argillaceous. A pH of more than 7.8 to 9.4 is seen in the calcareous type of clay.
- The black appearance of the soil is due to the presence of clay-humus complexes and titaniferous magnetic materials.
Red-Brown or Semi-Arid Soil
- Red soil in India covers approximately 3.5 lakh sq. km. These are loamy soils that become fertile with proper irrigation.
- After the metamorphic and igneous rock weathering, this type of soil is formed and seen in low rainfall regions.
- The pH level of red soils ranges from 6.0 to 7.5, with a high concentration of iron and aluminum (about 30-40%).
- It lacks humus, phosphoric acid, and nitrogen in higher regions but is rich in potash and alumina content. It is sandy and supports potatoes, groundnuts, and oilseeds in the lower reaches. Red soil also supports green gram, red gram, castor seed, etc.
- Because of its high iron oxide content, it is red in color. Red soil covers the eastern part of the peninsular region comprising the Chota Nagpur plateau, Telangana, the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu plateau, and eastern Chhattisgarh.
- Besides, it is also seen in southeast Maharashtra, some regions in Karnataka, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Union territories of Dadra Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and Puducherry.
Laterites And Lateritic Soil
In Latin, the word “later” means “brick.” And the laterites and lateritic soils are seen in regions with alternate wet and dry seasons – tropical and subtropical areas.
- This soil covers around 2.48 lakh sq. km area (in India), where 200cm and above rainfall occurs. Laterite soils are generally formed under high temperatures as well as high rainfall.
- This soil is rich in iron and aluminum oxides but lacks nitrogen, phosphorous, acid potash (sometimes high), and organic matter. Laterite soils are red in color. As it is the end-product of weathering, it is indefinitely durable and cannot be weathered much further.
- They are found in south Maharashtra, covering small parts of Tamil Nadu, Orissa, and a small part of Chota Nagpur in the north and Assam, Meghalaya in the north-east in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, and Orissa.
- It is not as fertile as alluvial soil. So, it is unsuitable for agriculture due to the high content of acidity and inability to retain moisture, but when manured and irrigated, some of the crops can be cultivated in the laterite soil, e.g., rice, ragi, sugarcane, tea, coffee, rubber, cinchona, and cashew nuts.
Forest And Mountain Soil
- It is less developed soil of hilly terrains. These soils basically have covered 8.67% of the total area of India, i.e., 2.85 lakhs sq. km.
- This soil is rich in humus, so it is acidic in nature. It is not very fertile. They are also very susceptible to soil erosion.
- We can see two different types of soil formation in regions containing forest and mountain soil. These are such as: – Soils with acid humus and low base status. Soils formed with the low acidic or neutral and high base condition – brown forest soil.
- The first category has a pH of 4.5 to 6.0 and is poor in phosphorus content due to its precipitation with iron and aluminum.
- The pH of brown forest soils ranges from 6.0 to 8.0.
- Forest soils are rich in humus but lack potash, lime, and phosphorus. They can grow crops like tea, coffee, spices, and fruit with good fertilizers. Mountain soil is mainly suitable for orchard crops (fruit- or nut-producing trees also feature extensive gardens).
- The forest and mountain soils are found in the West Bengal, Jammu, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh,
- Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Uttarakhand.
Saline And Alkaline Soil (Salt-Affected Soil)
- It covers an area of approximately 68,000 sq. km. This soil is spread in semi-arid regions of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu.
- The formation of salt-affected soil happens by weathering un-decomposed and mineral-based elements. As a result, some mineral components such as sodium carbonate, chlorides of magnesium calcium salts, and sulfate are released. After being carried out by rivers and mixing with the subsoil of some regions, these elements are from salt-affected soils.
- There are two types of salt-affected soil seen in India: saline and sodic/alkaline soil. The pH of saline soils is generally less than 8.5, whereas the pH of the second one is more than 8.5.
- One of the significant limitations of this soil is excessive sodium content, which reduces the soil’s productivity and causes a deficiency in micronutrients and some other nutrient availability.
- They have a good amount of alkalis and salts, and that is why they are known as saline and alkaline soils.
- This soil has become calcimorphic (lime-rich parent material) and rich in sodium and magnesium. They support the cultivation of coarse grains and tobacco. They can be used for the cultivation of rice, cotton, bajra, sugarcane, wheat, barley, rhode grass, and sugar beet after mixing gypsum.
Peaty And Marshy Soil
- This soil is from wetland regions where drainage is poor. The peaty or marshy soil is rich in soluble salts and organic matter as one can find a large amount of organic matter in these soils but lacks phosphorous and potash in them. In some regions, they are used for rice and pineapple cultivation (as these have acid tolerance).
- In Kerala, where heavy rainfall and humidity are high, this type of soil is seen. And there is a name given to this soil after mixing with soluble salts by the localities – Kari.
- The marshy soil is known for a high proportion of vegetable matter in it. This soil is black in color with heaviness, and it is highly acidic
- (pH 4.0 due to the formation of sulphuric acid by the oxidized pyrites). Further, it contains 20-40% of organic matter. Peaty soil is mainly found in the western regions of Alappuzha district and Kottayam district.
- Marshy soils are found in the central portion of North Bihar and Almora district of Uttarakhand, in the coastal regions of West Bengal, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu.
Dry Region Desert Soil
- Desert soil covers an area of about 1.42 lakh sq. km and receives less than 50 cm of annual rainfall. This soil covers the entire area of Aravalli’s in Rajasthan and some parts of Punjab, Gujarat, and Haryana.
- It supports a low density of populations.
- This soil is sandy which supports the cultivation of coarse grains. It is rich in soluble salts and phosphorous but lacks nitrogen and organic matter in it.
- High temperature, poor water availability, and phosphorus precipitation are a few constraints that make this soil unsuitable for crop production. However, It can be fertile if irrigated properly. Crops, for e.g., wheat, groundnut, and Bajra, are grown on these types of soils. Some arid fruits like pomegranate, ber, and pearl millet are also cultivated on these soils.
- The presence of impure calcium carbonate or kankar prevents water filtration in desert soils. The salt concentration is 90-95%, whereas there is only 5-10% clay available.
- The pH level is between 7.2-9.2.
As we discussed, there are many types of soil in India, and knowing all is a good thing. Soil is under extremely important natural resource, especially in agricultural countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. So, we should conserve these soils properly and try to protect them from pollution and other hazardous things present in our environment.
In the above article, we have discussed major types of soil in India with their characteristics. If you like to edit or suggest something, then please reply in the comment section and also share it with your friends and family members.