Types of Soil in India

Soil is the uppermost layer of the earth’s crust. It contains a mixture of fine powdered rock material and humus. Humus is the organic matter which is added to the soil by the decayed and decomposed remains of plants and animals. The presence of humus in soil makes it fertile. Soil is formed as a result of weathering, erosion and deposition of rock material. The process of soil formation is very slow. It may take thousands of years to complete 2 – 3 cm thick layer of soil.

Soil Types

There are various types of soils found in India and the formation of soil is primarily influenced by major factors such as climate, altitude and composition of bedrock etc. Disproportion in the annual distribution of rainfall in the country and excessive heat contribute special characters to the soils of the country.

The soils of the Sutlej – Ganga plain and the valleys of Narmada River and Tapti River are essentially the transported ones. The eight major types of soils in India are Laterite soils, Black soils, Desert soils, Red and Yellow soils, Saline soils, alluvial soils, Mountain soils and peat soils.

The various Types of Soils found in India

Laterite Soil in India

This is the soil of the tropical regions of the country. Laterite soil is available in those regions that receive heavy rainfall. This soil is poor in lime content and hence it is more acidic. It is basically red in colour because of the presence of iron oxides.

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Lateritic soils are well developed in the southern region of Western Ghats and Orissa`s Eastern Ghats. It is more popular in the coastal regions of Ratnagiri District and Malabar. This soil contains least moisture content. Laterite Soils are mostly found on the plateau in the east spreading partly over Orissa and Tamil Nadu, parts of Chhota nagpur and Meghalaya.

Black Soil in India

Black soils are alternatively known as Regur soils. They are black in colour as suggested by the name. The colour of the soil is black because of the presence of certain salts. However, in some places, presence of humus in the soil imparts its black colour. This soil becomes sticky when is wet owing to the high quantity of clay deposition.

Black soils are generally thin and sandy in the hilly regions of the country. It does not contain adequate nitrogen but it contains sufficient phosphorous required for the growth of the plants. Black soils can be found in the Deccan plateau and also in plateaus of Madhya Pradesh, Saurashtra, Malwa and Maharashtra.

Red and Yellow Soil in India

Red and Yellow soils are found in areas, which receive low rainfall. They generally develop on metamorphic rocks. They contain huge concentration of iron oxides that are responsible for giving the reddish or yellow colour. They are less clayey and sandier and are poor in important minerals like lime, phosphorous and nitrogen. Red soil is acidic like that of the Lateritic soil. This soil is mainly cultivated during the monsoon rainy season. Red soils also develop in Manipur, Shillong Plateau and Mizoram.

Saline Soil in India

Saline soils develop in the coastal plains of Kerala and Orissa. In some regions of the country, salt content is in toxic doses. Saline soils are basically black in colour. They are highly acidic.

Alluvial Soil in India

Alluvial soils are mainly found in the plains of northern India. These soils have low phosphorous and nitrogen content. These soils are sandier in their composition. Even in the north western regions of the country which are drier these soils are found. The Himalayan Rivers, Ganga, Sutlej and Brahmaputra, and their tributaries have deposited these soils in the plains of northern India.

Desert Soil in India

These soils are basically sandy and are of light brown and reddish colour. They are of saline texture. These soils are favourable for vegetation if there is water content. These soils contain an important mineral that is nitrogen. This type of soil is found in desert regions like in Thar Desert of Rajasthan.

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Mountain Soil in India

Mountain soils are considered as a significant variety of soil in the Himalayan region of the country. They are mainly found in dry and cold district in the northern region of India.

Peat Soil

Peat soil has usually been derived from marsh land where there has been continuous growth and decay over thousands of years. They are usually absolutely free of lime and so are very sour. This sourness is produced by the decaying of the vegetable matter present, as peat soils contain more than 20% of humus. These are found in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Orissa.

Different Types of Soils

Therefore depending on the size of the particles in the soil, it can be classified into these following types :

  • Sandy soil
  • Silty soil
  • Clay soil
  • Loamy soil
  • Peaty soil
  • Chalky soil

Sandy Soil

To check if soil is sandy, moisten a small sample of soil and try to make a ball using your palms. If the soil is sandy, then no dirt balls will form and the soil will crumble and fall through the fingers.

This soil type has the biggest particles; and the bigger size of the particles in a soil the better is aeration and drainage of the soil. This soil is granular and consists of rock and mineral particles that are very small. Therefore the texture is gritty. Sandy soil is formed by the disintegration and weathering of rocks such as limestone, granite, quartz and shale. Sandy soil is easier to cultivate if it is rich in organic material, but then it allows drainage more than is needed, thus resulting in over – drainage and dehydration of the plants in summer.

It warms very fast in the spring season. So if you want to grow your plant in sandy soil, it is imperative that you water it regularly in the summers and give a break in the winters and rainy season. Sandy soil retains a certain amount of moisture and nutrients. In a way sandy soil is good for plants since it lets the water drain easily, so that it prevents root rot problems.

Silty Soil

To check if the soil you have is silty, take a small amount of moist soil and rub it between your fingers. If the soil is silty soil, it will feel slick and stick to your fingers.

Silty soil is considered to be one of the most fertile of soils. It can occur in nature as soil or as suspended sediment in water column of a water body on the surface of the earth. It is composed of minerals like quartz and fine organic particles. It is granular like sandy soil but it has more nutrients than sandy soil and offers better drainage. In case silty soil is dry it has a smoother texture and looks like dark sand. This type of soil can hold more moisture and at times becomes compact. It offers better drainage and is much easier to work with when it has moisture.

Clay Soil

To identify if the soil is clay soil, take a soil sample and damp it with water. Feel it between your palms. You will find clay soil is sticky and retains a good amount of water.

Clay is a kind of material that occurs naturally and consists of very fine grain material with very less air spaces. Due to this it is difficult to work with this soil, because the drainage in this soil is low. Hence, there is possible for water logging to occur, which can harm the roots of the plant.

Clay soil becomes very heavy when wet and if cultivation has to be done, organic fertilizers need to be added to the soil. Clay soil is formed after years of rock disintegration and weathering. It is also formed as sedimentary deposits after the rock is weathered, eroded and transported. Clay soil due to its formation process is rich in mineral content.

Given above three types of soil sand, silty and clay are the main ones. Apart from these there are three more soil sub-types mentioned below that contain some amount of the above soils.

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Loamy Soil

This soil consists of sand, silt and clay to some extent. It is considered to be the perfect soil for gardening. The texture is gritty and retains water very easily, yet the drainage is good. There are various kinds of loamy soil ranging from fertile to very muddy and thick sod. Yet out of all the different kinds of soil, loamy soil is ideal for cultivation. So, in case you are thinking of starting a vegetable patch or a small garden, apply a layer of loamy soil to the garden before you start plantation.

Peaty Soil

This kind of soil is basically formed by the accumulation of dead and decayed organic matter, it naturally contains much more organic matter than most of the soils. It is generally found in marshy areas. The decomposition of the organic matter in this soil is blocked by the acidity of the soil. This kind of soil is formed in wet climate. Though the soil is rich in organic matter, nutrients present are fewer in this soil type than any other type. Peaty soil is prone to water logging, but if the soil is fertilized well and the drainage of the soil is looked after, it can be the ideal for growing plants.

Chalky Soil

Unlike peaty soil, chalky soil is very alkaline in nature and consists of a large number of stones. The fertility of this kind of soil depends on the depth of the soil that is on the bed of chalk. This kind of soil is prone to dryness and in summers it is a poor choice for plantation, as the plants would need much more watering and fertilizing than on any other type of soil. Chalky soil, apart from being dry also blocks the nutritional elements for the plants like iron and magnesium.

Besides the above classification of soil, the next popular classification of soil is according to the pH level of soil. In this classification, soil is either acidic or alkaline soil depending on the amount of humus, organic matter and the underlying bedrock. But, no matter what the type of soil is, every soil has its own advantages and disadvantages and there are various plants that have different requirements. Because, all plants do not need the same kind of soil.

Soil Classification

Soils can be classified in many different ways. Some important soils are described as under :

1.  Podzol Soil : These are ashgrey coloured soils. These are found in high – latitude coniferous forest belt having very long cold winters, short cool summers and a moderate precipitation throughout the year. These soils are acidic, infertile and of limited value for agriculture. These are useful for dairying and mixed farming.

2.  Laterite Soil : This soil is found in the hot and humid areas mainly in the equatorial regions. This soil is heavily leached due to high rainfall, and is not useful for agriculture. This soil is red – brown in colour.

3.  Tundra Soil : This type of soil develops in very cold climates. This soil is found covered with thick layers of lichens and mosses.

4. Chernozem Soil : This soil is also known as black soil. It is one of the most fertile soils of the earth. It is found in the steppes of Ukraine, the central part of the USA, Central Africa, South America and Australia.

5.  Prairie Soil : This soil is similar to chernozem but it lacks the excess of calcium carbonate. Maize is the main agricultural product of this soil.

6.  Chestnut Soil : Its belt, lies towards the drier parts of chernozem in Asia and North America.

7. Desert Soil : This is found in the desert areas of temperate and tropical zones having low rainfall. It is grey in colour in temperate regions and red in the hot deserts. It is characterized by low rainfall, high temperature and high evaporation. It is unleached and alkaline and lacks humus or organic matter.

8. Bog Soil : This soil is found in marshy areas of humid climate. It remains saturated with water.

9. Meadow Soil : This soil is found in the flood – prone areas where water drainage is better than that in the marshes. This soil remains covered with a thin layer of humus which supports the growth of grasses.

10. Saline Soil : This soil is mainly confined to the steppes and arid regions and is not good for agriculture.

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