Classification of Soils in India

Classification of soils in India

India has varied relief features, landforms, climatic realms and vegetation types. These have contributed in the development of various types of soils.

Alluvial Soils

  • This is the most widely spread and important soil. In fact, the entire northern plains are made of alluvial soil.
  • These have been deposited by three important Himalayan river systems – the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra.
  • These soils also extend in Rajasthan and Gujarat through a narrow corridor.
  • Alluvial soil is also found in the eastern coastal plains particularly in the deltas of the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri rivers.
  • The alluvial soil consists of various proportions of sand, silt and clay.
  • As we move inlands towards the river valleys, soil particles appear some what bigger in size.
  • In the upper reaches of the river valley i.e. near the place of the break of slope, the soils are coarse.
  • Such soils are more common in piedmont plains such as Duars, Chos and Terai.
  • Apart from the size of their grains or components, soils are also described on the basis of their age.
  • According to their age alluvial soils can be classified as old alluvial (Bangar) and new alluvial (Khadar).
  • The bangar soil has higher concentration of kanker nodules than the Khadar. It has more fine particles and is more fertile than the bangar.
  • Alluvial soils as a whole are very fertile.
  • Mostly these soils contain adequate proportion of potash, phosphoric acid and lime which are ideal for the growth of sugarcane, paddy, wheat and other cereal and pulse crops.
  • Due to its high fertility, regions of alluvial soils are intensively cultivated and densely populated.
  • Soils in the drier areas are more alkaline and can be productive after proper treatment and irrigation.

Black Soil

  • These soils are black in colour and are also known as regur soils.
  • Black soil is ideal for growing cotton and is also known as black cotton soil.
  • It is believed that climatic condition along with the parent rock material are the important factors for the formation of black soil.
  • This type of soil is typical of the Deccan trap (Basalt) region spread over northwest Deccan plateau and is made up of lava flows.
  • They cover the plateaus of Maharashtra, Saurashtra, Malwa, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and extend in the south east direction along the Godavari and the Krishna valleys.
  • The black soils are made up of extremely fine i.e. clayey material.
  • They are well-known for their capacity to hold moisture.
  • In addition, they are rich in soil nutrients, such as calcium carbonate, magnesium, potash and lime.
  • These soils are generally poor in phosphoric contents.
  • They develop deep cracks during hot weather, which helps in the proper aeration of the soil.
  • These soils are sticky when wet and difficult to work on unless tilled immediately after the first shower or during the pre-monsoon period.

Red and Yellow Soils

  • Red soil develops on crystalline igneous rocks in areas of low rainfall in the eastern and southern parts of the Deccan plateau.
  • Yellow and red soils are also found in parts of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, southern parts of the middle
  • Ganga plain and along the piedmont zone of the Western Ghats.
  • These soils develop a reddish colour due to diffusion of iron in crystalline and metamorphic rocks.
  • It looks yellow when it occurs in a hydrated form.

Laterite Soil

  • Laterite has been derived from the Latin word ‘later’ which means brick.
  • The laterite soil develops under tropical and subtropical climate with alternate wet and dry season.
  • This soil is the result of intense leaching due to heavy rain. Lateritic soils are mostly deep to very deep, acidic (pH <6.0), generally deficient in plant nutrients and occur mostly in southern states, Western Ghats region of Maharashtra, Odisha, some parts of West Bengal and North-east regions.
  • Where these soils support deciduous and evergreen forests, it is humus rich, but under sparse vegetation and in semi-arid environment, it is generally humus poor.
  • They are prone to erosion and degradation due to their position on the landscape.
  • After adopting appropriate soil conservation techniques particularly in the hilly areas of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, this soil is very useful for growing tea and coffee.
  • Red laterite soils in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala are more suitable for crops like cashew nut.

Arid Soils

  • Arid soils range from red to brown in colour.
  • They are generally sandy in texture and saline in nature.
  • In some areas the salt content is very high and common salt is obtained by evaporating the water.
  • Due to the dry climate, high temperature, evaporation is faster and the soil lacks humus and moisture.
  • The lower horizons of the soil are occupied by Kankar because of the increasing calcium content downwards.
  • The Kankar layer formations in the bottom horizons restrict the infiltration of water.
  • After proper irrigation these soils become cultivable as has been in the case of western Rajasthan.

Forest Soils

  • These soils are found in the hilly and mountainous areas where sufficient rain forests are available.
  • The soils texture varies according to the mountain environment where they are formed.
  • They are loamy and silty in valley sides and coarse grained in the upper slopes.
  • In the snow covered areas of Himalayas, these soils experience denudation and are acidic with low humus content.
  • The soils found in the lower parts of the valleys particularly on the river terraces and alluvial fans are fertile.