The Different Types of Soils in India

Located in southern Asia between Burma and Pakistan, India has 1,147,956 square miles of land. Its terrain varies from the upland plain (Deccan Plateau) in the south, to flat to rolling plains along the Ganges River, with deserts in the west and the Himalaya Mountains in the north, according to the CIA World Factbook. Rocks weathered over time and decaying matter form soil, the loose material that is the topmost layer of the Earth's surface. The amounts present of three basic textures---clay, sand and silt---help determine India's eight major soil types.

  1. Alluvial Soils

    • Alluvial soils come from the silt that washes down into rivers. Found by rivers and nearby areas that flood, "alluvium consists of silt, sand, clay, and gravel and often contains a good deal of organic matter," according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. This fertile soil ranges from tan and coarse textured in the upper sections of rivers to dark and very fine textured in the delta areas. India's farmers grow cotton, jute, rice, sugarcane and wheat in alluvial soil, which is rich in potash and humus, but with a low phosphorous and nitrogen content, according to WiZiQ.

    Vertisols or Black Soils

    • Vertisols, or black soils, have high clay content, and a high ability to retain moisture. Vertisols range from dark grey to black and develop cracks in the summer. Unlike alluvial soils, black soils lack organic matter, but like alluvial soils, Vertisols have low amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen. However, Vertisols have a great deal of iron, lime, calcium, alumina, carbonates and magnesium. Farmers grow cotton, groundnut, millets, oilseeds, rice and wheat in Vertisols.

    Red Soils

    • Red soils are more sand than clay and do not retain moisture. Red soils form from the weathering of old crystalline rocks and this soil is slightly acidic. Like alluvium and Vertisols, red soils are poor in phosphorous and nitrogen. Red soils are also low in lime but have iron and a small amount of humus. Farmers grow groundnut, millet, potatoes, rice, sugarcane tobacco and wheat in red soils.

    Laterite Soils

    • Laterite soils are formed when temperatures are high and there are wet and dry periods with high rainfall during the wet periods that leaches silica, but leaves iron and aluminum oxides behind, which is known as Laterite, according to WiZiQ. When exposed to air the brown to yellowish soil becomes hard, making it a good building material. Cashew, coconut, coffee, rubber and tea trees grow in the soil, which is rich in iron and poor in lime, magnesium and potash.

    Desert Soils

    • Desert soils are porous and coarse being 90 percent sand and 5 percent clay, with a low moisture content. This soil comes from weathering and wind deposit. This soil is rich in nitrates and phosphates but lacks nitrogen. Drought resistant crops such as barley and millet grow in desert soil.

    Mountain Soils

    • Mountain soils range from sandy to loamy in texture and are formed from organic matter from forests deposited in the slopes of hills. Farmers grow coffee, spices, tea and tropical fruits in it.

    Saline and Alkaline Soils

    • Saline and alkaline soils are also sandy to loamy in texture but they contain salts, like calcium, magnesium and sodium and this infertile soil type is not suitable for agriculture.

    Peaty and Marshy Soils

    • Peaty and marshy soils were formed by an accumulation of organic material in humid areas, but this black soil is very acidic and heavy. Peat bogs and marshes are not used for agriculture.

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References

  • Photo Credit india map image by Vladislav Gajic from Fotolia.com

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