Classification of Soils in India

Classification of Soils in India
Posted on 19-08-2023

Classification of Soils in India

A variety of soil types are found across India, each with distinct characteristics and origins:

Laterite Soil:

Termed after 'Later,' signifying 'brick.' Occurs in regions experiencing heavy rainfall with alternating dry and wet periods, particularly near coasts. Becomes soft when wet and hardens when dry. Leaching occurs due to climatic conditions, leading to the loss of fertile soil through heavy rains. Arises from rock decomposition, characterized by iron oxide content resulting in red or pink color. Usually deficient in nitrogen and low in lime content, hence acidic. Distributed in regions including Western and Eastern Ghats, Vindhyas, Malwa plateau, and Satpuras. States like West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Meghalaya, Assam, Odisha are home to this soil. Cultivates crops like rice, ragi, sugarcane, rubber, coconut, tea, coffee, and cashew nuts.

Mountain Soils:

Formed from the accumulation of organic matter originating from forest growth. Shallow and immature in depth. Rich in humus, but poor in lime, potash, and phosphorus. Often sandy with gravel. Found in Himalayan region, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Peninsular India, and Eastern Ghats.

Diverse Characteristics:

Based on region climate, mountain soil can be categorized into Loamy Podzols and High Altitude Soils. Mid-altitude Himalayan zone exhibits Podzols, characterized by acidity, low humus, and found in Assam, Darjeeling, Kashmir, Uttaranchal, and Himachal Pradesh. South Indian states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka cultivate tropical fruits, coffee, tea, or spices in this soil. Deciduous forest belt has deep soil, brown color, and rich humus, ideal for orchard crops.

Black Soil:

Comprised of volcanic rocks and lava. Also known as 'regur,' derived from Telugu word 'reguda.' Prominent for cotton cultivation, thus named Black Cotton Soil. Abundant in calcium carbonate, potash, lime, and magnesium carbonate; but lacks phosphorus. Found in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka. Clayey and moisture-retentive, sticky in rainy season and prone to cracking when dry. Supports crops like cotton, oilseeds, wheat, linseed, millets, and tobacco.

Red Soil:

Result of weathering metamorphic and igneous rocks. Distinctive red color due to high iron content. Texture varies from sandy to clayey, often loamy. Rich in potash, but deficient in phosphate, humus, and nitrogen. Found in Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Karnataka, southeast Maharashtra.

Alluvial Soil:

Originates from sediment deposits carried by rivers, especially from the Himalayas. Composed of silt, sand, and clay particles. Contains ample phosphoric acid, potash, and lime. Categorized into old alluvium (bangar) and new alluvium (khaddar). Encompasses 40% of India's land, particularly northern plains, deltas, and river basins. Crops cultivated include wheat, rice, maize, sugarcane, pulses, and oilseeds.

Desert Soil:

Thrives in low rainfall arid and semi-arid environments. Consists of both original and wind-blown sand, with high phosphate and low nitrogen content. Lacks humus and moisture, relying on irrigation for water. Found in Rajasthan, Rann of Kutch, parts of Haryana, Punjab. Supports cacti and shrubs well-adapted to arid conditions; dormant seeds bloom after rain, nourished by phosphates and nitrates.

Saline and Alkaline Soil:

Mineral-rich and undecomposed elements within the earth release salts due to weathering. These salts mix with sub-soil, creating saline and alkaline soil. Rise in water table during evaporation and transpiration can transport water-soluble salts upwards. Found in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, coastal areas due to salinization.

Peat Soil:

Forms in humid regions with substantial organic matter accumulation. Comprises 10-40% organic matter and soluble salts. Heavy, black, and highly acidic. Sparse phosphate and potash content. Located in certain Kerala districts; marshy soils in Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Uttaranchal, and West Bengal coastal areas.

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