Understanding the types of soil in India is important for agriculture and ecosystems. A soil is a loose material or top layer of the mantle rock, also known as the regolith (a loose, heterogeneous materials overlapping solid rock), which consists of tiny particles and humus that support plant growth.
However, soil is not the same everywhere. Especially in India, depending on the climate and the location, its composition changes and there are formation of various types of soil in India. But how many different types of soil are there, what are those types of soil in India ?
In this article you will learn about what are the different types of soil in India, what is soil profile, and classification of Indian soil. Let’s begin.
The 8 different types of soil found in India are –
- Alluvial Soil
- Black Soil
- Red and Yellow Soil
- Laterite Soil
- Desert Soil
- Mountain or Forest Soil
- Peat and Marshy Soil
- Saline and Alkaline Soil
Types of soil in india images
In the ancient era, soil was classified based on 2 factors, whether it is productive or infertile. Therefore, the classification was –
Urvara – This term refers to the productive soils which were considered suitable for agriculture and were characterized by their ability to support the growth of crops.
Usara – Usara soils, on the other hand, were considered less fertile or even sterile. These soils were likely characterized by poor nutrient content and low water-holding capacity.
Vasily Dokuchaev did the first classification of soil scientifically.
A soil profile is a vertical section of the soil that provides a visual representation of the different layers or horizons that make up the soil. This vertical cross-section shows the unique composition of different types of soil.
A Horizon (Topsoil) – Also known as the surface soil, this layer contains a mixture of mineral particles, organic matter, microorganisms, and nutrients. It’s the most important layer for plant growth and agriculture.
B Horizon (Subsoil) – The subsoil layer is enriched with minerals and nutrients that filter down from the E horizon. It may contain clay, iron, aluminum, or other minerals that have migrated from above.
C Horizon (Parent Material) – Loose parent/rock material makes up this zone. This layer forms the base for the two layers above, which continue as soil develops.
R Horizon (Bedrock) – The unweathered solid rock layer that underlies the soil. It’s a key factor influencing soil depth and drainage.
Different types of soil In india
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) divided the soils found in India into 8 different groups. Those 8 types of soil in India to be founded are –
Alluvial soil one of the many different types of soil in India is often located near rivers and is created by the deposition of silt, sand, and clay carried by flowing water. This soil type is known for its fertility and is highly suitable for agriculture.
Characteristics Of Alluvial Soil –
- Alluvial soil is rich in nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, making it highly fertile.
- Alluvial soil covers over 15 lakh sq km, or roughly 46% of the total area and is sustained by more than 40% of India’s population.
- It has a balanced mixture of sand, silt, and clay particles, which helps with water retention and drainage.
- The color of alluvial soil varies depending on the location, ranging from light gray to dark brown.
- It is porous and can hold a good amount of water while allowing excess water to drain away, making it suitable for both dry and wet-season crops.
- Kankar (calcareous concretions) layers are present in some areas along the river terraces.
- In drier areas, they vary between clay-like to sandy soil, and near the delta, they become clayey soil.
Significance Of Alluvial Soil –
- Alluvial soils are among the most fertile soil types due to their rich nutrient content, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This fertility supports strong plant growth and high crop yields.
- The fertility and balanced texture of alluvial soils make them suitable for a wide range of crops, from staple grains like rice and wheat to cash crops like cotton, sugarcane, and vegetables.
- Farming activities on alluvial plains provide employment, income, and subsistence for millions of people.
- Alluvial soils can act as a natural barrier against soil erosion and flooding, as they can absorb excess water during heavy rainfall.
Distribution Of Alluvial Soil –
Since Alluvial soils are one of the different types of soil in India, they are found in various parts of India such as –
- Indo-Gangetic Plain, The fertile plains of states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal are part of this region and are characterized by fertile alluvial deposits.
- Brahmaputra Valley, The floodplains of the Brahmaputra River in northeastern India, particularly in Assam, have significant alluvial soils.
- Alluvial soil is also found in Godavari and Krishna Deltas, where they are known as deltaic alluvium (coastal alluvium).
- Northwestern Plains, Rajasthan and parts of Punjab have alluvial soils in areas adjacent to the Indus River.
Alluvial Soil Crops –
Alluvial soils are known for their high fertility and versatile characteristics, making them suitable for a wide range of crops such as Rice, Wheat, Sugarcane, Cotton, Oilseeds, Pulses like lentils, chickpeas, and mung beans.
Vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and leafy greens, fruits like mangoes, bananas, citrus fruits, and papayas, tea, coffee and jute are grown in alluvial soils.
Black soil, also known as Regur soil is among the diverse range of different types of soil. It covers approximately 9.6% of the total land area of India. It is a unique type of soil found in several parts of India.
Formation Of Black Soil –
- The formation of black soil begins with the weathering of the parent material basalt rocks. A volcanic rock called basalt is rich in iron and magnesium.
- As basalt weathers over time, it breaks down into smaller particles and contributes minerals to the soil.
- Basalt contains titanium-ferromagnetic chemicals that give soil its dark color.
- Black soil typically forms in areas with a semi-arid to sub-humid climate, characterized by alternating wet and dry periods.
- The parent material in Tamil Nadu is composed of gneisses and schists. The former are often shallow, whilst the latter are suitably deep.
Characteristics Of Black Soil –
- Black soil is named for its dark black or deep brown color, which is a result of its high organic matter content and mineral composition.
- A normal black soil has a high clay component of 62 percent or more.
- Black soil is highly fertile due to its rich nutrient content, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
- It has good water-holding properties, allowing it to hold moisture for plant use during dry periods. When moisture builds up, it swells rapidly.
- Black soil has a unique property of developing deep cracks during the dry season, which helps in aeration and root penetration.
- In summer when the moisture evaporates, the soil contracts and develops wide, deep cracks. The cracks allow for adequate soil respiration as the soil has excellent fertility.
Significance Of Black Soil –
- Black soil is renowned for its exceptional fertility due to its rich nutrient content, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
- It is particularly well-suited for cash crops like cotton, which plays a significant role in the textile industry and the economy.
- Black soil’s nutrient retention properties can help reduce the need for excessive chemical fertilizers, promoting sustainable agricultural practices.
- The organic matter content in black soil can contribute to carbon sequestration, potentially reducing the effects of climate change.
Distribution Of Black Soil –
- Black soil is found in several states in India, particularly in the central and southern parts of the country.
- The black soil spread across 46 lakh sq km of area including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana as well as Maharashtra.
Black Soil Crops –
- Black soil is well suited for Sorghum (Jowar) and Pearl Millet (Bajra) due to its moisture-holding properties, Sugarcane, Soybeans, and Cotton.
- Various leguminous crops, including lentils, pigeon peas, and chickpeas, benefit from the nutrient-rich and well-draining properties of black soil.
Red and Yellow Soil
Red and yellow soils, also known as tropical ferruginous soils, are found in regions with a tropical climate. They are generally rich in iron and aluminum oxides, giving them their distinctive reddish or yellowish color.
Formation Of Red And Yellow Soil –
- The origin of red and yellow soils is from their parent material crystalline or metamorphic rocks rich in minerals like feldspar and mica. Chemical weathering processes, such as oxidation and leaching, contribute to the change of minerals in the parent material.
- This soil originates from the Archean granite that covers the second largest part of the nation.
- The warm and humid tropical climate of regions where red and yellow soils are found influences their formation.
- The iron and aluminum compounds that accumulate in specific soil layers give red and yellow soils their colors. Hematite (iron oxide) contributes to the red color, while goethite and limonite (also iron oxides) create the yellow color.
Characteristics Of Red And Yellow Soil –
- Red and yellow soils get their names from their reddish or yellowish color, which is due to the presence of iron oxide minerals.
- These soils generally have a sandy to loamy texture, with a mixture of sand, silt, and clay particles. The texture influences their water-holding capacity and drainage.
- Red and yellow soils are typically less fertile than black soils, but they can still support agricultural activities with proper management.
- Their sandy texture often provides good drainage, which can be beneficial for some crops, but it also means that they may require more frequent irrigation.
Distribution Of Red And Yellow Soil –
Red and yellow soils are found in various parts of India, particularly in regions with a tropical climate. They are commonly found in states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and parts of Maharashtra and Odisha. They are one of the major soil types in the country among the different types of soil in India.
Red And Yellow Soil Crops –
While red and yellow soils may have certain limitations in terms of fertility compared to other types of soil found in, they are still suitable for specific types of crops such as Millets, Pulses like pigeon peas (tur) and chickpeas, Cotton, and Sugarcane.
Vegetables particularly those with shallow root systems like lettuce, spinach, onion, and garlic.
Laterite soils, which are found in hot and wet regions, are rich in iron and aluminum. They are often nutrient-deficient and require proper management for agriculture.
Formation Of Laterite Soil –
- Laterite soil forms from the weathering of various rocks, such as basalt, granite, and gneiss, rich in iron and aluminum minerals.
- For the development of laterite soils, alternating dry and wet seasons are favorable.
Characteristics Of Laterite Soil –
- It is reddish in color due to high concentration of iron and aluminum oxides.
- The upper layer may be softer and richer in organic matter, while the lower layer can become harder and more compacted.
- The texture of laterite soil varies widely, ranging from rough and granular to compacted and hard when dry.
- Poor in nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, making it less suitable for many crops without proper management.
- When dry, laterite soil can become compacted and hard, forming a crust on the surface.
- Due to its coarse texture and permeability, it usually has good water drainage.
Significance Of Laterite Soil –
- While not well-suited for intensive agriculture, laterite soil can support the cultivation of specific crops like tea, coffee, and rubber.
- It is widely known for cultivating peanuts and cashew.
- Properly compacted and treated laterite soil can be used as a construction material for building roads, houses, and other structures.
Distribution Of Laterite Soil –
- Western Ghats, States like Kerala, Karnataka, and Goa have significant occurrences of laterite soils due to heavy rainfall and weathering processes.
- States like Odisha and parts of Andhra Pradesh.
- Deccan Plateau, Central and southern states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana have pockets of laterite soils.
- Coastal region of Konkan in Maharashtra.
- Parts of West Bengal and Jharkhand.
- Tamil Nadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh.
Mountain or Forest Soil
Among the various types of soil in India, one is Mountain or Forest soil. These soils are found in hilly and forested regions, including the Himalayas.
Formation Of Mountain Or Forest Soil –
- They are developed under the influence of vegetation and organic matter in forested areas. The accumulation and decomposition of leaves, branches, and other plant materials contribute to soil formation.
Characteristics Of Mountain Or Forest Soil –
- The decomposition of organic matter in the forest floor results in the accumulation of humus, a dark, partially decayed organic substance.
- They often have a dark color due to the presence of humus.
- It is rich in nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium into the soil.
- The soil is said to be loamy, when clay, silt, and sand are mixed together.
Significance Of Mountain Or Forest Soil –
- Forest soils host a diverse community of soil organisms, including bacteria, fungi, insects, and small animals.
- Forest soils act as significant carbon sinks, storing organic carbon from decomposed plant material.
- The forest layer of organic matter acts as a natural barrier, reducing soil erosion by absorbing the raindrops.
Distribution OF Mountain Or Forest Soil –
- These are usually found above 900 meters of altitude.
- States like Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, and Maharashtra have significant forest soil.
- Various zones of the Himalayas, including the temperate, subalpine, and alpine regions.
- The northeastern states of India, including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Manipur.
Mountain Or Forest Soil Crops –
- Certain crops like coffee, cocoa, and spices like cardamom are well-suited where they are grown under the shade of trees.
- Fruit trees like mango, guava, and jackfruit.
- Wild edibles like mushrooms, berries, and leafy greens.
- Bamboo and rubber plantations are common in this soil.
Desert soil, also known as arid soils is characterized by its dry and water-deficient environment, low rainfall, high temperatures, and limited vegetation make up one of the major soil types in India.
Formation Of Desert Soil –
- Arid and semiarid regions experience very low annual rainfall, often less than 250 millimeters. Water restrictions prevent the leaching process, which would otherwise wash soil minerals away.
- In some desert soils, the evaporation of water from the surface brings dissolved salts to the surface, these salts collect resulting in the pale color and alkaline pH of desert soils.
Characteristics Of Desert Soil –
- Desert soils often have a pale or light color due to the high mineral content and low organic matter.
- It is lacking in moisture and less humus is present. Nitrogen is limited but some of it is present in the form of nitrates.
- It contains plenty of iron. The phosphorus concentration is also sufficient and rich in bases and lime.
- Desert soils have limited capacity to retain water due to their rough texture and lack of organic matter.
- It has minimal vegetation due to the harsh environmental conditions.
Significance Of Desert Soil –
- Desert soils act as carbon sinks, storing organic carbon from minimal plant material that does grow in arid areas.
- Desert soils play a role in regulating water availability in arid regions. They can absorb and retain limited water resources.
Distribution Of Desert Soil –
- Desert soil can be found in the Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, is primarily located in the northwestern part of India, spanning portions of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, and Punjab. Also can be found in Rann of Kachchh.
Desert Soil Crops –
- These soil work great for crops like feed, guar, lentils, and bajra that require less water.
- Also suitable for dates, barley.
Peat and Marshy Soils
Peat and marshy soil include unique and ecologically important components of the major soil types in India. It has a lot of organic matter and is very salinized. They are low in phosphate and potash.
- The presence of reduced iron in the soil results in color mottling or streaking, creating distinct patterns of red, yellow, and bluish-gray colors within the soil profile.
- Rich in water content but with higher salt content as well.
- Act as natural filters, helping to improve water quality by trapping sediments and removing pollutants as water passes through.
- The vegetation that thrives in marshy soils such as cattails and reeds, helps stabilize the soil and prevents erosion along water bodies.
- Peat and Marshy soil are found in the Indian Delta region.
- Dal Lake, located in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, Vembanad-Kol Wetland in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Bhitarkanika Mangroves in Odisha, Bhitarkanika.
- Can also be found in Almora (Uttaranchal).
Peat And Marshy Soil Crops –
- In the Bengal Delta, this soil is suitable for Jute and rice, whereas spices, rubber, and large-grain rice are suitable for the Malabar region.
- Lotus, Cranberries, Taro, and Typha (Cattail) are also grown in this soil.
Saline and Alkaline Soils
Out of the different types of soil in India, these soils are often found in regions with dry or semi-dry climates where water evaporation is high and rainfall is limited.
- Alkaline soils develop from parent materials that are naturally rich in calcium carbonate, such as limestone or chalk.
- In dry regions, where leaching (the downward movement of water through the soil) is limited, calcium carbonate collects water in the upper layers of the soil.
- Alkaline soils contain calcium carbonate (lime) deposits, often visible as white nodules, layers, or crusts.
- Some plants growing in alkaline soils may exhibit iron chlorosis, a condition characterized by yellowing of leaves due to iron deficiency.
- There is a lack of moisture, living organisms and humus, that’s why the formation of humus is absent.
- Due to the presence of sodium sulfate and Sodium chloride, it is good for leguminous crops.
- The calcium carbonate present in alkaline soils can play a role in water purification by neutralizing acidic contaminants and improving water quality.
Saline and Alkaline Soils Crops –
- These soils can be found in Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Bihar.
- Rann of Kutch, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Cambay in Gujarat.
Major Soil Types In India Map
Above is the major soil types in India map.
Indian soil has been categorized based on its nature and characteristics by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Soil Taxonomy.
|Percentage in India
The wide distribution and the presence of various types of soil in India has significantly influenced its agricultural and environmental dynamics. This enhances the important need for well-suited land management strategies that follows the unique elements of the types of soil in India. By recognizing and respecting the different characteristics of these soils, we can optimize agricultural yields, conserve natural resources, and ensure the long-term growth of our ecosystems.
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how many types of soil in india
There are 8 major types of soil in India :
- Alluvial Soil
- Laterite Soil
- Black Soil
- Mountain Soil
- Marshy Soil
- Forest Soil
- Desert Soil
- Alkaline Soil