Soil types in India or its soil deposits are various distinct types of soil sediments formed in the Indian subcontinent due to sustained geological activities over time. It is determined that there are 8 major distinct soil types (not an exhaustive list!) spread throughout the country contributing to the rich and diverse geographical landscape of India. The soil types have a major say in what kind of crops that can be grown on it and plays a vital role in the agricultural economy of the country. Each soil type has its own unique origin-story and we will try to cover as much detail as possible of each type:
1. Alluvial Soils
Alluvial soils occupy the most land area in the country automatically making it the most prominent soil type in India. and considered to be the most fertile soil in this list. Predominantly present in the Ganga river valley, alluvial soils account for nearly 45% of all land area of the country, i.e., close to 1.5 million sq. km. Alluvial soil refers to the fine-grained soil formed at the river banks and floodplains of the river.
- Rich in: Potash and Lime
- Crops Grown: Rice, Wheat, Cotton, Jute and Sugarcane.
- Found in: Uttar Prades, Bihar, Punjab, Gujarat and Jharkhand
- Area covered: 1.5 million sq. km
2. Red Soils
The Red soil forms the next most prominent soil in the Indian subcontinent after the alluvial soil and black soil. They are predominantly present in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, parts of Maharastra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chattisgarh and Orissa. They cover an area of 0.35 million sq. km of 10.6% of the Indian region Red soils are formed by the weathering of crystalline and metamorphic rocks.
- Rich in: Potash and Iron
- Crops Grown: Rice, Wheat, Cotton, Pulses and Sugarcane
- Found in: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Orissa
- Area covered: 0.35 million sq. km
3. Black Soils
Black soils cover the second largest land area in the country after alluvial soil, making it the next most prominent soil type in India. The Black soils have formed due to a large volcanic event which occurred in the peninsular region of India which led to the formation of the Deccan plateau. The black soil swells and becomes sticky in the presence of water. The most predominant use of black soils is to grow the cotton crop. Besides cotton, black soils are used to grow rice, sugarcane, tobacco and millets.
- Rich in: Iron, Magnesium, Lime, Potash and Alumina
- Crops Grown: Tobacco, Cotton, Sugarcane, Rice, Wheat and Jowar
- Found in: Gujarat, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andra Pradesh
- Area Covered: 0.55 million sq. km
4. Laterite Soils
Laterite soils are predominantly found in the mountainous regions of the country. Covering an area of 0.25 million sq. km, the laterite soils form the 4th largest soil type in the Indian subcontinent. Laterite soils are formed due to weathering of rocks over a long period of time. Drastic changes in weather form hot dry season to heavy wet downpour also helps in the formation of such soils. Laterite soils are not considered to be an ideal soil for farming, but it is an ideal soil for growing cash crops such as tea, cashew, coffee and rubber.
- Rich in: Potash and Iron Oxide
- Crops Grown: Rubber, Tea, Cashew and Coffee
- Found in: Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Orissa and Assam
- Area Covered: 0.25 million sq. km
5. Saline Soils (Alkaline soils)
Saline salts are found in dry and drought-prone areas of the country. They occupy an area of 68000 sq. km and form the seventh largest soil area in the country. Saline salts are formed due to unsustainable farming practices which generally makes soil infertile over a period of time. Most of the soil is unfit for growing any crops.
- Rich in: Potassium, Magnesium and Sodium
- Crops Grown: No crops can be grown
- Found in: West Bengal, Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab
- Area Covered: 68000 sq. km
6. Arid Soils (Desert Soils)
These types of soils are predominant in the extremely dry portions of the country. Covering almost 0.14 million sq. km, arid soils are the sixth largest soil group in the country. Despite the unfit nature of the soils to grow crops, the soil can be reclaimed for cultivation if proper irrigation methods are used. Most of the arid soils are rich in phosphate and nitrogen which helps in soil becoming fertile if an adequate amount of water is available.
- Rich in: Phosphate and soluble salts
- Crops Grown: Wheat, Cotton, Barley and Maizes (if proper irrigation can be arranged)
- Found in: Rajasthan and Gujarat
- Area Covered: 1.42 million sq. km
7. Forest Soils (Mountain Soils)
Along with the laterite soils, forest soils account for all the soils making up the topsoil of hilly and mountainous regions. These soils are rich in organic matter formed from the decomposing plant matter which wasn’t swept away by the natural forces. To grow crops in this region, high amount of fertilisers are required even if it is rich in organic matter.
- Rich in: Organic matter (humus)
- Crops Grown: Tea, spices and coffee
- Found in: Himalayan region, western and eastern Ghats
- Area Covered: 0.285 million sq. km
8. Marshy Soils (Peaty Soils)
Marshy soils contain a high amount of water, soluble salts and organic materials. They are usually found in marshy areas where stagnant water is present for most of the year. They form the least prevalent soil type in the country and their exact size isn’t determined. They are mostly used for cultivating the paddy crop because of the suitability of growing such crops in these types of soils.
- Rich in: Organic matter (humus)
- Crops Grown: Paddy
- Found in: Kerala, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and West Bengal
- Area Covered: Does not cover a significant land area
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