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Types of Soil in India: Alluvial Soil, Black Soil and More

India has many different types of soil but it’s not all the same. It varies depending on where you are in the country. This happens because of different things like the weather, the shape of the land, and what kind of rocks are underneath. So you can find good soil for farming, like the rich soil in the plains near rivers. There’s also soil that’s not so good for farming, like the sandy soil in some parts of the country. Understanding these different soils helps farmers know what crops to grow and how to take care of the land.

In this article, we’ll learn about the different kinds of soil in India, where they are, and why they’re important. It’s like discovering the different colors in a big painting that makes up a beautiful picture of India’s land.


Soil is present on the surface of the earth in the form of minute rock particles and humus making up a thin layer of the earth’s crust. This layer is made up of very minute rocks, organic and inorganic compounds which are important for plant growth. In earlier times, soils were differentiated based on their fertility. Two types of soil were:

  1. High Fertile- Urvara
  2. Low Fertile- Usara

Profile of Soil

It displays the various soil layers from the surface to the bedrock. Consider that you are excavating a hole straight through the earth every layer you come across as you move further is a component of the soil profile. Check the following table for more.

Soil Profile
Soil Layer Description
Topsoil (O Horizon) The uppermost layer- where plants grow and organic matter decomposes. It’s dark and rich in nutrients.
Subsoil (A Horizon) Beneath the topsoil, it’s denser and may have fewer nutrients, but plant roots can still penetrate it.
Parent Material (B Horizon) Made up of weathered rock fragments and minerals. Contains less organic matter than the layers above it, formed from the breakdown of the bedrock below.
Weathered Bedrock (C Horizon) The layer closest to solid bedrock. Contains little to no organic matter and is made of partially weathered rock material.

Classification of Soil

Various organizations work together to study, classify, and manage soil resources in India. These are:

Location Organization Role
New Delhi Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Leads agricultural research and education, including soil science.
Nagpur, Maharashtra National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning (NBSS&LUP) Maps soil resources and plans land use.
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh Indian Institute of Soil Science (IISS) Conducts soil research and education under ICAR.
State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) Conduct research and education on local soil resources and agriculture.
State Departments of Agriculture Implement agricultural policies and promote soil conservation practices.
Panchkula, Haryana Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute (CSWCRTI) Conducts research and training on soil and water conservation.
Kolkata (HQ) Geological Survey of India (GSI) Conducts soil surveys and provides geological information, including soil data.

Types of Soils in India

According to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), there are majorly 8 different types of soils in India. These are:

  1. Alluvial Soil
  2. Red Soil
  3. Black Soil
  4. Desert Soil
  5. Laterite Soil
  6. Mountain Soil
  7. Saline and Alkaline Soil
  8. Peaty and Marshy Soil

Types of Soil in India: Alluvial Soil, Black Soil and More - Exams_3.1

Let’s get more information about each type of soil.

Alluvial Soil

These are created by silt carried by rivers like Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra and coastal wave action.

Aspect Details
Coverage in India Covers about 46% of India’s land, supporting over 40% of its population. Found throughout the Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra plains, except desert areas. Also in Narmada, Tapi valleys, and parts of Gujarat.
Characteristics Alluvium in India’s Great Plain is divided into newer khadar and older bhangar soils. Young and not fully developed; mostly sandy texture with some clay. Varies from loamy to sandy loam.
  • Deltaic alluvium: Found in deltas like Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Cauvery.
  • Khadar and bhangar: Alluvium in India’s Great Plain.
Chemical Properties Low in nitrogen but rich in potash, phosphoric acid, and alkalies. Iron oxide and lime content can vary.
Suitable Crops Rice, wheat, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, jute, maize, oilseeds, vegetables, and fruits.
Special Features High fertility makes it suitable for intensive agriculture.

Vulnerable to waterlogging and salinization.

Important for rice cultivation due to its ability to retain water.

Red Soil

These are formed by the weathering of crystalline rocks.

Aspect Details
Coverage in India Found in regions with a tropical climate, such as parts of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Predominantly found in southern and central India, covering about 10% of the country’s land area.
Characteristics Generally sandy or loamy texture, often red or yellow. Less fertile compared to other soil types.
Types Laterite Soil: Predominantly found in the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, and parts of northeastern India.
Chemical Properties Low in organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium. Often rich in iron oxide and aluminum oxides.
Suitable Crops Suited for crops like millets, pulses, oilseeds, and some cash crops with proper fertilization and management.
Special Features Prone to erosion and leaching due to low clay content.

Requires careful management to maintain fertility.

Black Soil (Regur Soil)

These are formed from the weathering of basaltic rocks such as lava flows.

Aspect Details
Coverage in India Covers about 15% of India’s land area, mainly in central and southern India. Found in the Deccan Plateau region, particularly in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and parts of Karnataka.
  • Deep, dark-colored soil with high clay content, is known for its ability to retain moisture and nutrients.
  • Deep Black Soil: Formed from deeper weathering of basaltic rocks.
  • Shallow Black Soil: Formed from shallow weathering of basaltic rocks.
Types Deep Black Soil: Dark in color, high fertility, found in areas with more rainfall.

Shallow Black Soil: Shallower depth, less fertile.

Chemical Properties High in calcium, magnesium, and lime content. Moderately fertile with good moisture retention properties.
Suitable Crops Well-suited for crops like cotton, sorghum, millets, pulses, and oilseeds.
Special Features Prone to cracking during dry seasons, which aids in aeration.

Requires proper management to prevent soil erosion.

Desert Soil

These are formed by the weathering of rocks and minerals in arid and semi-arid regions with limited vegetation and rainfall.

Aspect Details
Coverage in India Found in regions with low rainfall, such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, and parts of Haryana.
Characteristics Sandy texture with low organic matter content. Often saline and alkaline due to evaporation of water.
Types Arid Soil: Extremely dry soil is found in hot deserts like the Thar Desert.

Saline Soil: Soil with high salt content due to evaporation in arid regions.

Chemical Properties High levels of calcium, magnesium, and salts. Poor fertility due to lack of organic matter and nutrients.
Suitable Crops Limited agricultural potential; mainly used for drought-resistant crops like millets and pulses.
Special Features Susceptible to wind erosion and desertification.

Requires special irrigation techniques for agriculture.

Laterite Soil

These are formed from the weathering of rocks and minerals in tropical and subtropical regions with high rainfall.

Aspect Details
Coverage in India Predominantly found in the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, and parts of northeastern India.
Characteristics Typically red or orange in color, with a high proportion of iron and aluminum oxides. Often hard when dry.
Types Red Laterite Soil: Rich in iron oxides, giving it a reddish color.

Yellow Laterite Soil: Lower iron content, appearing yellowish.

Chemical Properties High in iron and aluminum oxides, but low in fertility and organic matter. Acidity can vary.
Suitable Crops Generally not suitable for agriculture due to poor fertility, but used for cashew plantations in some areas.
Special Features Hardens when dry, making it difficult to cultivate.

Used for road construction and brick-making.

Mountain Soil

These are formed through the weathering of rocks and minerals in mountainous regions due to factors like erosion and glaciation.

Aspect Details
Coverage in India Found in the Himalayan region and other mountain ranges across the country.
Characteristics Variable texture and composition depending on altitude, slope, and parent material. Often rocky and shallow.
Types Podzols: Found in high-altitude regions with acidic soil and leached topsoil.

Lithosols: Shallow soils with rocky or stony layers, common in steep slopes.

Chemical Properties Varies widely depending on local conditions. Typically acidic, with low organic matter content and nutrients.
Suitable Crops Limited agricultural potential due to rocky and shallow nature. Some terrace farming practices are adopted.
Special Features Vulnerable to erosion, landslides, and soil degradation.

Important for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Saline and Alkaline Soil

These are formed in arid and semi-arid regions where evaporation exceeds precipitation, leading to salt accumulation.

Aspect Details
Coverage in India Found in coastal areas, arid regions, and regions with poor drainage, such as parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Characteristics High concentration of soluble salts, such as sodium chloride, calcium sulfate, and magnesium sulfate.
Types Sodic Soil: Dominated by sodium salts, leading to soil structure degradation.

Non-Sodic Soil: Contains other salts, less damaging to soil structure.

Chemical Properties High levels of salts, particularly sodium, can affect soil structure and fertility.
Suitable Crops Limited agricultural potential due to high salinity. Some salt-tolerant crops like barley and cotton can be grown.
Special Features Requires special management practices like soil reclamation and drainage improvement to reduce salinity.

Peat and Marshy Soil

These are formed in waterlogged and acidic environments where organic matter accumulates faster than it decomposes.

Aspect Details
Coverage in India Found in swampy areas, marshes, and wetlands, primarily in regions with high rainfall and humidity such as parts of the Western Ghats, Northeast India, and coastal areas.
Characteristics High organic matter content, formed from partially decomposed plant material like mosses and wetland vegetation.
Types Fibric Peat: Dominated by fibrous plant remains, like mosses.

Hemic Peat: More decomposed than fibric peat.

Sapric Peat: Highly decomposed with few recognizable plant remains.

Chemical Properties Acidic pH, low nutrient content, and high water-holding capacity.
Suitable Crops Generally unsuitable for agriculture due to poor drainage and low nutrient availability.
Special Features Important for carbon sequestration and wetland ecosystems.

Can be used as a source of fuel (peat moss) in some regions.

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