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Soil- It’s Types, benefits & Soils of India

Soil may be defined as a thin layer of earth's crust which serves as a natural medium for growth of plants. It is the unconsolidated mineral matter that has been subjected to, and influenced by, genetic and environmental factors-- parent material, climate, organisms and topography all acting over a period of time. They serve as a reservoir of nutrients and water for crops, provide mechanical anchorage and favorable tilth. The components of soil are mineral matter, organic matter, water and air, the proportions of which vary and which together form a system for plant growth; hence the need to study the soils in perspective.

There are many soil classification systems. There are two major systems are the vernacular system and scientific system. In vernacular system soil can be categorized as red soil, black soil, yellow soil, hot soil, etc. In scientific system the soil can be categorized according to the development of soil or the amount of substances present in the soil. As there are various systems to classify soils, it means soil classification is not static. Categorizing soil or dirt by the size of particles is most common, and can be easily performed at home. This classification helps to understand the basic properties of the soil and helps to conclude if the type of soil is good enough for gardening or farming.

Therefore depending on the size of the particles in the soil, it can be classified into these following types:

Sandy Soil

This soil type has the biggest particles; and the bigger size of the particles in a soil the better is aeration and drainage of the soil. This soil is granular and consists of rock and mineral particles that are very small. Therefore the texture is gritty. Sandy soil is formed by the disintegration and weathering of rocks such as limestone, granite, quartz and shale. Sandy soil is easier to cultivate if it is rich in organic material, but then it allows drainage more than is needed, thus resulting in over-drainage and dehydration of the plants in summer. It warms very fast in the spring season. Sandy soil retains a certain amount of moisture and nutrients. In a way sandy soil is good for plants since it lets the water drain easily, so that it prevents root rot problems.

Silty Soil

Silty soil is considered to be one of the most fertile of soils. It can occur in nature as soil or as suspended sediment in water column of a water body on the surface of the earth. It is composed of minerals like quartz and fine organic particles. It is granular like sandy soil but it has more nutrients than sandy soil and offers better drainage. In case silty soil is dry it has a smoother texture and looks like dark sand. This type of soil can hold more moisture and at times becomes compact. It offers better drainage and is much easier to work with when it has moisture.

Clay Soil

Clay is a kind of material that occurs naturally and consists of very fine grain material with very less air spaces. Due to this it is difficult to work with this soil, because the drainage in this soil is low. Hence, there is possible for water logging to occur, which can harm the roots of the plant. Clay soil becomes very heavy when wet and if cultivation has to be done, organic fertilizers need to be added to the soil. Clay soil is formed after years of rock disintegration and weathering. It is also formed as sedimentary deposits after the rock is weathered, eroded and transported. Clay soil due to its formation process is rich in mineral content.

Loamy Soil

This soil consists of sand, silt and clay to some extent. It is considered to be the perfect soil for gardening. The texture is gritty and retains water very easily, yet the drainage is good. There are various kinds of loamy soil ranging from fertile to very muddy and thick sod. Yet out of all the different kinds of soil, loamy soil is ideal for cultivation. So, in case you are thinking of starting a vegetable patch or a small garden, apply a layer of loamy soil to the garden before you start plantation.

Peaty Soil

This kind of soil is basically formed by the accumulation of dead and decayed organic matter; it naturally contains much more organic matter than most of the soils. It is generally found in marshy areas. The decomposition of the organic matter in this soil is blocked by the acidity of the soil. This kind of soil is formed in wet climate. Though the soil is rich in organic matter, nutrients present are fewer in this soil type than any other type. Peaty soil is prone to water logging, but if the soil is fertilized well and the drainage of the soil is looked after, it can be the ideal for growing plants.

Chalky Soil

Unlike peaty soil, chalky soil is very alkaline in nature and consists of a large number of stones. The fertility of this kind of soil depends on the depth of the soil that is on the bed of chalk. This kind of soil is prone to dryness and in summers it is a poor choice for plantation, as the plants would need much more watering and fertilizing than on any other type of soil. Chalky soil, apart from being dry also blocks the nutritional elements for the plants like iron and magnesium.

There are different types of soils in India and the formation of soil is influenced by7 various major factors like climate, altitude and composition of bedrock. Disproportion in the annual distribution of rainfall in the country and excessive heat contribute special characters to the soils of the country. The eight major types of soils in India are Laterite soils, Black soils, Desert soils, Red and Yellow soils, Saline soils, alluvial soils, Mountain soils and peat soils.

The various Types of Soils found in India are discussed below-

Laterite Soil/Red Soil: It is the soil of the tropical regions of the country. This typical soil is found in those regions which receive heavy rainfall. This soil is poor in lime content and hence it is more acidic. It is basically red in color because of the presence of iron oxides. Lateritic soils are well developed in the southern region of Western Ghats and Orissa`s Eastern Ghats. This soil contains least moisture content. Laterite Soils are mostly found on the plateau in the east spreading partly over Orissa and Tamil Nadu, parts of Chhota nagpur and Meghalaya.

Black Soil: Black soils are also known as Regur soils. The colour of the soil is black because of the presence of certain salts. However, in some places, presence of humus in the soil imparts its black colour. This soil becomes sticky when is wet owing to the high quantity of clay deposition. Black soils are generally thin and sandy in the hilly regions of the country. It does not contain adequate nitrogen but it contains sufficient phosphorous required for the growth of the plants. Black soils can be found in the Deccan plateau and also in plateaus of Madhya Pradesh, Saurashtra, Malwa and Maharashtra.

Red and Yellow Soil: Red and Yellow soils are found in areas, which receive low rainfall. They generally develop on metamorphic rocks. They contain huge concentration of iron oxides that are responsible for giving the reddish or yellow color. They are less clayey and sandier and are poor in important minerals like lime, phosphorous and nitrogen. This soil is mainly cultivated during the monsoon rainy season. These soils also develop in Manipur, Shillong Plateau and Mizoram.

Saline Soil: Saline soils develop in the coastal plains of Kerala and Orissa. In some regions of the country, salt content is in toxic doses. Saline soils are basically black in color. They are highly acidic.

Alluvial Soil: Alluvial soils are mainly found in the plains of northern India. These soils have low phosphorous and nitrogen content. These soils are sandier in their composition. Even in the north western regions of the country which are drier these soils are found. The Himalayan Rivers, Ganga, Sutlej and Brahmaputra, and their tributaries have deposited these soils in the plains of northern India.

Desert Soil: These soils are basically sandy and are of light brown and reddish color. They are of saline texture. These soils are favorable for vegetation if there is water content. These soils contain an important mineral that is nitrogen. This type of soil is found in desert regions like in Thar Desert of Rajasthan.

Mountain Soil: Mountain soils are considered as a significant variety of soil in the Himalayan region of the country. They are mainly found in dry and cold district in the northern region of India.

Peat Soil: Peat soil has usually been derived from marsh land where there has been continuous growth and decay over thousands of years. The sourness in this soil is produced by the decaying of the vegetable matter present, as peat soils contain more than 20 per cent of humus. These are found in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Orissa. Peat is usually found in low-lying areas, and so may be waterlogged and may need pipe draining. Certain crops, like celery, for instance, do very well on peat soils. It has fewer nutrients and is dark brown in color. It is formed in wet climate. This type of soil contains more organic matter.

Soil microorganisms and other fauna (e.g., earthworms, insects, and arthropods) influence the availability of nutrients for crop growth by decomposing soil organic matter and releasing or immobilizing plant nutrients. Biological activity improves soil aggregation through the secretion of soil binding mucilages and hyphal growth. Improved aggregation, in turn, increases water infiltration and the ease of plant root penetration. Soil biological activity is considered an integral attribute of a healthy soil.