Soil of India - Alluvial Soil, Red, Black, Laterite, Desert & Other Types of Soil in India

By Shubhra Anand Jain|Updated : October 7th, 2022

There are 10 Types of Soil in India, out of which Alluvial Soil covers more than 40% area. Soil is formed after the weathering of big rocks due to extreme climatic changes like rainfall, heat, etc. Due to the diverse and vast geography and demography, Soil Types in India vary drastically. 

Soil is a material composed of five ingredients — minerals, soil organic matter, living organisms, gas, and water. Soil minerals are divided into three classes: clay, silt, and sand. Variations in ingredients, rock debris, organic matter, and climatic conditions lead to different soil types in India. 

Table of Content

Types of Soil in India

There are a huge variety of types of soil in India. Some of the major soil types in India are mentioned below-

  1. Alluvial soil
  2. Red soil
  3. Black / Regur soil
  4. Arid / Desert soil
  5. Laterite soil
  6. Saline and Alkaline Soil
  7. Peaty and Marshy soil
  8. Forest soil
  9. Sub-mountain soil
  10. Snowfields

Types of Soil in India PDF

In ancient times, India's classification of soil types was based on fertility -

  • If the soil type was sterile or not fertile, it was called Usara.
  • If the soil type was fertile, it was called Uvara.

According to geographical location, Soil Types in India are classified as

  • Peninsular soil: This type of soil is also known as sedentary soil. This type of soil is carried and deposited repeatedly due to natural courses.
  • Extra peninsular soil: Also known as azonal soil, is heavier and on the deeper layers due to wind and water movement.

Soils of India with States

Based on scientific work, this classification of Soil Types in India is based on parameters such as time, topography, source of origin, natural factors, climatic conditions, and biological factors. It is widely accepted throughout the world. Below is a table that explains the different types of soil and presents you with a systematic state-wise list; 

Soil Types in India

Description of Soils in India

Properties of Indian Soil

Soil Distribution in India (State-Wise)

Alluvial Soil

Widely found in north India, it constitutes 43% of India's surface

Highly fertile

Clay-like texture

Grey

Potash rich, phosphorus deprived

Narmada Tapi Plain

Eastern coastal plains of India

Deltas of rivers Mahanadi, Godavari river, Krishna river and Kaveri

Arid or Desert Soil

Found in semi to fully arid conditions


Transported by wind and lacks moisture

Poor in nitrate

High salt content

Prevents water infiltration

Sandy in texture

Colour can vary from red to brown

Desert regions of India covering Western India

Western Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab and extends up to the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat

Black Soil or Regur Soil

Mature soil with water-retaining and self-plowing capacity


When wet, it swells up. When dry, it shrinks, forming cracks on the surface

Best suited for cotton cultivation

Clay-like texture

Black

Rich in iron, calcium, etc.; Poor in nitrogen, phosphorous, etc.

Deccan Region

Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh on the Deccan lava plateau and the Malwa Plateau

Laterite Soil

Found during monsoons


Cover 3.7% of the country


Works well with fertilizers; else are lowly fertile

Rich in iron oxide and potash

Lack nitrogen, calcium, etc

Dries when exposed to air and used to form bricks

Madhya Pradesh

Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu

the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats (Rajamahal Hills, Vindhyas, Satpuras, and Malwa Plateau)

Mountain/Forest Soil

Grown in hilly regions

Acidic Soil due to less humus

Can be silty or coarse-grained, depending on the elevation

Northern India, like Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and North East India

Peaty Soil

Grown in areas with high rainfall

Rich in humus

Suitable for vegetation

Southern Uttarakhand, Odisha, Tamil Nadu

Red Soil

Widely found in low rainfall areas

It constitutes 18.3% of Indian soil

Porous structure

Sandy texture

Red due to ferric oxide or the high presence of iron

Potash, phosphorus, and nitrogen deprived

Eastern India

Tamil Nadu

Parts of Karnataka, southeastern Maharashtra, eastern Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Chota Nagpur (Jharkhand), south Bihar, West Bengal (Birbhum and Bankura)

Saline/Alkaline Soil

Found in dry climate areas

Usually infertile due to high salt content

Sandy in texture

Low in calcium and nitrogen

West Bengal's Sundarban area, East Coast deltas, Western Gujarat

What is Soil, and How is it Formed?

Earth is divided into three parts: the Crust, Core and Mantle. Typically composed of very small bits of particles and humus, the soil is the loose upper layer of the mantle rock that supports plant growth. There are many types of soil, but it, in general, is composed of mineral or rock particles, dead and decaying organic matter, moisture, and air.

In addition to all these, the other factors influencing soil formation are the soil's parent material, the climate, vegetation, life forms, and the period. Generally, the soil is composed of four main elements, which are-

  1. Air
  2. Water
  3. Organic and inorganic matter
  4. Rocks

The formation of soil follows a complex process known as pedogenesis. Under specific climatic conditions, the rocks and other elements of the natural environment break down and contribute to soil formation. The type and texture of the soil are not the same everywhere. It depends on the density and profile of the soil and varies from region to region.

For example, the eastern and southern part of the Deccan Plateau is rich in red soil, whereas Gujarat is rich in black soil. Every soil has a different level of fertility, and our best for some or the other type of 

ICAR Soil Classification

ICAR, or the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, provides the modern classification of Soil Types in India.

S.No

Order 

Percentage

1.

Inceptisols 

39.74

2. 

Entisols 

28.08

3. 

Alfisols 

13.55

4. 

Vertisols 

8.52 

5.

Aridisols 

4.28

6. 

Ultisols 

2.51

7. 

Mollisols 

0.40

8.

Others 

2.92

-

Total 

100

What is the Soil Profile?

There are distinct layers in the soil, as we have already learned that the soil formation process happens by breaking down the rocks due to the extreme climatic conditions along with strong winds and water. This process is called weathering. Now the nature of the soil entirely depends on the process by which it is formed and the environment in which it stays.

  • The soil profile is the vertical section having different layers of soil where each layer is different from the other in terms of texture, color, and chemical composition.
  • The uppermost layer of the soil, which is generally dark in color, is rich in Minerals and humus. Humus is the dead and decaying matter found in the soil that increases the fertility of the soil and carries the nutrients from the soil to plants. Ideally, there are 4 layers of soil.
    • The uppermost layer is the topsoil, which is quite soft and called the A Horizon. The topsoil is the shelter for many living organisms like rodents, beetles, moles, and worms.
    • The layer next to the topsoil is known as the middle layer or B Horizon, which is slightly harder and more compact than the topsoil. Also, the amount of humus and Minerals found in the middle layer is considerably lesser.
    • The next Layer to the middle layer in the soil profile is the C Horizon, in which many small lumps of rocks have cracks in them. It is interesting to know that the Horizon see, or the third layer in soil formation, is actually the first stage of the formation of soil.

Alluvial Soil

Alluvial Soil in India is the most widespread soil in the Northern region of India. The deposition of materials by sea and river is called alluvium, and the soil formed due to the alluvium deposition is called alluvial soil.

  • The Alluvial soil comprises 40% of the total soil in the country. This type of soil is mainly found in the Indo-Ganga and Brahmaputra plains, i.e. the whole northern plain, some parts of the river basin in the south, and some plateau regions.

Types of Alluvial Soil

Alluvial soil can be broadly categorized into two types, i.e. New alluvial soil and old alluvial soil.

  • Old alluvial soils are found in slightly elevated areas far away from the river and are clayey and sticky.
  • The new alluvial soil is found in the river's floodplain and is more fertile than the old alluvial soil.
  • Alluvial soil is composed of debris and rock particles brought down by the rivers running from the Himalayas.
  • Alluvial soil looks more like ash grey in color and gives the texture of sandy loam to clay.
  • Alluvial soil is poor in Phosphorus but is a rich source of Potassium.
  • Crops Grown: Alluvial soil is suitable for rabi and Kharif crops like cereals, cotton, oilseeds, and sugarcane. Crops like wheat, maize, sugarcane, oil seed, and pulses are mainly cultivated in Alluvial soils.

Laterite Soil

Laterite soil is primarily found in the region of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh and is the best-suited soil for cultivating tree crops like cashew nuts.

  • The Laterite soil comprises 3.7% of the total soil in the country.
  • Laterite is a clayey rock or soil formed under high temperatures and high rainfall and with an alternate dry and wet period.
  • An interesting feature of Laterite soil is that it is called monsoon soil. After the rain, lime and silica get washed away, and the soil left behind is rich in iron oxide and aluminum, ultimately forming Laterite soil.
  • Minerals like potash and iron oxide are abundant in the laterite soil, whereas the organic matter phosphate, calcium, and nitrogen are highly deficient in the soil.
  • This type of soil is unsuitable for agriculture due to the high content of acidity and inability to retain moisture.

Red Soil

Red soil is also known as yellow soil. These soils are red in color due to the high concentration of Iron Oxide. It covers about the total land area of 18% of the country.

  • Red soils develop on granite and geneses rocks under low rainfall conditions, i.e. due to weathering of the metamorphic rocks.
  • The red soil is best for crops like wheat, tobacco, oil seed, millet, and cotton.
  • Red Soil is friable and medium fertile and found mainly in the Western Ghats, some parts of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, and South-eastern Karnataka.
  • It is also found in North-eastern and South-eastern Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and the Hills and Plateaus of North-east India.
  • During monsoons or when the red soil is in its hydrated form, then it appears in yellow color. The soil is red due to the excessive presence of iron in Metamorphic and crystalline rocks.

Black Soil in India

Black soil is also called black cotton soil, the best-suited soil for cotton crops. The regur or black soils have developed extensively upon the Lava Plateaus of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and mainly Malwa and are formed due to volcanic activities.

  • Black cotton covers a total land area of 15% of the country.
  • Black soil can be found in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, etc.
  • As the same name, the color of the soil is black but varies from black to grey.
  • The black soil is rich in minerals like Iron, lime, magnesium, aluminum, and potassium but lacks phosphorus, nitrogen, and organic matter.
  • Apart from cotton, other cash crops like pulses, castor, tobacco, sugarcane citrus fruits, and linseed are cultivated in black soil.

Mountain Soil

As the name says, mountain soil is the soil that is found in hilly areas. Also, the texture of the mountain soil may vary from region to region. The characteristics of this type of soil are changed according to the altitudes.

  • The mountain soil is loamy and silty in the valleys and coarse-grained on the upper slopes.
  • The soil found in the lower valleys is highly fertile in nature, also known as forest soil.
  • In the snowy areas of the Himalayan range, the soil is acidic and has much lesser humus than in the plain areas.

Saline Soil

Saline soil is also called alkaline soil because it has a higher percentage of potassium, magnesium, and sodium and therefore is very infertile in nature. The presence of excess salt in the soil is due to the region's poor drainage and dry climate.

  • Since the soil has a higher percentage of sodium in it, therefore, it lacks nitrogen and calcium.
  • Saline soil can be found in the Sundarban area of West Bengal, the Rann of Kutch Western Gujarat deltas of the eastern coast.
  • Saline soil can be used to grow leguminous crops.

Peaty and Marshy Soil

Marshy soil can be found in the reasons which receive rich rainfall. Since they are highly moisturized in soil and rich in water content, the Marshy soil is rich in humus and organic matter.

  • Marshy soils are dense in nature due to the presence of water and appear black in color.
  • This type of soil can be found in the states of Bihar, Bengal, Tamilnadu, and Odisha.
  • Crops like paddy rice, and cassava maze, and fruits like Cranberries and sweet potatoes are grown in the Marshy soil.

Desert Soil

Desert soil is found mainly in the state of Rajasthan and covers a total land of 4.42% of the country. In the absence of sufficient wash by rainwater, soils have become saline and rather unfit for cultivation.

Despite that, cultivation can be carried on with the help of modern irrigation.

  • The color of desert soil may vary from brown to Red and vice-versa.
  • Desert soil is saline in nature because the salt content in the soil is very high in it.
  • Desert soil is rich in phosphate but lacks nitrogen.
  • The kankar layers are created, which is caused by the presence of higher calcium concentration in the soil, which lowers the soil horizons. This kankar layer prevents the water from penetrating deep. So when irrigation methods supply water, soil moisture is available for long-term plant development.

Soil Erosion

The phenomenon of removal of the topsoil from the soil profile due to natural or man-made reasons is called soil erosion. Generally, the process of weathering rocks and the formation of soil and erosion of soil goes hand in hand. Still, the topsoil gets eroded under certain extreme climatic conditions like heavy rainfall or floods.

  • The water is the main reason for soil erosion in areas that receive heavy rainfall.
  • As a result of soil erosion, the water bodies carry the eroded materials downstream. This results in the reduction of the capacity of the water body to carry water and creates damage to the crops, thereby increasing flooding.
  • Deforestation is another highly talked about reason for soil erosion. The roots of please find the soil with it and anchor itself. When the trees are slashed down, the soil becomes loose and ultimately eroded.

Soil Conservation

A technique called "soil conservation" is used to keep the soil fertile, stop soil erosion, and restore deteriorated soil. Farming operations and management measures known as soil conservation practices aim to mitigate soil erosion by avoiding or reducing soil particle separation and its transport in air or water.

  • Some of the corrective procedures used to stop soil erosion include contour bunding, contour terracing, controlled grazing, regulated forestry, cover crops, mixed farming, and crop rotation.
  • In addition to stopping the uncontrolled cutting down of trees, afforestation (tree planting) aids in minimizing soil erosion.
  • Floods and the issue of soil erosion go hand in hand. Floods typically happen during the wet season. Therefore, efforts for the storage of floodwater or the redirection of additional rains must be made. The Ganga-Kaveri connection Canal Project is one example of how rivers might be connected.
  • To solve the issue of soil erosion, ravines and gullies need to be restored. In the Chambal ravines in Madhya Pradesh, a number of such programmes that involve plugging gully mouths, building bunds across the gullies, leveling the gullies, and planting cover plants are being implemented.

Soil UPSC

Soil UPSC topic is important for UPSC Exam. It is part of the UPSC Geography Syllabus, which is important for UPSC Prelims and for Mains GS1 too. To learn more about the soil, its features, and its properties, you can visit the NCERT books for UPSC, and you can also consider the geography books for UPSC for references. Also, it is important to be in touch with current affairs. 

Soils of India UPSC Question

To practice the type of questions being asked in the IAS exam, you can refer to the UPSC question paper or the study material too.

Question: Prelims 2011- Salinization occurs when the irrigation water accumulated in the soil evaporates, leaving behind Salts and Minerals. What are the effects of salinization on irrigated land?

  1. It greatly increases the crop production
  2. It makes some soil impermeable
  3. It raises the water table
  4. It feels the air spaces in the soil with water

Answer- B

Question: Prelims Question 2013- Which of the following statements regarding the laterite soil of India are correct?

  1. They are generally red
  2. They are rich in nitrogen and potash
  3. They are very well developed in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh
  4. Tapioca and cashew nuts grow well on these soils

Select the correct answer using the course given below

  1. 1, 2 and 3
  2. 1 and 4
  3. 2, 3 and 4
  4. 2 and 3

Answer- B

Other Important UPSC Notes

Biodiversity

Battle of Buxar

Freedom fighters of India

Foreign Direct Investment

Payment Banks

Rowlatt Act

Preamble of Indian Constitution

Constituent Assembly of India

ARC Report for UPSC

French Revolution

President of India

Vedas UPSC Notes

Unification of Germany

Ancient History Notes

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FAQs on Types of Soil

  • India has 10 different soil deposits. They include forest and mountainous soil, marsh, alluvial, red, black, laterite, or arid soil. The sediment that the rivers carry down creates these soils.

  • The Types of Soils in India are as follows. 

    • Alluvial soil
    • Red soil
    • Black / Regur soil
    • Arid / Desert soil
    • Laterite soil
    • Saline and Alkaline Soil
    • Peaty and Marshy soil
    • Forest soil
    • Sub-mountain soil
    • Snowfields
  • The Indian Council of Agricultural Research provides the scientific classification of the Soil Types in India. As per ICAR Soil Classification, Inceptisols, Entisols, Alfisols, Vertisols, Aridisols, Ultisols, Mollisols, and Others are the soils in India. 

  • Every Soil type in India can extend up to three layers -

    • Topsoil: Is enriched with nutrients and facilitates plant growth
    • Subsoil: Is the middle layer and is richer in minerals like hummus
    • Weather and decomposed rocks: Is the foremost layer of soil formation, mainly consisting of parent material
  • Alluvial soil is widely present in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Also, the alluvial soil can be found in Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Bihar, and some parts of Madhya Pradesh.

  • Cash crops are crops that are grown for commercial purposes. These crops cannot be used for personal use but are best to make money for a living. The cash crops grown in India are cotton Jute, Sugarcane, Silk, etc. Alluvial soil is best for sugarcane, black soil is best for cotton and jute, and laterite soil is for tea and coffee.

  • On the Malwa Plateau and the Deccan lava plateau, where there is moderate rainfall and underlying basaltic rock, black soils, which are derivatives of trap lava, are primarily found in interior Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh.

  • South Uttarakhand has the highest amount of Marshy soil present. Apart from that, Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, Tamilnadu, and MP are the states which are rich in Marshy soil in India

  • India's soil types are categorized based on natural vegetation, biological factors, climatic conditions, topography, parent material, etc.

  • Commonly found in India's Northern Plains and valleys, the Alluvial soil constitutes the largest part of the Indian ground, 43%. This is the most popular out of all the Soil Types in India.

  • Many factors that contribute to the formation of soil, like its texture properties, that are helpful for farmers and Agriculture scientists figure out what type of crops can be best grown in the particular soil.

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