Types of Soil in India – Classification, Different Types of Soil in India

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

There are 8 major types of soil in India which are Alluvial Soil, Desert Soil, Black Soil, Red and Yellow Soil, Laterite Soil, Forest or Mountain Soil, Alkaline Soil, and Peaty and Marshy Soils. Out of these types of soils in India, alluvial soil covers almost 40% of the land area. The 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 and there exist many types of soil that exist and come under these eight major categories.

In this article, candidates can learn about the detailed description of the types of soils in India, their use and location. Generally, soil comprises four major elements: air, water, inorganic, and organic matter. 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.

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.

What is Soil?

Soil is the upper layer of the earth’s crust that can sustain life. It is composed of loose gravel and humus. The parent rock, climate, flora, and animal life all have a significant impact on soil formation processes. There are many types of soil in India used for agriculture. The first person to scientifically classify different types of soil was Vasily Dokuchaev.

The soil profile is a vertical section through various layers of soil. The proportion of particles of different sizes in the soil is used to classify it. For example, Sandy soil has a higher percentage of large particles than clay soil. If the fine particle fraction is comparatively higher, it is referred to as clayey soil. Loamy soil is considered best for construction and is defined as having roughly the same quantity of large and fine particles.

How Many Types of Soil?

There are mainly four types of soil in India that exist in our environment- Clay, Sandy, Loamy, and Silt Soil. Each of these types of soil consists of peculiar characteristics that differentiate them from one another. Soil is an integral part of the Earth’s surface. It forms a layer on the earth which is formed as a result of the breakdown of rocks.

The four types of soil in India are beneficial in their own ways, possessing different characteristics such as humidity, organic matter, texture, etc. Out of the four types of soil, Sandy soil is the weakest one to grow plants. It consists of less number of nutrients & the capacity to hold water is also weak. It consists of tiny particles of rocks as a result of weathering.

  • Silt soil consists of even tinier particles than Sandy soil and consists of minerals. It is best to be used for agriculture owing to its fertility.
  • Clay soil contains the smallest of particles which are bound together tightly leaving no space for air. Thus it has great water-storage capacity.
  • Loamy soil is formed by combining all the positive attributes of the remaining three types of soil. It is a mixture of clay, silt and sandy soils.

Types of Soil in 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;

Types of Soil
Indian States
Alluvial Soil
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand
Laterite Soil
Assam, Odisha, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala
Black Soil
Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu
Arid Soil
Punjab, Rajasthan, and Gujarat
Red Soil
Chattisgarh and Odisha

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 colour due to the high concentration of Iron Oxide. It covers about the total land area of 18% of the country.

  • Red soils develop on geneses rocks and granite 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 dusty 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 Jharkhand, South-eastern and North-eastern Madhya Pradesh, and the Plateaus and Hills of North-eastern India.
  • During monsoons or when the red soil is in its hydrated form, then it appears in yellow colour. 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 Gujarat, Maharashtra, 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 colour 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 less productive. Despite that, with the use of modern irrigation techniques, cultivation can be done.

  • 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.

Types of Soil in India for Agriculture

Different soils have different qualities. For different crops and regions, there are different soils. For example, the new alluvial soil is found in the floodplain of the river and is much more fertile in comparison to the old alluvial.

  • Alluvial soil is suitable for rabi and Kharif crops like cereals, cotton, oilseeds, and sugarcane.
  • Regur or black soil is especially suited for the cultivation of cotton and is hence sometimes called ‘black cotton soil.’
  • Regur soil is suitable for crops like cotton, jowar, wheat, linseed, gram, fruit, and vegetables. Crops grown in red soil are Wheat, Rice, Millet, and Pulses.

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 terracing, mixed farming, contour bunding, controlled grazing, cover crops, regulated forestry, 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 are being implemented.

Types of Soil UPSC

Types of Soil in India 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 Questions

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

Question 1: Which type of soil is characterized by its high fertility and is widely found in the Gangetic plains of India? – (a) Red soil, (b) Laterite soil, (c) Alluvial soil, (d) Desert soil

Answer: c) Alluvial soil

Question 2: Black soil, also known as regur soil, is primarily found in which region of India? – (a) Northern plains, (b) Western Ghats, (c) Deccan Plateau, (d) Himalayan foothills

Answer: c) Deccan Plateau

Question 3: Which type of soil is known for its clayey texture and reddish color due to the presence of iron oxide? – (a) Laterite soil, (b) Desert soil, (c) Black soil, (d) Alluvial soil

Answer: a) Laterite soil

Question 4: Red and laterite soils are commonly found in which part of India?

a) Western and northwestern regions

b) Southern parts, especially the Deccan Plateau

c) Northeastern states

d) Hilly regions like the Himalayas

Answer: c) Northeastern states

Question 5: Which type of soil is found in the arid and semi-arid regions of western and northwestern India? – (a) Desert soil, (b) Alluvial soil, (c) Black soil, (d) Laterite soil

Answer: a) Desert soil

Important UPSC Notes:
Non Cooperation Movement Five Year Plan in India
President of India Kyoto Protocol
Fundamental Duties Multidimensional Poverty Index
Revolt of 1857 Sources of Indian Constitution
Amendments in Indian Constitution Economic Planning in India
Military Exercises of India Cripps Mission
NITI Aayog Armed Forces Special Powers Act
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