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Types of Soil & Crops Grown in India

green land india image by Arun Kumar from

The nation of India extends more than 1 million square miles, most of which is under use by humans. Sixty-one percent of India's land surface is used for agriculture, according to the Gapminder Foundation. With such a large area under cultivation, farmers have had to adapt to a wide range of soil types and environments. Indian agriculture takes place anywhere from flood plains to deserts and mountains.

Alluvial Soils

This type of soil is common in Northern India, particularly in the delta regions. Alluvial soils are deposited by rivers and are rich in some nutrients (particularly potash and humus), but are lacking in nitrogen and phosphorous. They tend to be sandier and quicker-draining than many other soils. Rice, wheat, sugarcane, cotton and jute all grow well in these soils.

Black Soils

Black soil gets its color from various salts or from humus. It contains a large amount of clay, but is sandy as well in hillier regions. This soil contains moderate amounts of phosphorous but is poor in nitrogen. This type of soil is also used for rice, wheat, sugarcane and cotton. It is additionally used to grow groundnut, millet and oilseeds.

Desert Soils

Desert soils are sandy and dry. They do contain nitrogen, but are suitable for agriculture only if there is a sufficient water supply. Generally only drought-resistant crops such as barley and millet can grow in this type of soil.

Laterite Soils

These soils are found in areas of India with heavy rainfall, particularly near the coasts. It is an acidic soil and is rich in iron, which gives the soil a somewhat red appearance. It is used to grow more tropical crops such as cashew, rubber, coconut, tea and coffee.

Mountain Soils

These soils are found in the Himalayas and contain significant amounts of organic matter. They are somewhat acidic, but suitable for growing tea, coffee, spices and many types of tropical fruits.

Red and Yellow Soils

Red and yellow soils get their names from the very large amounts of iron oxide present in them. They are sandy and somewhat acidic, and are also low in nitrogen and phosphorous. Despite this, red and yellow soils are used to grow rice, wheat, sugarcane, millet, groundnut, ragi and potato.

Other Soils

There are various other types of soil in India, but none of them is suitable for growing crops. Saline and alkaline soils are too low in nutrients and too high in salt for productive agriculture. Marsh soils are likewise unfit, but mainly because of their high acidity.

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