Soils in India display wide diversity because of the variations in the climate and relief. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has classified the Indian soils into 8 categories. They are Alluvial soil, Black soil, Red soil, Laterite soil, Forest soil, Arid and Desert soil, Saline and Alkaline soils, Peaty and organic soils.
Alluvial soil contributing the largest share is derived from the sediments deposited by the rivers. They are agriculturally the most important soils. They are mainly found in central plains extending from Punjab to Assam, coastal plains and deltaic region. Finer and newer alluvium is Khadar and the Older alluvium is Bangar. These kinds of soils are abundant in potash and poor in nitrogen and organic matter. Alluvial soils are suitable for the cultivation of wheat, rice, pulses, sugarcane, jute, oilseeds, fodder etc.
Black soil is found mostly in the Deccan plateau. Black soil is suitable for the cultivation of cotton and therefore it is called black cotton soil. The soil is also known as regur soils. Regur soils vary in colour from black to chestnut brown. Black soils are rich in iron, lime and aluminium content but deficient in nitrogen, phosphate and humus. Black soils have high moisture retention capacity. They are well known for their fertility. They become sticky when wet due to high percentage of clay and develop cracks in hot sunny weather.
Red soil is created by the climatic conditions of primeval metamorphic and crystalline rocks. They are airy and need irrigation support for cultivation. Red soil is appropriate for the farming of pulses and common grains. Red soils are deprived in nitrogen, potassium, organic materials and phosphorus. They are more suitable for the cultivation of rice, ragi, tobacco and vegetables. The colour of soil is red due to the existence of iron oxides. Mainly found in the Peninsular India and hilly states of North East India.
Laterite soils are created by the organic matter of laterite rocks. They are rich in oxides of iron and aluminium. Laterite soils are deficient in nitrogen, potash and lime content. They are chiefly found in Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Malabar areas. These kinds of soils are agriculturally irrelevant due to thorough leaching, low base substitute capacity and also because of acidic nature. These are the typical soil of the tropical regions with heavy seasonal rainfall and alternative dry season. These soils provide valuable building materials. These soils are good for the cultivation of Rice, Ragi, Sugarcane, Tapioca, Chestnut etc.
Forest soils are formed by the deposition of organic matter derived from forests. They are rich in organic matter and humus but deficient in potash, phosphorous and lime. They are found mainly in Punjab, Karnataka, Manipur and Jammu & Kashmir. These kinds of soils are used for farming of tea, coffee, fruits and spices.
Arid and Desert soils are created under arid and semi arid circumstances in the north - western parts of India. They are abundant in phosphate while poor in nitrogen. These kinds of soils frequently have a high soluble salt material and extremely low humus content. These soils are made fertile by adding gypsum. These soils are found in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Rann of Kutch and other rain - shadows regions. They support very few crops, especially Millets, Jowar, Bajra which demand lesser water supply.
Saline and Alkaline soils are salt impregnated and infertile. These kinds of soils are particularly originated in the dry tracts of the north. Alkaline soils are deficient in calcium ant nitrogen and are highly impervious and have very low water holding capacity. These soils are found in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Bihar. Major crops planted in this type of soils are rice, wheat, cotton, sugarcane, tobacco etc when supported by irrigation.
Peaty soils are developed under humid conditions as a result of the accumulation of large amounts of organic matter. These soils are saline and abundant in organic matter. It is black in colour and heavy in weight. This soil is acidic in nature, deficient in phosphate and potash. This soil found in Kottayam and Alappuzha districts of Kerala are called Kari. When the rain stops they are set under paddy cultivation. It is the soil of Koul region. It also occurs in the northern Bihar, Southern Uttaranchal (Almora district) and coastal areas of West Bengal, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.