Different Types of Soil in India and Their Uses

12 Jun 2023
Different Types of Soil in India and Their Uses
Soil serves as a crucial aspect in agriculture, where it offers a medium for the growth of plants. In India, 10 types of significant soil are found but major soil types are alluvial soil, black soil, red soil, mountain soil, desert soil, and laterite soil.

Table of Content


Indian is a large and a diversified country not only in terms of people and culture but also in terms of relief features, climatic regions, landforms, and vegetation types. These have played an important role in the development of different types of soil in India.

Each soil type has a different characteristic depending upon the topographical characteristics and climate of that region, among others. These soil types have contributed to the type of farming practice adopted by the population and types of crops grown in general. 

What is Soil?

Soil is a mixture of organic matter and rock debris found over the crust of the earth or surface of the land. It is the most valuable resource of earth’s crust, and it has evolved over thousands of years and is still evolving. The agents of gradation and weathering have broken the parental rocks to produce a thin layer of soil what we see today.

There are four components of soil. These are air, water, organic matter, and inorganic matter. Organic matter means the decomposed and decayed animals and plants, which are an important factor contributing to soil formation. By inorganic matter, we mean, minerals derived from parental rocks that have become part of soil due to continuous weathering process over the years.

What is the Importance of Soil?

Soil is abundant in quantity in the world, and it takes a significant time and process for it to reach its final stage, where it can be considered soil. It is crucial for agriculture and construction. It serves as a crucial aspect in agriculture, where it offers a medium for the growth of plants.

It offers water and necessary nutrients to the plants. The level of fertility in the soil directly influences the overall health and yield in agricultural productivity. Soil is also a major contributor in purifying water, acting as a natural filter, maintaining, and regulating its flow and assisting in preventing floods.

It is also crucial for construction, where it offers a stable foundation for the infrastructure built upon it. The final stability and strength of soil are influenced by the content and composition of the soil. It is necessary to understand the characteristics of the soil before finalizing the development of any infrastructure over it.

Different Types of Soil in India

India has a vast landmass which ensures that different types of soil can be identified in the country according to the environment. The reason for the different types of soil in India is due to its different geological formations and climatic variation. In this section we will understand, how many types of soil are found in India. These soil types have been classified basis the genesis, colour, composition, and location.

Alluvial Soil

Alluvial soil is formed through the clay, sand and silt deposits that are carried by river streams. Alluvial soil is commonly found beside riverbanks and floodplains. The colour of the soil varies from light grey to ash grey. This soil has high nutrient value and a fine texture.

It is the most common and widespread types of soil in India and is found mainly in Northern plains and river valleys.

The states where this form of soil is found includes West Bengal, Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana, among others. This is common due to the Indo-Gangetic plain, which is also the most fertile soil land in the country.

Red and Yellow Soil

Red soil, as the name suggests, is red in colour, and this is because of the presence of iron oxide in it. The soil attains the Yellow colour due to hydrated form of iron oxide. Hence, it is collectively known as Read and Yellow soil.

This soil type is well drained and is formed over the period from crystalline rocks such as schist, gneiss, and granite. It is, however, less fertile than the alluvial soil as it lacks the nutrients found in alluvial soil.

It is found in the areas of low rainfall in eastern and southern Deccan plateaus. It is easily available in several states of the country, such as Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and parts of Madhya Pradesh. 

Black Soil

Black soil also got its name from its colour, which is deep black. They are also found in grey colour. It is also called black cotton soil or regur soil and possesses a higher level of clay content and is deep and impermeable.

This is formed from volcanic rocks and has several minerals, such as lime, iron, potassium, and magnesium. It retains water for a long time due to its higher capacity to hold moisture. This helps in crop growth even during the dry season in rain fed areas.

This type of soil in India is found in Deccan plateaus states like Gujarat, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. Maharashtra's black soil is considered the most widespread form of black soil in the country.

Mountain Soil

This type of soil is the most infertile and can be understood as acidic, shallow, and poorly developed. It can vary in diversity within a limited area due to the difference in the level of exposure or land area. With the elevation increase, this type of soil becomes more infertile and with fewer nutrients.

Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal, and Western Ghats are some regions and states where this type of soil can be found.

Laterite Soil

The Laterite soil has been derived from the Latin word ‘Later’ meaning brick. They are mainly found in the high temperature and high rainfall areas. This soil is formed from rocks crushed under leaching and oxidizing conditions and has a red rusty texture.

As a result, this soil type is rich in iron oxide and aluminum compounds. However, they are poor in organic matter, calcium, nitrogen, and phosphate.

It is found in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and hilly areas of Assam and Odisha. The laterite soils of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh are fit for growing cashewnut trees. 

Arid Soil

Arid soil is also known as desert soil. As the name suggests, they are mainly found in the Thar desert of Rajasthan state. The soil colour ranges from red to brown and is generally sandy and saline in nature. This soil type is devoid of humus and moisture due to high temperature and dry climate.

The other significant soil types found in India are alkaline or saline soils, forest soils, and peaty soils, among others.

Uses of Different Types of Soil

Each soil type has its own characteristics and has unique uses. With the help of irrigation, modern farming methods, and sustainable farming practices like rainwater harvesting, soil fertility can be enhanced to put to other varied uses. Let us understand the uses of each soil type in this section.

Alluvial Soil

Soil types - Alluvial soil

Since it is among the most fertile soil in the country, its agricultural use is high. It is suitable for producing a variety of crops such as maize, sugarcane, rice, pulses, and wheat. The reason is the presence of crucial nutrients in the soil, such as potash, nitrogen, and phosphorus. For dry farming also, it is appropriate due to its water retention ability.

In construction also, this soil is considered when it is used to make bricks, pottery, and tiles. With the availability of plasticity and fine texture, it can be easily transformed into required shapes. It is used in building foundations because of its characteristics of bearing a high-capacity load. 

Red Soil

Soil types - Red soil

Even though red soil has less fertility than alluvial soil, it still can allow the cultivation of several crops such as bananas, sugarcane, some vegetables, and fruits with some assistance. The assistance is in the form of organic matter and fertilizers which enhance the overall fertility and health of the red soil.  

The constructional use of red soil is for its better drainage capability, and it can be used in the construction of buildings also.

Black Soil

Soil types - Black soil

This type of soil is among the most fertile ones in the country, which ensures that a variety of crops can be cultivated in it. The nutrients present in it ensure the cultivation of crops such as cereals, pulses, and oilseeds.

In construction, it is not useful due to its nature of undergoing volumetric change. This change makes it less attractive and useful for foundations. It is prone to shrinkage and swelling.

Mountain Soil

Soil types - Mountain soil

The infertility attribute limits the use of soil for the cultivation of field crops.  It can, however, help cultivate tropical and temperature fruits, coffee, and barley. The uses of soil can be achieved as a supplier of forest products like fuel and timber.

Laterite Soil

Soil types - Laterite soil

It is used for the cultivation of cashew, coffee, and tea when dung is used as fertilizer. Coconut, pulse, rice, and wheat can be cultivated in this soil.

In construction, the use of soil can be achieved as a hard material due to its nature of becoming hard. This soil added with sawdust can also be used partially instead of cement and sand in concrete.


As India has a vast landmass, it has different types of soils available within its boundaries. The different types of soil in India are alluvial, red, black, mountain and laterite soils. These soils are used in both agriculture and construction, depending on their nature and usability. Soils like alluvial and red soils are high in nutrients which makes them good for the agriculture of field crops. 

Further, these soils are used in construction for different purposes based on their nature. It is crucial to understand the soil's nature before using them for construction, such as the level of flexibility and texture.

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