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Soils of Tamil Nadu

Booklet No. 359 Soil Science SSS – 4
Contents Preface I. Geographical Situation II. Land Utilization Pattern III. Physiography IV. Climate V. Vegetation VI. Classification of Soils VII. Physico-chemical Properties of Soils VIII. Irrigation and Cropping Pattern IX. Problem Soils X. Soil and Fertilizer Management XI. Sources of Irrigation Water XII. Extension Needs XII. Research Areas Preface Tamil Nadu being under a semi-arid tropical monsoon climate has a number of soil types which are found in all types of climates. Hence their management varies from place to place besides the crop variation effect. This booklet makes an attempt to describe briefly, about the soil and the agro-climatic factors affecting them. Dr. K. T. Chandy, Agricultural & Environmental Education I. Geographical Situation Tamil Nadu lies between 76°14' and 80°21' east longitude and 8°4' and 13°54' north latitude. It is bounded on the east by the Bay of Bengal, on the south by the Indian Ocean, on the north by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and on the west by Kerala. The total geographical area of the state is 13.0 million hectares. II. Land Utilization Pattern Tamil Nadu has 13 m ha as reported area of which the total cropped area is 6.91 m.ha. However the net cropped area is 5.74 m. hectares. The forest area amounts to 2.02 m ha and the area not available for cultivation is about 2.35 m hectares. Further details of land use pattern is clear from the table 1. Sl.No. 1 2 3 4 5 Table 1: Land use pattern in Tamil Nadu Land use (Area in m.ha) Total geographic area 13.00 Reporting area for land utilization statistics 13.00 Forest 2.02 Not available for cultivation 2.35 Other uncultivated land excluding fallow 0.71

2. Western Ghats The plateau is fringed on the west by a group of high hills known as the western Ghats.17 6. Easterm part of North Arcot and northern part of Tiruchirapalli districts. Shervaroys. Physiography land Fallow land Net are sown Area sown more than once Total cropped area 2.7°C and maximum in May with 37. 3.18 5. There are three sub-regions: northern plain. On the basis of temperature the coastal plain (Aduthurai) is classified as hyperthermic (very hot). Central plateau Between the eastern and western Ghats lies the plateau region with elevation ranging from 1. a. 4. They are the Nilgiri in the north and the Anamalais. Kalrayans. Pachamalai and Kollimalais. Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts. Climate The climate of Tamil Nadu is basically semi-arid tropical monsoon type.4°C in the hills. Temperature The mean annual temperature is 28. coastal plains. Northern plain The northern plain consists of Chengalpatta a major part of South Arcot. Cauvery delta The Cauvery delta consists of Thanjavur and part of Tiruchirapalli districts.7°C to 32.91 Tamil Nadu can be divided into four physiographic zones viz. northern part (Coimbatore) and southern .2°C in the hills.52 to 610 meters above mean sea level. b. Soil temperature data available for a few places indicate a range from 30.3°C. Eastern ghats The coastal plain is backed by a broken line of hills viz. 1. Coastal plains Coastal plains stretch from Pulicat lake in the north to Capecomorin (Kanyakumari) in the south. The temperature is minimum in the month of December with 24. Palanis and Cardamom hills in the south. IV. c.74 1.2°C in the plains and 15. Southern coastal plain Southern coastal plain is shared by Ramanathapuram. eastern ghats. Cauvery delta and southern coastal plain. 1. The general topography undulating with a general sloping from west to east.3°C in the plains and around 14. These line of hills are known as eastern ghats. the Javadus. western ghats and central plateau.6 7 8 9 III.

Inceptisols Inceptisols are immature soils with a weakly developed (cambic) surface horizon. littoral and swamp.02 m hectares. 1. However it is given here to provide them with some new and general information about soil classification in Tamil Nadu. ultisols and vertisols. laterite and alluvial soils. Bambusa arundinacea. Prosopis spicigera.. Casuarma sp.part (Kovilpatty) are isohyperthermic (steadily very hot) and hill area (Uthagamandalam) is isomesic (steadily cold). In the state. They have ochric epipedon. alfisols. The common plants occurring among hill species are: Eucalyptus sp. Prosopis juliflora. inceptisols. Cassia auriculeate.A brief description of these soils is presented here. subtropical broad bared hill and g. Entisols Soil order Entisol include soils of slight and resent development. red soils under alfisols and ultisols. Ultisols . 2. Alfisols Alfisols soils are matured with an alluvial sub-surface (argillic) horizon. Borassus flabellifer.601) sq. Pterocarpus sp. south-west monsoon (June to September). mountain wet temperate. 3. Alfisols occupy an area of 58. For ordinary people these classifications may not be of any use in their practical agriculture. b. Rainfall The mean annual precipitation is 848 mm in the plains and 946 mm in the coastal areas (plain) and 1666 mm in the hill ranges of the Nilgiris. Opuntia dilleni and Agave sp. Vegetation In Tamil Nadu forests cover an area of about 2. red. north-east monsoon (October to December) and summer and hot weather season (April to May). these soils occupy an area of 35. Classification of Soils The soils of Tamil Nadu have been classified into five soil orders such as entisols. V.645 square kilometres. Previously the soils were studied under the category of black. The soil moisture regime as computed from the rainfall and temperature data shows that it is humid in the coastal plains and hills.. Albizia lebbeck..600 square kilometres. etc. Seven types of forests have been identified and they are located mainly on the hills: a. f. tropical dry evergreen. Lantana camera. Acacia arabica. e. VI. tropical evergreen. km. tropical moist deciduous. The black soils are now classified under vertisols and inceptisols. 2. These soils cover an area of 12. Calotropis gigantea. The state receives its rainfall in three distinct seasons. given in appendix I. 4. laterite soils into alfisols and ultisols and alluvial soils into inceptisols and entisols. tropical dry deciduous. They have a high base saturation (more than 3S% ). Most of the precipitation is received by the north-east monsoon because of its exposure to south westerly winds. For more details refer soil map of Tamil Nadu. viz. d. They do not have any diagnostic horizon other than that of ochric epidon (light coloured surface horizon having organic matter content less than 1 %).

5 8.6 28.6 0.4 22.2 6. km.E.5 0.8 19. VII.8 Laterite soil 43.6 Alluvial soil 34.1 5.C.5 15.9 - VIII.0 10.5 11.1 10.8 1. Table 2: Physico-chemical properties of soils of Tamil Nadu Sl.No 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Soil Property Clay (%) Silt (%) Fine sand (%) Coarse sand(%) Iron oxide (Fe2O3) Organic carbon (%) Available nitrogen (ppm) Available Phosphosrus (ppm) Water soluble potassium (ppm) C.0 12.1 85. swelling and shrinking type of soil which develop cracks Gliiing summer. Vertisols Vertisolsoils occupying an area of 24400 sq. 5.0 0.0 29.9 0. km.7 3.C meq/100 gm Base saturation (%) PH E.0 16.3 3.5 65.0 25. They have base saturation of less than 35% and they occupy an area of 2995 sq.9 97.2 10. Physico-chemical Properties of Soils Table 2 gives the details of the physico-chemical properties of the soils of Tamil Nadu.6 24. Rice is the major crop under irrigated area and covers about 70% of the total irrigated area.4 m ha area is under irrigation which constitutes about 50 per cent of the gross cropped area.6 0.5 0.3 139. clayey.6 19.0 10.6 2. It is a dark grey.6 50.4 0.0 3.0 50.6 0.2 6.0 12. Table 3: Irrigated area under various crops Crops JArea (000 ha) Rice 2306 Sugarcane 207 Groundnut 226 Others 686 Total 3425 Sl.6 119. Irrigation and Cropping Pattern About 3.2 0. (mmhos/cm) Exchasngeablepotassium (meq/100gm Exchangeable calcium (meq/100 gm) Calcium carbonate (%) Black soil 35.2 0.6 5.2 0.0 54. 1 2 3 4 5 .5 13.6 4. area.7 6.0 9.1 Red soil 18.2 0.3 48.2 94.4 7.9 35.3 7.No.1 23.Ultisols are well developed with an alluvial horizon (argillic horizon).8 19. Table 3 provides details of the irrigated area under major crops.7 93.

4 5 Water logging 80. are dark grey. Table 4 provides the area under these problem soils. The soils of new delta are light textured.1 The saline and alkali soils of the cauvery delta have been classified into old and new deltas. Soil fertility status Based on the findings of various soil testing laboratories following results have been obtained on the NPK content in the soils of different areas of the state. District N P K 1 Chengel patta L L-M M-H 2 Coimbatore L L-M M-H 3 Salem L L-M M-H 4 Dharmagiri L L-M L 5 Kanyakumari L L-H L-M 6 Madurai L L M-H 7 North Arcot L L L-M 8 South Arcot L M M-H 9 Thanjavur L L-M M-H 10 Tirunelveli L L-M M-H 11 Tiruchirapalli L L-M M-H 12 Ramanathapuram L L M-H 13 Nilgiris L L-M M L =Low. .No. Table 5 is a summary of the same. A. calcarious and moderately to strongly alkaline in reaction. The quantity of NPK signified by low.7 2 Alkalinity 354. Table 5: District-wise NPK contents in Tamil Nadu Sl. fertilizer consumption trends and management of problem soils. The contents of soluble salts are generally below 0. the phosphorus ranges between low to medium and potassium between medium to high.3% but the pH in the subsoil ranges between 8. clayey. Subsoil shows restricted drainage. and H = High In general it is noticed that the nitrogen content is low all over Tamil Nadu. Soil and Fertility Management Under this section there are four subsections: soil fertility status. acidity and water logging.0. The old deltaic soils. recommendations of NPK for major crops. M = Medium. Table 4 : Area under the problem soils Sl.No. Area of alkalinity is. X. Soils of Kanyakumari and Nilgiri districts are mostly acidic. Problem soil type Area (000 ha) 1 Salinity 42.IX.scattered in many districts.5 and 9. medium and high are in the table 6 given as follows. low lying and ill drained with water table within 15 meter of the surface. covering the entire northern part of the Tanjavur district. Problem Soils The main soil problems in the state of Tamil Nadu are salinity.0 3 Saline-alkaline 34. alkalinity.4 4 Acidity 468.

3 – 32 42. The response to 48.1 kg grain/kg of nitrogen at 75.5 .6 6.2. TMV-10) Ferrous Sulphate 1 Rice IR 20.8% of the samples taken from Nilgiris and Tirunelveli districts were found to be deficient in copper. Vaigai ) 2 Sorghum (CSH 5) 3 Black gram (CO 1) 4 Sugarcane (Mandya. 90 and 135 kg phosphorus/ha.5 45. CO 41.8 66. And for 45. copper. along with chemical fertilizers.2%.7-54.7 22.5% 25 10 10 50 2% 2% 100 1% 1% 20% 10 Soil Foliar Soil Soil Foliar Soil Soil Soil Soil Foliar Foliar Soil Foliar Foliar Soil Soil Range of Increase (%) 8.8-164.2 20. CO 419. About 94.4 – 43. Dose Mehtod (kg/ha) 25 0. 150 and 225 kg nitrogen/ha respectively.7 4. respectively.7 and 4.Jaya) 2 Rice (IR 50. The response of rice to nitrogen was 12.4 kg grain/kg potassium. EC 4849) Copper Sulphate 1 Sunflower (EC 68415) 2 Ground nut (CO 1.0.2 kg rice grain/kg phosphorus respectively. Crop Table 7: Response of some crops to micronutrients.IR-20.6 and 6.5 – 99.5 12.7 – 50 Zinc Sulphate 1 Rice (IR-8. COC 671.6 8.8 6. 5. No 1 2 3 Nutrients Nitrogen (Kg.8 – 59.9-12 9.5 and 2.3% of the total cropped soils of the state tested are round to be deficient in zinc. Vaigai) 3 Black gram (CO 4) 4 Maize (Ganga 5) 5 Wheat (NP 200) 6 Finger millet (EC 4847.4 62.7%.ha) Potassium (Kg.5 – 34. Application of26 kg potassium gave a response of 7 kg dry pod/kg potassium in groundnut. 5. 96 and 114 kg potassium per hectare were 7.5% 25 25 0.4 0. Ponni. 38.8.No. Table 7 gives a detailed presentation of the responses of the various crops to micro nutrients. COC 8001. Thanjavur district was found to be the most deficient with respect to zinc. about 36. 8. 22. IR-20.Table 6: The range of the levels of NPK content Sl.3% and 11.0 82.ha) Phosphorus (Kg. iron and manganese respectively. Sl. the responses were 10.5 57.ha) L <280 <25 <120 M 280-450 25-50 120-280 H >450 >50 >280 < = Less than> = More than As regards micronutrients.ADT-31. COC 304) Manganese Sulphate 1 Soyabean (CO 1) 2 Green gram (CO2) 3 Finger millet Borax 1 Groundnut (CO1) . The probable reasons for such a wide spread deficiency of micronutrients are (a) the continuous use of chemical fertilisers to supply NPK and the decrease in the use of organic manures.37.

2 Sunflower (EC 68415) Sodium molybdate 1 Black gram (CO 4. In case of specific fertilisers to be used they are mentioned in the table along with NPK recommendations. 1 Table 8: Blanket NPK recommendation for important crops in Tamil Nadu Crop particulars Nutrients Kg/ha N P K Rice Varieties a.2% 1% 1% Foliar Foliar Foliar 38. green. Recommendations of NPK . Basal 45 45 45 30th day 45 Maize a. Medium duration (120-135 days) Basal 60 60 60 st On 21 day 35 On 70 th day 25 c. Gram: black. Short duration (100-110 days) Basal – 70 60 60 st on 21 day 50 b. Rainfed varieties 50 30 30 b.0 – 38.7 35. green Irrigated 25 50 b. CO 5 ) 2 Groundnut (POL 2) 0. red. Otherwise any available fertilizer can be used to supply the recommended NPK. Gram: black. red.3 15.No. Groundnut irrigated 10 10 45 2 3 4 5 6 . Irrigated Var.5 B. Rainfed 45 23 Finger millet a. Irrigated Basal 45 45 23 Third week 45 b. bengal Rainfed 13 25 Oil seeds a. A blanket recommendation of NPK requirements to the major crops of Tamil Nadu is given in table 8. Groundnut rainfed 10 20 30 b. Long duration (160 days) Basal 40 50 35 On 45 th day 30 Sorghum a. Rainfed 45 23 Pulses a. Sl. Irrigated Basal 45 70 45 45th day 45 Flowering 45 b.

and Coimbatore c. and south Arcot b. Ramanathapuram and Tirunelveli 30 30 30 30 30 63 63 120 80 80 55 80 80 55 12 kg 300 kg 250 g 310 g 140 g 12 kg 150 kg 310 g 140 g -275 in tow splits on 45th l&90th days 225 in two splits on 45th l&90th days 175 in tow splits on 45th l&90th days Ammoniu m 23 13 30 30 63 63 160 240 240 - 23 13 30 120 120 60 200 200 - OR apply Complex No. 5th month FYM Ammonium sulphate Murriate of potash Groundnut cake Sugarcane Basal Top dressing a. Third month FYM Ammonium sulphate Supper phosphate Murriate of potash Groundnut cake b. Tiruchirapalli. 12. (6:6:18) 1500 kg/ha 63 -- -113 in two splits on 45th l&90th days 113 in two splits on 45th l&90th days 113 in tow splits on 45th l&90th days Muriate of potash -- -- 14 Sweet potato Super phospha . 13 c. 9. 10. Madurai. Winter rainfed Tapioca Basal Top dressing Potato (hills) basal Cabbage Basal Basal + 1000/ha slaked lime Top dressing 30th day “ “ 60th day Cauliflower Basal Basal + 1000/ha slaked lime Top dressing 30th day “ “ 60th day Banana for each tree a. Chengalpettu. Dharmagiri.7. Winter irrigated Basal 40th day b.8. 11. Tanjaore. Sesamum rainfed Cotton a. 8. (6:6:18) 1500 kg/ha OR apply Complex No. Salem. Sesamum irrigated d.8.

8 97.75 1.00 0.3 512.25 0. the use of organic manure has been decreasing due to various reasons.00 2.4 84.7 465.7 677. However.0 0 sulphate 75 75 50 Ammonium sulphate te 80 80 70 Super phosphate 50 50 50 Muriate of Potash 1-2 year 3 year 4 year 5 year & above 5-10 20 30 50 0. 1 2 3 4 5 Table 9 : Nutrient consumption pattern in Tamil Nadu Year Nutrient consumption (thousand tones) N P K 1980-81 292. Nutrient wise consumption per hectare is shown as follows in table 9. D.00 C.4 114.3 Total 491. Salinity a.1 However.2 1984-85 389.2 5 2. .00 3. d.50 0.1 125.6 153.4 586.8 100.15 16 Basal After 3 months Wheat Coconut Green Manure Co mp lex fert iliz er 1.No. Impound the irrigation water or rain water on the affected land as much as possible. c. It has been using 8-14 percent of the NPK consumed in India. Proper land leveling for uniform distribution of irrigation water and provision of strong bunds to retain water up to 15 cm should be done.5 0 4. Management of problem soils Management practices depends on the types of problem in the soil: salinity. 1.5 1981-82 313. alkalinity or acidity etc. Grow salt tolerant crops to take advantage the land till the problem is connected. b.8 1983-84 337.0 0 5.4 124.75 1.6 1982-83 266.2 1344. some common management practices are discussed under each type.50 1. Proper land shaping for providing adequate drainage and uniform distribution of irrigation water is to be carried out. Sl.50 0.00 0.25 0.7 107. Trend in fertilizer consumption There has been a steady and spectacular increase in the use of NPK over the years in Tamil Nadu.4 91.

Acid soils a. Growing of resistant crops/varieties should be regularly practiced. But an integrated approach of using organic and chemical sources of plant nutrients is still a missing link in today's agriculture in Tamil Nadu. soils with very high bulk density. are yet to be fully utilized by the people. Palar river flows across north Arcot and Chengalpet districts. c.1 percent of total irrigated area. 3. alkalinity. the irrigation is done mainly through wells (tubewells and ordinary wells). Tambarabaranl is the main source of irrigation in Tirunelveli district. establishment of critical limits and micronutrient fertilization has not been carried out. 4. Application of lime materials as per lime requirement should be carried out. These rivers and also the other small rivers are harnessed by building reservoirs across them. Extension Needs Following are some of the area of extension. b. 1. Tamil Nadu state. d. Research Areas Considerable progress has been made in studying the soil resources of Tamil Nadu. Proper land leveling and provision of drainage should be carried out b. the following can be identified as priority areas of future soil and fertilizer research. Rationalized fertilizer prescriptions and efficient fertilizer management practices have been evolved. The irrigation from the reservoirs is done through canals. 2. There are 34 major reservoirs in Tamil Nadu. Alkali soils a. XII. XIII. The work is being continued further. Still. E. various soil related constraints. Land leveling should be done. c.2. However. Considerable work on micro-nutrients in soils and plants has been carried out in Tamil Nadu. . the knowledge and information generated. A systematic and comprehensive study in the field is warranted in view of the gaining importance of micronutrient problems in agriculture. However delineation for micronutrient deficiencies.8. There is an awareness of the benefits of organic sources of nutrients. These constraints have not been properly delineated and studied with references to their management. 5. respectively.6 and 32. Grow rice followed by other salt resistant crops. 32. Application of chemical amendments like gypsum should be applied on the basis of test report. viz. 3. Impound the field with water for 10-15 days. There is a substantial area having. Ponnaiyar river flows along Dharmapuri. soils with subsoil pans and surface crusting. Sources of Irrigation Water In Tamil Nadu. could complete its soil survey and the informations on its entire soil resources should be made available to the people. highly impervious soils. XI. salinity. Govt canals and tanks covering an area of 33. Water logging Deep drainage for the rainy season water and draining of the water into rivers are generally recommended to tackle the problem of water-logging. North Arcot and South Arcqt districts. Even the available research information has not been verified for their applicability. acidity. Periyar and Vaigai rivers are the chief sources of irrigation in Madurai and Ramanathapuram districts.

2. 3. 7. 6. Research has to be intensified to evolve an integrated nutrient supply system where organic. 5. Practically adoptable and economically feasible techniques have to be evolved for increasing nutrient use efficiency. establishing critica1limits and evolving rationalized micronutrient fertilizer prescriptions. Research efforts have to be intensified for delineating the problem soils and evolving suitable management practices. . 4.1. Research efforts have to be more Concentrated on refining the fertilizer schedule so that need based fertilizer prescription becomes feasible. More research work is needed on the delineation of micronutrient deficiencies. 8. to attain maximum use efficiency of the various inputs. Evolve a soil policy for the state of Tamil Nadu so that the soil resources of the state can be effectively and advantageously used. Intensive research may be necessary in the use of secondary nutrients. chemical and biological sources of plant nutrients would be given due importance. We must characterize and catalogue the soil resources of Tamil Nadu which should form the basis for evolving soil based cropping system.

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