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APPENDIX V: MAJOR TROPICAL SOILS AND THEIR SUSCEPTIBILITY TO LAND

DEGRADATION

Only those soils that are mentioned in this publication by their FAO classification (1974 Soil Map of the World edition)
name and/or those that are widespread in tropical environments are described.

No FAO-UNESCO US Soil Taxonomy Main Properties & Susceptibility to Land Degradation
Soil name: Soil Name
Unit & Subunit
1 Acrisols Ultisol Acid, low base status (<50% base saturation) and strongly leached. One of the
- orthic [orthic=Hapludults; most inherently infertile soils of the tropics, becoming degraded chemically
- ferric ferric=Palexerults; and organically very quickly when utilised. An orthic Acrisol in Indonesia on a
- humic humic=Humults; 13% slope under 3000 mm rainfall has been recorded as having over 260
- plinthic plinthic=plinthudults] tonnes/ha/yr erosion. All nutrients, except Al, decreased substantially. Acrisols
have very low resilience to degradation and moderate sensitivity to yield
decline
2 Andosols Inceptisols From volcanic ash parent material; high in organic matter.
- ochric - Andepts Highly erodible, and limited in phosphorus. Chemical fertility is variable,
- mollic [ochric & depending on degree of weathering. Andosols have low resilience, and
- humic humic=Dystrandepts variable sensitivity.
- vitric mollic=Eutrandepts]
3 Arenosols Entisols Consists of unconsolidated wind-blown or water-deposited sands. One of the
- cambic - Psamments most inherently infertile soils of the tropics and subtropics with very low
- luvic reserves of nutrients. Yet if chemical inputs provided, they yield well.
- ferralic Arenosols have moderate resilience and low sensitivity
- albic
4 Cambisols Inceptisols Tropical ‘brown earth’ with a higher base status than Luvisols, but otherwise
- eutric [eutric and similar limitations. They have relatively good structure and chemical
- dystric calcic=Eutrochrepts; properties, and are not therefore greatly affected by degradation processes
- humic dystric=Dystrochrept; until these become large. Because of increasing clay with depth, they tend not
- calcic humic=Haplumbrepts to be greatly impacted by degradation. Cambisols have high resilience to
- chromic vertic=Vertic Topepts; degradation, and moderate sensitivity to yield decline
- vertic ferralic=Oxic
- ferralic Tropepts]
5 Ferralsols Oxisols Ferralsols are the classic red soils of the tropics, because of high iron. They
- orthic [orthic, xanthic & have low supply of plant nutrients and are not therefore impacted greatly by
- xanthic rhodic =Orthox; erosion; they have strong acidity and low levels of available phosphorus. With
- rhodic humic=Humox; very few reserves of available minerals and easily lost topsoil organic matter,
- humic acric=Acrox; Ferralsols have low resilience and moderate sensitivity
- acric plinthic=Plinthaquox]
- plinthic
6 Fluvisols Inceptisols Formed from unconsolidated water-borne materials. Highly variable, but much
- eutric - Fluvents prized for intensive agriculture.
- calcaric [thionic=SulphaqueptUnder most conditions they have high resilience and low sensitivity. The big
- dystric or acid sulphate] tropical exception is acid sulphate soils which have massive chemical
- thionic degradation impacts when drained for agriculture
7 Histosols Histosols Organic or peat soils. When drained, highly prized for agriculture. Land
- eutric degradation often caused through shrinkage of the organic matter and
- dystric subsidence.
8 Luvisols Alfisols The tropical soil most used by small farmers because of its ease of cultivation
- orthic [orthic=Hapludalfs; and no great impediments. Base saturation >50%. But they are greatly
- chromic chromic=Rhodexeralf affected by water erosion and loss in fertility. Nutrients are concentrated in
- calcic calcic=Haplustalf; topsoil and they have low levels of organic matter. Luvisols have moderate
- vertic vertic=Vertic resilience to degradation and moderate to low sensitivity to yield decline.
- ferric Haploxeralfs]
- plinthic
9 Nitosols Alfisols & Ultisols One of the best and most fertile soils of tropics. They can suffer acidity and P-
- eutric [eutric=Tropudalfs; fixation, and when organic carbon decreases, they become very erodible. But
- dystric dystric=Tropudults; erosion has only slight effect on crops. Nitosols have moderate resilience and
- humic humic=Trophumults] moderate to low sensitivity.

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Clays usually active. 10 FAO-UNESCO US Soil Taxonomy Main Properties & Susceptibility to Land Degradation Soil name: Soil Name Unit & Subunit 11 Phaeozems Mollisols They have a good structure and are generally resistant to erosion. .Salorthid run irrigation schemes may turn soils into solonchaks. and formed on limestone (calcareous) .Rendolls parent material. and large gullies typically form. 13 Solonchaks Aridisol Soils having high content of salts.haplic [haplic=Hapludolls.calcaric calcaric=Vermudolls. sensitivity. Degradation serious with severe limitations imposed by depth and high permeability. swelling when wet. common in arid and semi-arid areas. 15 Vertisols Vertisols Soils with 30% or more clay.mollic 14 Solonetz Alfisol Soils have severe chemical problems associated with salt and sodium on the . They degrade very easily. 17 Yermosols Aridisols Even drier and more problematic than Xerosols 117 . Subject to wind erosion and concentration of soluble salts.orthic .orthic .luvic luvic=Argiudolls] 12 Rendzinas Mollisols Characterised by extreme shallowness. .Natrustalf exchange complex. Extremely difficult to manage (hence easily degraded) but . cracking when dry and .chromic chromic=Chromudert] very high natural chemical fertility if physical problems overcome 16 Xerosols Aridisols Soils of the deserts. But once .pellic [pellic=Pelluderts. Badly . the effect on yields is great. eroded. They have a high resilience and high . with low levels of organic matter.