Parent Material Soils from weakly cemented sandstone will be sandy and soils from shales will be shallow and fine-textured. Similarly clay formation is favoured more by a high percentage of decomposable dark minerals and less by quartz. The parent material, thus, influences the soil formation by their different rates of weathering. Climate Acidic soils are formed in humid areas due to intense weathering and leaching. Alkaline soils are formed in areas of low rainfall due to the accumulation or retention of lime. The climate is an increasingly dominant factor in forming varied type of soils especially because of the effects of temperature and precipitation. It also plays an indirect role in the formation of soil by way of its influence on vegetation. Biota The decomposition of organic wastes and residues and the activities of living plants and animals have marked influence on the soil development. Burrowing animals, such as moles, prairie dogs, earthworms, ants and termites help soil development slowly by decomposing organic matters and forming weak acids that dissolve mineral faster. The roots of living plants and decomposed plant material releases weak organic acids that help in weathering and soil development. Topography Steep hillsides have thin soil cover because of

oils are products of a complex mixture of weathered and eroded rock materials on the one hand and organic residues on the other. Weathering changes consolidated mass (rock) to an unconsolidated (loose) material. The decomposition of plants and microorganisms releases organic chemicals (humus) that interact with the loose material, giving rise to various kinds of soils. These changes involve addition, loss, transformation and translocation. Additions are made by water (rainfall, irrigation), nitrogen from bacterial fixation, energy as sunlight, sediment from wind and water, salts and organic residues. Losses result from chemicals soluble in soil water, eroded small-sized fractions, nutrients removed in grazed and harvested plants, water losses, carbon losses as carbon dioxide and denitrification loss of N 2 . Transformations happen because of many chemical and biological reactions that decompose organic matter. Water and organisms move within the soil causing translocation of substances at dif ferent depths. Organic soils develop from an accumulation of plant residues that are preserved by the low oxygen environment of shallow and stagnant waters. Non-soils are surface material that do not support plant life, such as the salt flats of Great Salt Lake and rock barrens. SOIL FORMING FACTORS All soil forming processes involve weathering, There are, however, several other factors that influence the end product of weathering. Five of them are primary factors. They singly or jointly are responsible for the development of various types of soils. These factors are:




surface runoff that results in the erosion of surface. On the other hand, gentle hillsides preserve appreciable soil cover due to the luxuriant vegetation and sufficient water passing in vertically to deeper levels. The landlocked depressions receive high amount of runoff water that favours appreciable vegetation cover but slower decomposition because of oxidation deficiency. This results in the formation of soil that is rich in organic matter. The topography influences the soil formation through its relationship with water and temperature. Time Under ideal conditions, a recognisable soil profile may develop in 200 years and under less favourable circumstances, it may extend to several thousand years. The rate of soil development is determined by the effects of time and other distinct factors – climate, parent material, topography and biota. Soil Forming Processes Several processes are involved in soil formation and may, to some extent, affect the soil profile. These processes are: Eluviation It is the mechanical translocation of clay or other fine particles down the profile. Illuviation It is the accumulation of the washed down (eluviated) material in the lower horizons of the soil profile. Cheluviation It is the downward movement of material, similar to leaching but under the influence of organic complex compounds. Leaching It is the removal and downward movement of material from a horizon in solution.

SOIL HORIZONS Horizons are soil layer that are approximately parallel to the soil’s surface. Each horizon is different from other. Boundaries between horizons range from indistinct to abrupt and clear. Horizons are for med because of differences in the degree of depth, amounts of humus accumulated, translocation of colloids by water and loss of colloids. Capital letters, A,B,C,E,O and R are used to designate master horizons. Lowercase letters are used as suffixes to indicate specific characteristics of the master horizon. SOIL FERTILITY AND PLANT NUTRITION Plant nutrition is the process of absorption and utilisation of essential elements by plants for growth and reproduction. Most plants need at least 16 essential elements — carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, sulphur, calcium, iron, magnesium, boron, manganese, copper, zinc, molybdenum and chlorine. Plants utilise hydrogen, oxygen and carbon from air and water. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are absorbed from soil and fertilisers. Chlorine, copper, boron, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc are micronutrients that are absorbed in lesser quantity. Nitrogen is most often the limiting element in plant growth. It is utilised by plants as ammonium or nitrate. The fertility of soil depends upon the presence of essential elements as well as the organic matter in sufficient amount. SOIL TAXONOMY OR CLASSIFICATION Soil taxonomy or classification of soils, is the grouping of soils on the basis of their morphology (texture and structure), appearance, for m and fertility. The first complete US taxonomic classification was published in 1938 and modified in 1949. Although the US system has application worldwide, many countries — France, Canada, China, India, Brazil and Russia use their own systems. The present US classification organises all soils into 11 orders,



54 sub-orders, 238 great groups, 1,922 subgroups and then families and series. In traditional classification, the major divisions of soil are Zonal, Intrazonal and Azonal. Zonal Soils These soils reflect climate and vegetation to a large degree, hence, their name. They are formed on well drained sites on non-extreme parent material. Polar desert soils, Podzols, Brown earths, Prairie soils, Chernozem, Chestnut soils, Brown and gray semi-arid soils, Grumusols, Red earths, and Lateritic soils fall under zonal category. Intrazonal Soils These are well developed soils formed where some local soil forming factor is dominant. Soils in this category belong to four main groups, namely saline, hydromorphic, calcareous and organic. Each group consists of a variety of soil types. Azonal Soils These have poorly developed profiles because some factor of soil formation has inhibited soil formation. Lithosols, alluvial soils and dry sands fall in this category. SOILS OF INDIA The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) classified Indian soils into eight groups — alluvium, black, red and yellow, laterite, arid, saline, peaty and organic, and forest soils. This classification is based on genesis, colour, composition and location. Alluvial Soil Alluvial soil is the most productive one in India though, low in nitrogen content. It is fertile enough to support crops for good yield. It is a depositional soil transported by streams and winds. Its colour varies from light gray to ash gray. It is found in the Great Indian Plain, river valleys, coastal plains and deltas.

Black Soil It is popularly known as black cotton soil and is developed on basaltic rocks of Deccan Plateau. Cotton being the major crop of the soil, hence, it is called black cotton soil. The colour of soil ranges from deep black to gray. It swells when wetted and shrinks when dried. Because of this characteristic the soil develops wide cracks. Black soils are well developed in Maharashtra, western Madhya Pradesh, parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Red and Yellow Soil This soil is relatively sandy and reddish in colour. Red colour is essentially due to the presence of iron oxides. It is derived from the old crystalline and metamorphic rocks. Wheat, millet, cotton, potatoes and coarse grains are widely grown in this soil. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa have large extent of land with red sandy soils. Yellow and red soils are found in parts of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh and southern part of the Gangetic Plain. Laterite Soil The warm climate with seasonal rainfall helps remove fast the humus content from the soil. This makes the soil more acidic and rich in aluminium and iron oxide. This soil is known as laterite. Laterites are not naturally fertile enough for growing food crop. Application of fertilisers and manures are required to make it crop worthy. Laterite soil can be cut into blocks that are used as bricks for house construction. It is well developed in coastal margins and plains of southern peninsula from West Bengal to southern Maharashtra. Arid Soil Arid soil ranges from red to brown in colour. It is well developed in western Rajasthan. It is generally, sandy and alkaline. High temperature and accelerated evaporation decreases the moisture and humus content in it. Because of the concentration of calcium



downward, its lower layers become impermeable. Irrigation increases the soil moisture and makes the soil crop worthy. Saline Soil Because of dry climate and poor drainage conditions, this soil acquires more salt. It is widespread in wester n Gujarat (Rann of Kuchch), deltas of East Coast and Sunderban areas of West Bengal. Gypsum diminishes the salinity of soil and makes it useful for crops. Peaty and Organic Soils Area of high rainfall are marked with good growth of vegetation. As the organic matter accumulates and decomposes, it gives rise to humus rich soil. The high content (40-50 per cent) of organic matter gives the name to soil. The soil is normally black in colour and alkaline. It occurs widely in northern part of Bihar, Almora area of Uttaranchal, coastal areas of West Bengal, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.

Forest Soil Forest soils are formed in forested areas where sufficient rainfall is available. In this soil too organic matter is high and pH value is low. It is mostly for med in the forest areas of mountains.

Some Facts About Soil • • The branch of science that deals with the study of soil is called as pedology. Based on the study of palaeosols in India, Pakistan and Nepal, onset of Indian Monsoon in Asia has been established at about 8 million years ago. Enrichment of water with nutrients, primarily phosphorus, causing abundant aquatic plant growth is called eutrophication. A vertical section of the soil through all its horizons and extending into the parent material is called soil profile.


Review Questions 1. Answer the following questions: (i) What are soils? (ii) How is soil different from a rock? (iii) What is humus? (iv) How do organic soils develop? (v) Name the primary factors responsible for the development of soils. (vi) What is leaching? (vii) How many essential elements are required by plants? 2. Distinguish between: (i) Eluviation and illuviation; (ii) Cheluviation and leaching; (iii) Intrazonal and azonal soils; (iv) Arid soil and saline soil. 3. Discuss the factors responsible for soil formation and also the processes involved. 4. What are the bases of classifying soils of India, as used by the ICAR? Describe the distribution of major soil types in our country. Finding out Collect soil samples from different areas. Find out their main characteristics and write a brief note.

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