• Written By Rashmi_Arun
  • Last Modified 24-06-2022

Soil Types : Differences Between Soil Types


Soil Types: Soil is a natural resource broadly defined as the loose top layer of Earth made up of disintegrated rock, humus, and inorganic and organic materials. Soil is usually formed when rocks break up into smaller pieces under the action of various natural forces like wind, water, gravity, the reaction of salts etc.

Conversely, soil hardens to form rocks, but this is a prolonged process. Various soil types are classified based on texture, proportions, and forms of organic and mineral materials. If you have questions like what is the process of soil formation and how many soil types are found in India? We are here to cover it all for you. In this article, you will learn about India’s soil types and their applications. Read on to learn more.

Introduction to Soil Types

Soil is classified into 4 different types based on the size of the particles it contains.

  • Clayey soil
  • Silty soil
  • Sandy soil
  • Loamy soil

The smallest soil particles are called clay. Slightly bigger particles are called silt, and large, coarse particles are called sand. Soil consisting of mostly sand, as in deserts, is called sandy soil, while soil made up of mostly clay is called clayey soil. Loam soil, consisting of silt, sand and clay particles, is considered the best for the growth of plants. This kind of soil is also usually rich in humus, which provides nutrients to plants.

How to Determine the Soil Type?

Let us imagine that you have collected a soil sample from a construction site and a sample of clay from a potter. Also, one from your garden and another from the roadside. If you observe these soil samples, the first thing you will notice, without even touching them, is that they look different, in colour. It is possible that they even smell differently. These are the physical characteristics of the soil that are visible to our eyes.

Now let us go one step further and feel the samples between your thumb and forefinger. Take a bit of each sample on your palm, add a few drops of water and feel it again. Sand feels coarse and gritty, while clay feels smooth and a bit sticky. By the way, when wet clay dries, it becomes very hard. Another thing about wet clay is that you can mould it, and that is why potters use it. Of course, they treat it with various things like dung to improve the texture. Try rolling a bit of the moist clay on your palm or making a ribbon out of it by pressing it between your thumb and forefinger. Can you do this with the other samples? What does this tell you about their compositions?

Let us see what happens when we fill sand into jars with water and leave it for a while to settle. If you observe closely, you will see that sand will settle fast at the bottom of the jar. Clay will remain suspended for a long time. And two or more layers will form in the mixed samples. If there is any humus in the soil, it will float on top.

Differences Between Soil Types

As already mentioned at the beginning, each soil has its own characteristics and therefore, fit for specific purposes.

The table below shows some of the characteristics and how they are different from each other.

PropertySandy SoilClayey SoilLoam Soil
Primary ConstituentLarge-sized sand particlesSmaller-sized clay particlesClay, sand and silt in right proportions
Space Between ParticlesLargeLessSufficient
Air PassageWell-aeratedNot goodGood

Uses of Soil

Soil plays an important role in the survival of organisms found on the earth. Its uses are as follows:

  1. Soil enables plants to grow. It provides all the nutrients required by plants to grow.
  2. Soil is also very important as a habitat, i.e., a home for millions of soil organisms like insects, earthworms, bacteria, fungi, etc.
  3. It provides anchorage to trees and vegetation.
  4. Soil is also essential for the forests on the earth. We get many useful things from forests. Forests provide us with timber, and they are also the natural habitat of many plants and animals.
  5. Soil is used for the agricultural production of crops that are necessary for human and animal food.
  6. Soil is used in making pottery and bricks.
  7. The microorganisms living in soil help in recycling nutrients from dead plants and animals.

Soil Erosion

Soil erosion is probably the biggest threat we are facing today, apart from climate change and air pollution. Soil erosion is the phenomenon in which the topsoil is carried away or ‘eroded’ by the natural, physical forces such as rains, heavy winds etc. Over a period of time, soil erosion results in loss of topsoil, ecological imbalance, soil collapse and so on.

Apart from natural resources mentioned above, many human activities such as wrong agricultural practices, mining, deep excavations, and deforestation also cause soil erosion and this has to be stopped at all costs. The Government is working collectively with many NGOs to spread awareness about the dangers of soil erosion. As responsible citizens of the nation and crusaders of planet Earth, it is our responsibility to not indulge in any activity that might cause soil erosion, either directly or indirectly.

Effects of Soil Erosion

Soil erosion can have far-reaching effects beyond what we can perceive at this point of time. Over a period of time, coastal erosion has changed the shape of long coastal lines in many parts of the world, clogged waterways causing the marine life to decline, and it increases the chances of flooding as the soil loses its ability to retain water.

How to Prevent Soil Erosion?

Although many organisations and environmental authorities are working their ways to prevent soil erosion, as individuals, there is so much that we can do to help.

Here are some of the ways we can follow to present soil erosion:

  1. Planting vegetation – Plants with deep roots have the ability to hold the soil well and therefore, can prevent soil erosion
  2. By following contour farming where the vegetation resembles a slope pattern and therefore breaks the flow of water. This reduces the chances of soil erosion
  3. Reduce the concrete cover wherever possible and let the soil expose. Mulch or gravel can be used instead, which allows water to seep through and holds the soil.
  4. Prevent overgrazing by proper animal management and efficient usage of land.

Soil erosion causes soil degradation, which may be considered as irreversible because of the time and effort that it takes to reverse the process. Let us all become sensitive to this global issue that we are facing and take a pledge to prevent soil erosion through different means.

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