Introduction: Hello farmers today we are back with a great details of the crops suitable for alluvial soil.Alluvial soils represent the largest and most important soil group of India and contribute most to the agricultural wealth of the country. These Alluvial soils are deficient in nitrogen (N), phosphorus and organic matter. Normally, Alluvial soils range from near neutral to slightly alkaline in reaction. A wide variety of crops is grown in these Alluvial soils. What are we waiting for? Let’s get into crops suitable for alluvial soil, alluvial soil characterstics and types of alluvial soil.
A step by step guide to crops suitable for alluvial soil
Alluvial soils are fertile soil deposited by rivers on and near their banks. Alluvial soils are found in the northern plains of the country and most fertile alluvial soil is found in the Ganga valley, where it is deposited by river Ganges. These soils cover almost 35 to 40% of the region of India. Alluvial soils are rich in minerals especially potash. They are a dark shade of grey and are extremely appropriate for agriculture. Some dark black alluvial soil can be found in coastal areas.
Alluvial type of soil is common in Northern India, particularly in the delta regions. These soils are deposited by rivers and are rich in some nutrients (particularly potash and humus), but are lacking in nitrogen and phosphorous. They tend to be sandier and quicker-draining than other soils.
Soil texture and color
Alluvial soils vary in nature sandy loam to clay. These soils are loamy and clayey in the lower and middle Ganga plain and the Brahmaputra valley. The sand content decreases from the west to east direction.
The alluvial soils color changes from the light grey to ash grey. And mainly depending on the depth of the deposition, the texture of the materials and time taken for attaining maturity.
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Alluvial soils in India
Alluvial soils are formed by the deposition of sediments by rivers. They are rich in humus and fertile. They are found in Great Northern plain, lower valleys of Narmada, Tapti and Northern Gujarat. These soils are renewed every year. Alluvial soils are by far the largest and the important soil group of India. Covering about 15 lakh sq km or about 45.6 percent of the total land area of the country, these alluvial soils contribute the largest share of our agricultural wealth and support the bulk of India’s population. Materials deposited by rivers, winds, glaciers and sea waves are known as alluvium and soils made up of alluvium are alluvial soils. The old alluviums or Bhangar are clayey and sticky, have a darker color, contain nodules of lime concretions and found to lie on slightly elevated lands. The new alluviums are lighter in color and happen in the deltas and the flood plains.
Alluvial soil in India is an important part of the health and survival of the native population. These soils cover over 45% of the landmass inside India’s borders. These soils are soils deposited by running water and are often located in existing floodplains. Alluvial soil as a whole is very fertile as they have an adequate proportion of Potash, Lime, and Phosphoric acid. Silk, clay, gravel, and sand the major constituents of alluvial soil. It is normally found in riverbeds and flood plains of Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu. It is mainly found in the valleys of Narmada, along Mahanadi, Tapti, Cauvery, and Godavari, etc.
Alluvial soils are formed mostly due to silt deposited by Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra Rivers. In coastal regions, alluvial deposits are formed due to wave action and rocks of the Himalayas from the parent material. Thus the parent material of these alluvial soils is of transported origin.
Types of Alluvial soils
Based on geographical considerations, alluvial soil can be subdivided into two divisions. They are;
- Khadar ( newly formed alluvial soil )
- Bhangar (old alluvial soil)
Both types are different in texture, chemical composition, drainage capacity, and fertility. The Khadar is a light friable loam with a mixture of sand and silt. It is mainly found in the river valley, the floodplains, and deltas. On the other hand, the Bhangar lies on the interfluves. The higher proportion of clay creates the soil sticky and drainage is often poor. Almost all crops are grown on these alluvial soils.
Khadar (New alluvium)
It comprises new alluvium and found along the floodplains of river banks. These soils are the most fertile of all the divisions of alluvial soils. This is because the area is flooded every year during the rainy season bringing fresh sediments that add a new layer of alluvium. The soil is loamy, with less of pebble-like deposits or lime nodules which are found in the Bhangar.
- Khadar is more fertile than the Bhangar.
- It does not contain calcareous deposits (kankars).
- These are the new alluvium deposited recently.
- These are fine and fertile.
- These are mainly found near the river in the flood plains and deltas.
- These are sandy and light in color.
Bhangar (Old alluvium)
Bhangar is made of older alluvium and is in the form of river terraces, which were earlier part of the river bed and floodplains but were left out in the process of river erosion. A unique feature of this region is the existence of calcareous concretions known as Kankar. These are lime nodules located a few meters below the river terrace.
- It is less fertile than the Khadar.
- It contains calcareous deposits (kankars) and these are the old alluvium deposited in the recent past.
- These are coarse and less fertile.
- These are found away from the river particularly along the foothills.
- These are clayey and dark in color.
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Other types of alluvial soils can be given below;
It is a continuous belt of 8 to 16 km in width which lies adjacent to the foothills of Shiwaliks. It is very highly porous and comprises of larger sediments brought down by Himalayan Rivers and deposited along the foothills in the form of alluvial fans. They are generally made up of pebble-sized stones.
It has a unique feature; the rivers coming down from the Himalayas disappear under its layer because of its porosity. The river flows almost entirely underneath the pebbles and re-emerges at the edge of this layer. Only in the rainy season, this area appears to be flooded with river courses. This region is not suited for any crop cultivation. And only large trees with a deep network of roots are found here.
Terai is a poorly drained marshy land that is thickly forested, lying adjacent to the Bhabar. It is wider than Bhabar with a width in the range of 15 to 30 km. The rivers and streams crossing Bhabar re-emerge in this region making this marshy lowland.
The soil is made up of silt and rich in nitrogen and organic content. But, it is deficient in phosphate and this region is widely cultivated, and large tracts of forests have been converted into croplands. Wheat, rice, jute, and sugarcane are the prominent crops and the thick forests of this region support rich wildlife.
Properties of Alluvial Soils
Alluvial soil is rich in nutrients and could contain heavy metals. These soils are produced when streams and rivers slow their velocity. The suspended soil particles are heavy for the decreasing current to carry and are deposited on the riverbed. The finest particles are deposited at the mouth of the river, then forming a delta. Alluvial soils differ in mineral content and specific soil characteristics depending on the region and geologic makeup of the area.
High Rate of Root Turnover
Increased wetting and drying cycles cause high root turnover in this soil. Alfalfa root systems increase water flow and macro porosities in these soils. This property of alluvial soil is very important in farming different types of grasses, rice, potatoes, wheat, and other food crops.
Depending on the area where the alluvial soil is located, it will contain different magnetic properties. Contaminants in the rivers and streams that make alluvial soil such as heavy metals and magnetic minerals create magnetic fields in the soil. Contaminants including lead, zinc, and cadmium enter the waterways from lead ore smelters, factories and the other sources of chemical pollutants.
Alluvial soil is rich in minerals, nutrients and also highly fertile, and good crop soil. It contains gravel, sand, and silt. The chemical content of the soil will mainly depend on where it is located. The topography of the land will influence what runs off into the river that mainly forms the alluvial soil.
Characteristics of Alluvial Soils
Alluvial soils are immature and have weak profiles due to their recent origin. Most of the alluvial soil is Sandy and clayey soils are not uncommon. Pebbly and gravelly soils are very rare. Kankar (calcareous concretions) beds occur in some regions along the river terraces.
The soil is porous because of its loamy (equal proportion of sand and clay) in nature. Porosity and texture provide excellent drainage and other conditions favorable for agriculture. These Alluvial soils are constantly replenished by the recurrent floods.
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Below are the characteristics of alluvial soil;
- Alluvial soil is considered the most fertile soil and the entire northern plains of India are made of alluvial soil.
- This soil contains sand, silt, and clay.
- According to age, the alluvial soil is mainly classified as Bangar (old alluvial) and Khadar (new alluvial).
- This soil contains an ample amount of potash, phosphoric acid, and lime. The soil is thus appropriate for the growth of sugarcane.
Distribution of Alluvial Soils in India
Alluvial soils occur all along the Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra plains except in few places where the top layer is covered by desert sand. They also occur in deltas of the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna, and the Cauvery, where they are called deltaic alluvium or coastal alluvium. Some of the alluvial soils are also found in the Narmada, Tapi valleys and Northern parts of Gujarat.
The Alluvial soils are derived from the deposition of silt by the numerous river systems. They cover about 75 million ha in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) and Brahmaputra Valley and distributed in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and the coastal regions of India.
Crops Suitable for Alluvial Soil
Before getting into commercial agriculture, you must be aware of crops suitable for alluvial soil. Alluvial soils are mostly flat and regular soils and are best suited for agriculture. Alluvial soils are best suited to the irrigation system and respond well to canal and well or tube-well irrigation.
They yield splendid crops of rice, wheat, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, pulses, oilseeds, jute, maize, oilseeds, leguminous crops, vegetables, and fruits, etc.
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Although there is some cropping on the clay black earth and alluvial sands, most vegetable production is on alluvial soil normally described as;
- Prairie soils
- Earthy loams
- Layered alluvial loams.
Alluvial soils have a wide range of features. The following descriptions are typical of the major Alluvial soil profiles used for vegetable production.
Texture and color – The topsoil is a black loam to clay loam with moderate crumb structure and pH level 7.0 to 30 cm depth. The subsoil in the Macquarie Valley is blocky light clay, moderately structured with pH level 7.5 overlying highly plastic brownish-black clay.
Texture and color – The earthy loams in the Macquarie Valley contain a brownish-black loam to clay loam with weak structure and pH level 6.0 to 15 cm. The subsoil is a black clay loam with a weak structure and pH level increasing to 8.5 with depth.
The silt loam continues in the subsoil, with minor although distinct orange mottling at 1.2 m. The pH down to 6.0 with depth. And these soils can extend to 3 m with little change in color or texture.
Layered alluvial loams
Texture and color – The topsoil is dark brown to brown loamy sand to fine sandy loam with a weak structure, and is massive or single grained. The pH level is 6.0 to 8.0. The subsoil is brown sandy clay loam with weak structure and the pH level is 7.5 to 8.0.
That’s all folks about crops suitable for alluvial soil and alluvial soil properties. You may be interested in Preparing Soil for Vegetable Garden.