Crops Suitable for Red Soil – A Full Guide

Introduction: Hello farmers we are back with an excellent information of crops suitable for red soil and advanatges of red soil. Soil is the mixture of rock debris and organic materials which extend on the earth’s surface. The main factors affecting the formation of soil are parent material, climate, time, and biodiversity including human activities. India is a diverse country with several varieties of relief features, landforms, climatic realms, and vegetation types. These have contributed to the development of different types of soils in India. India is mainly an agricultural country. Whar are we waiting for? Let’s get into the details of best crops suitable for red soil.

A step by step guide to crops suitable for Red soil

Red soil is a very important soil resource, which bears substantial implications for the sustainable development of agriculture and the healthy growth of the economy. Red soil develops in a moist climate under deciduous forest and having thin organic-mineral layers overlying a yellowish-brown leached layer. Red soils are normally derived from crystalline rock. They are generally poor growing soils, low in nutrients and difficult to be cultivated because of its low water holding capacity. The major parent rocks are crystalline and metamorphic rocks such as acid granites, gneisses, and quartzites.

The majority of the red soils have come into existence due to the weathering of ancient crystalline and metamorphic rocks. The color of these red soils is generally red, often grading into brown, chocolate, yellow, grey or even black. The red color of this soil is due more to the wide diffusion rather than a too high percentage of iron content.

By and large, the red soils are poor in lime, magnesia, phosphates, nitrogen, and humus, but are rich in potash. The texture of the red soils varies from sand to clay, the majority being loams. On the uplands, the red soils are thin, poor and gravelly, sandy or Stoney and porous, but in the lower areas, they are rich, dark and fertile.

Red soil in India 

Red soils denote the 3rd largest soil group of India covering an area of about 3.5 lakhs sq. km or 10.6% of India’s area over the Peninsula from Tamil Nadu in the south to Bundelkhand in the north and Rajmahal hills in the east to Katchch in the west. They surround these red soils on their south, east and north. It looks yellow color in its hydrated form.

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The color of this red soil ranges from red to brown, chocolate, yellow, gray, or sometimes even black. Red soil consists of a high percentage of iron content, which is responsible for its color. This red soil is deficient in nitrogen, humus, phosphoric acid, magnesium, and lime but fairly rich in potash, with its pH level ranging from neutral to acidic. It is formed by the weathering of ancient crystalline and metamorphic rocks, mainly acid granites and gneisses, quartzitic rocks, and felspathic rocks. The lowermost area of red soil is dark in color and fertile, while the upper layer is sandy and porous. Approximately 10.6% of the total area of India is covered by red soil, and including Tamil Nadu, parts of Karnataka, southeastern Maharashtra, eastern Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, south Bihar, West Bengal (Birbhum and Bankura), Uttar Pradesh (Mirzapur, Jhansi, Banda, and Hamirpur), Aravallis, eastern Rajasthan, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, and Meghalaya.

The red soils occupy a vast area of about 3.5 lakh sq km which is 10.6 percent of the total geographical area of the country. Red soils are spread on almost the whole of Tamil Nadu, parts of Karnataka, south-east of Maharashtra, eastern parts of Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Chota Nagpur in Jharkhand.

Categories of Red soil

Indian red soils divided into the following two categories. They are;

  • Red Loam Soil
  • Sandy Red Soil

Red Loam Soil – These red loam soils have been formed by the decomposition of granite, gneiss, and diorite rocks. This soil is cloddy, porous and deficient in concretionary materials. Red loam soil is poorer in nitrogen, phosphorus and organic materials but rich in potash and leaching are dominant.

These soils have thin layers and less fertile. These red loam soils are mainly found in Karnataka (Shimoga, Chikmaglur, and Hassan districts), Andhra Pradesh (Rayalaseema), Telangana, eastern Tamil Nadu (especially Tiruvannamalai and Cuddalore district), Orissa, Jharkhand (Chotanagpur), Uttar Pradesh (Bundelkhand), Madhya Pradesh (Balaghat and Chhindwara), Rajasthan (Banswara, Bhilwara, Bundi, Chittaurgarh, Kota and Ajmer districts), Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland.

Sandy Red Soil – These sandy red soils have formed by the disintegration of granite, quartzite, and sandstone. These are one friable soil with a high content of secondary concretions of sesquioxide clays.

Due to the presence of haematite and limonite its color ranges from red to yellow. Sandy red soils have been rightly leached occupying parts of former eastern Madhya Pradesh (excluding Chhattisgarh region), neighboring hills of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu (the Eastern Ghats and Sahyadris.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has divided red soils into four categories they are (a) red soils, (b) red gravelly soils, (c) red and yellow soils, and (d) mixed red and black soils.

Color of Red Soils

The soil is red color is due to the presence of iron oxide. When limestone, granites, gneisses, and quartzites have eroded the clay enclosed within the rocks remains intact with another type of non-soluble material. Iron oxide develops in the clay when the soil is present above the water giving the soil a characteristic red color. The red color is more due to the wide diffusion rather than a high percentage of iron oxide content.

Growing Root Crops in Red Soil

Root crops, such as potatoes and ginger, are demanding feeders that respond well to this superior fertility. However, there are still some regular problems associated with these soils, and the most notable of these is related to phosphorus availability. The negatively charged phosphate ion is notoriously unstable and it will readily form insoluble compounds with calcium (tri-calcium phosphate), iron, aluminum, and manganese. In red soils, the main problem is iron and these soils are colored red because of an abundance of iron. Phosphate and iron rapidly form the insoluble iron phosphate, and then it becomes constant battle managing phosphorus for high-production fertility.

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The physiological role of nutrients in red soil

Micronutrients are used by plants in small amounts and these nutrients may limit plant growth there may not be an insufficient amount in the soil. Micronutrients are necessary for the proper biochemical transformation within the plant body, to get the desired yield.

Iron (Fe) – Iron involved in several oxidations and act reduction reactions in plants. It also acts as a necessary for several enzymatic growth hormones.

Copper (Cu) – It acts as an electron carrier in enzymes which brings oxidation-reduction. And regulates respiratory activity in all plants.

Manganese (Mn) – It acts as a catalyst in oxidation and acts reduction reaction in plants. It also acts as an activator of several enzymes.

Zinc (Zn) – Zinc is necessary for several enzymatic reactions. It helps in the formation of growth hormones.

The availability of mineral nutrients in red soil not only varies with the environment but also affects the productivity of plant species.

Crops suitable for Red Soil

Some of the crops suitable for red soils are cotton, wheat, rice, pulses, millets, tobacco, oilseeds, potatoes, and fruits. The red soils are mostly loamy and therefore cannot retain water like the black soils.

Cotton Crop in Red Soil.
Cotton Crop in Red Soil.

Under good management, these soils can be used profitably for a different variety of crops such as groundnut, maize, soybean, Bengal gram, pigeon pea, castor seed, green gram, red gram, jute, tea, cashew, cocoa, grapes, banana, papaya, and mango.

Chemical Composition of Red Soils

  • They are acidic mostly due to the nature of the parent rocks. The alkali content is fair.
  • They are poor in lime, magnesia, phosphates, nitrogen and also humus.
  • They are rich in potash and potassium.

Basic properties of Red soils

Rich in iron-aluminum oxides with strong fixation capacity of phosphate, low pH level, and organic matter content, and poor nutrient availability are the main yield-limiting factors for the red soils. According to the results of the second national soil census data, the fertility of main red soils was moderate or poor. Soil phosphorus (P) availability of red soils was measured seriously deficient. These serious P-deficient red soils cover most of the farmland in the area. Soil potassium (K) of the red soils is not as bad as phosphorus by 26.3 and 13.6% of the red soil area considered moderate and seriously deficient, respectively. Soil nitrogen (N) status of the red soils is situated between the phosphorus and the potassium with most in the moderate and serious deficient category.

Characteristics of Red Soils

The texture of red soils can change from sand to clay, the majority being loams. On the uplands, red soils are poor, gravelly, and porous, light-colored soils on which food crops like bajra can be grown.  However, in the lower areas, they are rich, deep dark and fertile.

The texture of red soil changes from, sand to clay, the majority being loam. Their other characteristics have a porous and friable structure, absence of lime, free carbonates, and a small number of soluble salts. Their chemical composition contain non-soluble material 90.47%, iron 3.61%, aluminium 2.92%, magnesium 0.70%, lime 0.56%. And also contain organic matter 1.01%, carbon dioxide 0.30%, potash 0.24%, soda 0.12%, phosphorus 0.09% and nitrogen 0.08%. Though significant regional differences are observed in the chemical composition.

In general, these soils are deficient in lime, magnesia, phosphates, nitrogen, humus, and potash. Intense leaching is a menace to these soils. These are characterized by stunted forest growth and suited to dry farming.

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Advantages of Red soils

  • Red soil is that type of soil which develops in warm, moist and temperate climatic condition and is produced by weathering of metamorphic rocks.
  • Red soils have better drainage capacity than other soils and they are porous, fine-grained and fertile.
  • Red soils have higher iron, aluminum and lime content and contain high acidic nature also.

Most commonly used organic fertilizers in the red soil region

Commonly used organic fertilizers in the red soil region come mostly from green manure, farmyard manure, and crop residues. In this area, rice and rapeseed are the major field crops covering 55 and 11% of the total cropped area, respectively. The amount of rice straw and rapeseed stalk accounts for 70 to 75% and 8.5 to 11% of the total crop residues in this region.

Double rice (two rice crops per year) and winter rapeseed is the major cropping pattern producing 9500–1200 kg hm2 straw yearly, but the rapeseed only yield about 1660–6900 kg hm2 residue yearly. Dryland crop straw is mostly used as livestock feed and cooking fuel, and only a small portion is returned to the field.

Radish (Raphanus sativus) and milk vetch (Astragalus sinicus L.) are used as wintergreen manure which produced 10,500 to 15,000 kg hm2 fresh biomass yearly. Pig and cattle manure were the major livestock manures in the region. Crop, especially rice, above and below ground residue is important to the source of soil organic matter.

That’s all folks about crops suitable for red soil and red soil benefits. You may be interested in Balcony Garden Design Ideas in India.


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