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Soils of Bihar

Booklet No. 358 Soil Science: SSS - 3

Contents Preface I. Introduction II. Geographical Situation III. Physiography IV. Land Utilization Pattern V. Climate VI. Vegetation VII. Soils VIII. Soil Association Groups IX. Problem Soils X. Soil and Fertilizer Management XI. Techniques for Efficient Fertilizer Use XII. Priorities for Future Preface Bihar is the fifth largest state in India in terms of area and holds second position in population. The cropping system in the state shows predominance of cereals i.e. mainly rice. Seeing the overall performance of the soils of the state, use of biofertilizers and organic manures should be encouraged. This win help in increasing the fertility as well as productivity of the soil. In some areas of the state there is also the problem of flooding and water logging, which needs proper management and care for future agricultural use of the soil. This booklet describes the different types of soils of Bihar and their management practices briefly. Dr. K. T. Chandy, Agricultural & Environmental Education I. Introduction The name 'Bihar' is a corrupt form of the name' Vihara' which means a Buddhist monastery. Bihar is a landlocked state. On the north it is bounded by Nepal, on the south Orissa, on the east West Bengal and on the west Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. At the time of compilation of this booklet Bihar included the present( 2003) Bihar state and the Jarkhand which was carved out from the previous Bihar State. The state of Bihar has been divided into three physiographic regions i.e. The north Bihar plains, south Bihar plains and Chhotanagpur and Santhal Parganas plateau. The sedentary soils of Chhotanagpur and Santhal Parganas and the alluvial soils of north-eastern part of Pumea are acidic in nature; while saline, saline alkali and calcareous soils occur in alluvial plains of north Bihar. Widespread zinc deficiency is also observed in the soils of this state. II. Geographical Situation Bihar lies between 2731' -2158'N latitude and 8818- 88o20'E longitude and covers a total geographical area of 17.38 million hectares of which 57.86% is the actual farmed area, 8.03% is unutilizable land and 16.90% under forest. The north Bihar is lined with many rivers and canals while a good amount of area of south Bihar is plateau. Besides south Bihar is also a

forest area having some of the great sal forests in our country. It is also an area predominantly inhabited by tribals. III. Physiography The State of Bihar is divided into three physiographic region: 1) the north Bihar plains, 2) the south Bihar plains, and 3) Chhotanagpur and Santhal Paraganas plateau. They are briefly described here. 1. North Bihar plains North Bihar plains consist of fifteen districts and is spread over 5.4 million hectares. The topography of this area is practically levelled with a slope towards south-east. Several big rivers such as Ganges, Gandak, Kosi, Kamala balan and Baghmati regularly flood this area. In north Bihar plain all the districts excepts Champaran are devoid of forests. However, the soil in this area is comparatively a fertile though saline and alkali problems are common. 2. South Bihar plains Southern plains of Bihar consist of nine districts and covers an area of about 4.0 million hectares. Its topography slopes towards north and most of the streams flow northward and join the Ganges as tributaries. The southern plains has many important rivets such as Son, Punpun and Falgu. 3. Chhotanagpur and Santhal Panganas plateau Chhotanagpur and santhal paraganas plateau, though consists of only seven districts, covers It has the largest geo- graphical area of about 8.0 million hectares. This region consists of several plateau having altitudes varying from 300 to 1000 metres above mean sea level with valleys in between them. Several rivers such as Damodar, Suvamarekha, Barakar, Koel etc. flow through this region. The plateau has large proportion of land under forest which is highest in district of Palamau (48.05%), followed by Hazaribagh (40.17%) and Singhbhum (29.07%) districts. Though the population of Chotanagpur and Santhal Paragana consists of a wide variety of ethnic composition, a large number of scheduled tribes are found there. IV. Land Utilization Pattern The percentage of actually farmed land comprising of net sown area and current fallow is above the state average in all the districts lying in north and south Bihar plain. In Chhotanagpur plateau, all the districts have less than 55% of actual farmed land. Patna district has the highest percentage of farmed land (80.58%) while it is lowest (29.93%) in Hazaribagh district. Of the total reported area of the state, 12.46% is under irrigation while 15.98% area is sown more than once. The districts lying in plains have a higher proportion of irrigated land than the plateau region. Consequently, the plains have larger areas under double or triple crops than the plateau region. The south Bihar is also very rich in minerals and coal. This state supplies almost 40% of the mineral resources. The land utilization pattern in Bihar as shown in table 1 provides more details such as reporting area, land not avail- able for cultivation, etc.

Table 1: Land utilization pattern in Bihar Sl.No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Land Use Total geographic area Reporting area for land utilization statistics Forest Not available for cultivation Other uncultivated land excluding fallow land Fallow land Net are sown Area sown more than once Total cropped area Area (m.ha) 1 17.38 17.33 2.88 2.71 0.81 3.02 7.86 2.77 10.63 Area (%) 16.61 15.81 4.61 17.42 45.35 15.98 61.33

1. The figures are only rough estimates V. Climate The State of Bihar is situated in the monsoon sub-tropical zone hence four distinct seasons can be identified in it namely: summer (March to June), monsoon (June to September), post-monsoon (October to November) and winter (December to Ferlruary). The summer is characterized by a gradual rise in temperature, occasional thunder showers coupled with hailstoms at places and high westerly winds in the north and south Bihar causing dust storms. The maximum temperature recorded is between the latter part of May and first fortnight of June. The monsoon season is characterized by cloudy weather, high humidity, frequent rains and variable surface winds. A maximum average rainfall of 330 mm is received during the month of July-August. The post-monsoon season is characterized by fair weather with a gradual fall in temperature. Winter season is characterized by low temperature with occasional frost at some places. VI. Vegetation The State with her ethnic composition of population and varying agro-climatic conditions has diverse farming systems. Crop farming either alone or in combination with animal husbandry is the most important land use pattern in Bihar. In Chhotanagpur and Santhal Paraganas plateau, the tribal population largely comes under the groups of small or marginal farmers. Poultry farming, pig farming and lac culture are the most popular farming systems in this area. VII. Soils There are eight clearly distinguishable soil types. They are briefly described here mainly with reference to their location. i) Red loamy soils: Red loamy soil is found in a small I area of north-eastern Santhal Paraganas. ii) Red sandy soil: red sandy soil occurs in the districts of Dhandbad, southern portion of Santhal Paraganas, and in a strip along the district boundary of Ranchi and Singhbhum. iii) Red & yellow soil: red and yellow soil is found in small patches in southern and southeastern part of Singhbhum district.

iv) Mixed red & black: mixed red and black soil occurs in the central portion of the district of Singhbhum. v) Alluvial soil: alluvial soil is mainly found in almost the entire north and south Bihar plains except the mid western portion. This soil is most suitable for cultivation of paddy. vi) Tarai soil: tarai soil is confined to the Siwalik hills of Champaran district. vii) Calcarious alluvial soil. calcarious alluvial soil containing a high content of carbonate of lime and is found in a vast patch in the mid western portion of north Bihar plain covering parts of Saran, Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Saharsa districts. viii) Peaty & saline peaty soil: peaty and saline soil is found in two small patches, one in the central part of Saharsa and the other along the border of Saharsa and Monghyr districts. Among the types of soils already mentioned alluvial soil require further explanation. The transported soils are generally of alluvial origin. Alluvial soils cover the entire land mass of the north of the Ganges, except the sub-Himalayan hills and forest soils which is mostly found in the northern projection of West Champaran district. There is a considerable area to the south of the Ganges with alluvial deposits in the districts of Bhagalpur, Monghyr, Patna, Nalanda, Gaya, Aurangabad, Nawadah, Rohtas and Bhojpur. To the south of the alluvial soils already mentioned, there are sedentary soils. These are soils formed in situ from parent materials developed from the weathering of various rocks in south Bihar. There are also foot-hill soils in Bihar separating the true alluvial from the hill and forest soils. These foot-hill soils are not exactly alluvial soils but are colluvial deposits on alluvial fans. VIII. Soil Association Groups The soil of north Bihar, south Bihar and Chhotanagpur plateau are further divided into 23 broad soil association groups. These 23 soil associations are briefly described as follows. A. North Bihar Seven types of soils are found in this area. They are briefly described here. 1. Sub-Himalayan hill and forest soils This soil is found in the north-west corner of the state (West Champaran district). It is moderately acidic to neutral in reaction, dark brown to yellow coloured, coarse textured and shallow to medium deep. Most of the soils are covered by forests with occasional rice fields in the valleys. 2. Recent alluvium tarsi soils This soil is located in a thin strip along the northern border of the state. It is a mixture of highly disturbed recent alluvium and the old finer tarai soils. The recent alluvial soils are acidic to neutral in reaction and coarse textured. These soils are medium to fine grey in colour and have well developed genetic horizons. 3. Recent alluvium soils These recent alluvium, non-calcareous, non-saline soils are found in the alluvial plains of Purnea, Katihar, Madhepura, Saharsa, northern parts of Bhagalpur and Khagaria and eastem part of Darbhanga and Madhubani districts. The soils are mostly coarse to medium textured, acidic to neutral in reaction and yellowish white to light gray in colour. In basin shaped flood

plains, soils are gray coloured, medium fine textured, and shallow to medium deep soils over sand. The up land coarse textured soils are poor in fertility status as compared to low land soils. 4. Young alluvium soils These young alluvium, non-calcareous, non-saline soils are found in the northern portions of the districts of Darbhanga, Madhubhani, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi and portions of Champaran district. It has poorly developed genetic horizons. The soil is coarse to medium textured, neutral to moderately 'acidic and moderately good to highly fertile soils. 5. Young alluvium calcareous sods This soil is found in the districts of Samastipur, Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Siwan, Gopalganj, Saran, Champaran and northern part of Begusarai district. It is coarse to heavy textured, containing moderate (10%) to high amount (60% or more) of free calcium carbonate (CaCo3) in their silt and clay fractions. These are highly fertile soils. 6. Young alluvium calcareous soils The young alluvium calcareous saline and saline-alkali soils are found in western part of Siwan and Gopalganj districts. The characters are similar to those of young alluvium calcareous but having numerous and extensive patches of saline -alkali soils. 7. Recent alluvium calcareous soils These soils are found in the first cycle flood plains of the Ganges, Gandak and Ghaghra rivers. It is a disturbed, coarse textured, well drained soil with little amount of (3-8%) of free calcium carbonate. B. South Bihar There are six soil types which are associated with this region. They are briefly described here. 1. Recent alluvium soils The recent alluvium yellowish to reddish yellow, non- calcareous, non-saline soils are located along the banks of the rivers flowing through the' alluvial plains of south Bihar. The soils are generally sandy to loamy sand, moderately acidic to neutral in reaction and low to moderate in fertility. 2. Tal land soils These soils are found along the southern bank of the Ganges river, behind its natural level, vast stretches of land which gets inundated during rains. Soils are inundated for a period of 2-4 months. The soils are grey to dark grey in colour, medium to fine textured, slight to moderately alkaline with good fertility status. 3. Old alluvium cracking soils The old alluvium grey to greyish yellow, fine textured cracking soils are found in the districts of Rohtas, Patna, Bhojpur, Gaya, Monghyr, Nalanda, Bhagalpur and Godda subdivision of Santhal Paraganas. The soils are characterized by greyish yellow to grey colour, medium fine to fine textured, neutral to slightly alkaline reaction having weakly developed profiles. These soils on drying develops cracks. The cracks are 5 to 8 cm wide and 60-120 cm deep. 4. Old alluvium catenary soils

The old alluvium catenary soils are generally found in Bhojpur, Rohtas, Patna, Gaya, Aurangabad, Monghyr, Bhagalpur, Nalanda, Nawadah and northern part of Santhal Parganas districts. It is reddish yellow to reddish grey in colour and strongly to moderately acidic in reaction. It has well developed B horizon. They are low land soils, slightly acidic to slightly alkaline, greyish in colour and contain large concretions. 5. Old alluvium yellowish red-yellow soils These soils are found at the foot hills separating the alluvial plains from the plateau regions extending in the west from Rohtas to Sahebganj in the east. Soils are developed on colluvial deposits in alluvial fans. These are shallow to medium deep, moderately acidic to neutral, poor to moderate in fertility status. 6. Old alluvium saline and saline-alkali soils These soils are found in the western parts of Rohtas district. The characteristics are same as that of old-alluvium catenary soils with extensive patches of saline and alkali soils. C. Chhotanagpur plateau There are ten types of soils which are found in this regions. Each of them are described separately as under. 1. Hill and forest soils of steep slopes These soils are found on narrow hill tops, hill slopes and on highly dissected area of Chhotanagpur. The characteristic features are shallow to medium deep, strongly to moderately acidic, coarse textured gravelly or stony. These soils are in most of the cases covered with forest of various kinds. 2. Red-yellow-light grey catenary soils These soils are found in the districts of Santhal Paraganas and south Singhbhum. They are divided into three groups viz. upland soils, medium upland soils and low land valley soils. The upland soils are red in colour, coarse textured, strongly to moderately acidic, shallow to medium deep. Medium upland soils are moderately yellow coloured, coarse to medium in texture, acidic in reaction. The low land valley soils are grey in colour, neutral to slightly alkaline in reaction, fairly deep and poorly drained and most fertile soils of the catena. 3. Light textured catenary soils These soils are found in the hilly parts of Rohtas, Palamau, Gaya, Aurangabad, Hazaribagh, Lohardaga, Gumla, Ranchi and Singhbhum. The soils are yellow reddish and yellow in colour. It is medium deep and light textured. It resembles yellow soils of the above mentioned soil association, but coarser in texture and contain ferruginous concretions, thick murrum beds below 75-150 centimeters. 4. Deep catenary soils These are the soils found in northern part of Hazaribagh Giridih and Monghyr districts. It develops on highly micaceous parent materials. It is medium textured silty soils which is strongly to moderately acidic, pale yellow to yellow pinkish in colour. The soil is rich in potassium, the fertility is medium to high. 5. YeUow catenary soils Yellow catenary soils are located in coal belt areas in the districts of Dhanbad mainly and partly in Hazaribagh, Giridih, Deoghar, Dumka and Sahebganj. These soils develop on

sand stone, quartzite and shale, are coarse textured, moderately acidic, having no ferruginous murrum beds. The colour of the soils are reddish yellow and yellow greyish. 6. Upland yellow grey heavy soils These are found in the uplands of Palamau districts. These soils are developed over parent materials derived from basic and ultrabasic rocks. The soil is red and yellowish red or grey coloured. It is fine textured, neutral to slightly alkaline in reaction. 7. Black catenary soils Black catenary soils are located in Rajmahal area of Sahebganj and Godda districts. These soils are associated with granite and gneiss. Soil developed on granite are red or yellow, but those on trap rocks are grey coloured. The soils are fine textured and neutral to slightly alkaline in nature. 8. Brown soils The soils of south-west part of Singbhum district belongs to this group. The red yellow soils developed on granite and non-iron rocks are similar to red yellow soils of Chotanagpur plateau. The soils developed on iron ore rocks are dark reddish brown in colour. It is gravelly, coarse textured and strongly acidic in nature constituting wastelands. 9. Mixed red -yellow black catenary soils These soils are developed on ultra basic and basic rocks. This soil is most prevalent in central Singbhum district. They are dark grey to black in colour, similar to upland grey soils of Palamau district. The soils developed on associated rocks are either red or yellow coloured having similar characteristics to red and yellow soils of Ranchi and Hazaribagh districts. 10. Red yellow laterite soils These soils are found in the eastern part of Singbhum district. Remnants of groundwater laterite are found only at few places and are under the process of laterisation. IX. Problem Soils There are certain specific problem soils in different agro- climatic zones in the state. The saline, saline-alkali and alkali soils have the distinctive characters of having excessive concentration of either soluble salts or exchangeable sodium or both. These soils extend over a major part of Chhapra, Siwan, Gopalganj southern positions of east and west Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Vaishali and part of Samastipur and Darbhanga districts. About one lath hectares in Bihar is affected by saline alkali soil problem. The calcareous soils of Samastipur and Muzaffarpur districts contain 10-60% of free calcium carbonate (CaCO3) with low to medium organic carbon content. The sedimentary soils of Chhotanagpur plateau and large parts of Santhal Paraganas are acidic in reaction and the pH is ranging between 5.5 to 6.5. Such soils occur in an area of about 1.5-2 m ha in Bihar. About 70% soils of Ranchi, 60% each of Hazaribagh and Dhanbad, 50% of Singhbhum and 20% soils of Palamau districts are acidic in reaction. The acidic soils of Purnea district have developed in the flood plains of Mahananda and Kosi rivers. The continuous and intense leaching of the sandy soils due to heavy rains have caused acidity in these soils. Nearly 50% of the cultivable land of north Bihar (about 1.7 m ha) is frequently affected by floods during rains. Depending upon the physiographic location the period of flooding varies from a few weeks to 3 to 4 months.

X. Soils and Fertilizer Management Nitrogen is the most deficient nutrient in soils of Chhotanagpur followed by phosphorus. The coarse textured soils of Saharsa and Pumea are also poor in phosphorus. Soils of Bihar is generally classified as belonging to the category of medium potassium content except in areas of intensive cropping and coarse textured soils. Soils of Bihar are poor in nitrogen and organic carbon and the average nitrogen content ranges from 0.01 to 0.06 percent. The degree of soil fertility determines the fertilizer application. Depending on the nutrient present in the soil the fertilizer management can be done. 1. Organic matter and nitrogen Soils of Bihar are generally poor to low in organic matter and nitrogen. Organic carbon varies from 0.027% in sandy soils to 1.8% in sandy loam soil in the Corai area. Bulk of the soil nitrogen remains in hydrolisable and non- hydrolisable forms. However, a dynamic equilibrium exists between ammoniacal nitrate, hydrolisable and nonhydrolisable forms of nitrogen. From the study of typical upland soils of Bihar, significant correlation and fairly linear relationship between carbon dioxide evolution, nitrogen mineralisation and organic carbon contents have been found. 2. Phosphorus The nature and the relative amounts of different phosphorus fractions in Bihar soils, vary greatly in tune with the differences in their genetic and physico-chemical properties. The inorganic phosphorus fractions accounted for about 50% of total phosphorus in sedimentary soils and about 80% in alluvial soils. Organic phosphorus content in soils ranged between 1646% of the total phosphorus content. Reversion of added phosphorus to relatively unavailable forms is particularly pronounced in acidic and calcareous soils. The degree of phosphorus fixation in acidic soils is found to be much higher at lower concentrations of applied phosphorus. 3. Potassium Potassium exists in soil in different forms i.e exchange- able, non-exchangeable, water soluble, weathered and unweathered minerals. In Bihar soils, sand and silt contribute towards total potassium more than the clay whereas clay contribute relatively higher concentration of potassium soluble in nitric acid. The total potassium content of Bihar soils ranges between 23.2 and 111.5 eq/l00 gm of soil. Alluvial soils are richer in total potassium content than the sedimentary soils. The activity ratio of water soluble and nitric acid soluble potassium remains more or less unchanged during crop growth. 4. Micro-nutrients Total content of micronutrients in soils of Bihar vary widely due to difference in mineralogy, physical and chemical properties. In the soils of Bihar total zinc range from 69 to 109 ppm, iron from 0.45 to 27.3 per cent, manganese from 202 to 2710 ppm, molybdenum from 5 to 18 ppm, copper from 9.4 to 25 ppm and boron from 38 to 57.5 parts per million. The micronutrient status of the soils of Bihar indicates wide spread deficiency of zinc followed by the deficiency of iron. These range between 0.5 to 0.9 ppm in soils and from 20 to 30 ppm in crops. The threshold value of iron in calcareous soil is 6.95 parts per million.

Most of the Bihar soils is considered to be poor in available sulphur. Lowland acidic and fine soils contain relatively high total sulphur but less soluble Sulphur. 5. Fertilizer ~commendation for important crops Table 2 gives the fertilizer recommendation for crops depending on the type of soil and crop requirements. Table 2: Fertilizer recommendation for crops Sl. No 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Crops Rice Wheat Maize Hybrid sorghum Minor millet Red gram Black gram Green gram Ground nut N : P : K (kg/ha) 80 : 49 : 20 100 : 60 : 40 100 : 60 : 40 115 : 65 : 35 40 : 20 : 20 20 : 50 : 0 15 : 40 : 0 15 : 40 : 0 25 : 50 : 25

6. Response of liming On the basis of the degree of response to lime, the crops have been grouped into three. a. High response class: red gram, soybean and cotton b. Medium response class: gram, lentil, pea, groundnut, Maize, sorghum, and wheat. c. Low response class: barley, minor millet, boro-rice, aus-rice, and mustard. On liming the efficiency of fertilizer utilization by crops increases on liming the acidic soils. 7. Crop tolerance to salinity The relative tolerance of crops to salinity have been classified as mentioned here. a. Relatively high salt tolerant: Sesbania aculeata, rice, sugarcane, oat, berseem, barley, cabbage, tomato, sugarbeet, etc. b. Medium salt tolerant crops : castor, sorghum, pearl millet, maize, mustard, wheat etc. c. Low salt tolerant crops: black gram, green gram, red gram, sunnhemp, gram, pea, linseed, raddish, beans, etc. XI. Techniques for Efficient Fertilizer Use The efficiency in the utilization of fertilizer nitrogen by crops has been relatively lower for kharif as compared to rabi crops. It hardly exceeds 50% the nitrogen is lost by volatilization, leaching, denitrification, ammonium fixation etc. Thus, to minimize the loss of nitrogen, several techniques are being adopted. They are the following: 1. use of urea coated with indigenous materials such as neem cake and lac, 2. supplementing the fertilizer nitrogen with locally available organic manures, 3. use of blue green algae to supplement inorganic nitrogen, 4. placement of super granules of urea in waterlogged soils and 5. equilibration of urea with moist soil (1:4 ratio) for 3-4 days before application in waterlogged soils.

Basal application of triple super phosphate (TSP) is suitable in phosphorus deficient soils. Compost (10 tonnes/ ha) is effective in reducing phosphorus fixation in calcareous soils of north Bihar. The efficiency of phosphorus utilization by crops in rabi season is generally higher as compared to kharif season. Rock phosphates of low water solubility have been effective in acid soils of Chhotanagpur. Muriate of potash (KCI) is most efficient fertilizer for the supply of potassium in soils deficient in it. XII. Priorities for Future Several aspects of soil and fertilizer research on the state may be outlined as priority areas, These are given as follows: 1. requirement of fertilizer for yield targetting of major crops, 2. delineation of micronutrient deficient areas, suggesting , suitable creative measures for different soil association of Bihar, 3. screening of improved varieties for crops for tolerance to micronutrient deficiency, water and salt stress conditions, 4. reclamation and management of salt affected soils of north Bihar and acidic soils of Chhotanagpur plateau, 5. manipulation of soil physical condition in old alluvial soils, and 6. studies on integrated nutrient supply through inorganic, organic and biofertilizers on different rice based cropping systems. %%%%%%%%%%%%%