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Library Microtopography as a factor in the degradation of Vertisols in central India

Microtopography as a factor in the degradation of Vertisols in central India

Microtopography as a factor in the degradation of Vertisols in central India

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Date of publication
December 2002
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ISBN / Resource ID

Earlier studies on soil degradation in Vertisols of the Purna Valley of central India indicated that the semiarid climate characterized by a mean annual rainfall (MAR) of 875mm and a tropustic moisture regime is responsible for the development of calcareous sodic soils. Recent observations, however, indicate that in the adjacent east upland of the Purna Valley, namely in the Pedhi Watershed, Vertisols have drainage problems, although the area receives a higher MAR than the Purna Valley, the total MAR being 975mm. The Pedhi Watershed covers an area of 44321ha, and is characterized by a tropustic moisture regime and a hyperthermic temperature regime. Vertisols of the Pedhi Watershed are deep, calcareous, clayey and very dark greyish-brown to dark yellowish-brown in colour. Vertisols occur on both microhigh (MH) and microlow (ML) positions. The distance between the MH and ML positions is approximately 6 km and the elevation difference is 0.5–5 m. Cracks > 1 cm wide extend down to the slickenside zones in soils of ML whereas they cut these zones in some soils in MH positions. The soils of the MH positions are strongly alkaline and those of ML are mildly alkaline. The present study attempts to relate the distinctly different morphological and chemical properties of Vertisols in the MH and ML positions to pinpoint the prime factor responsible for the impairment of drainage on the basis of physical, chemical, mineralogical and micromorphological data. These data were obtained from 13 Vertisol pedons of methodically selected sites in the Pedhi Watershed. Despite their similar coefficient of linear extensibility (COLE), volumetric shrinkage potential (VSP), clay contents and amounts of fine smectite clay, the plasmic fabric of the slickenside horizons in soils of ML is porostriated, whereas in soils of MH it is stipple speckled to mosaic speckled, indicating weak plasma separation. The soils have both pedogenic and non-pedogenic calcium carbonates (CaCO3). The semiarid climate induces the precipitation of CaCO3 with a concomitant development of subsoil sodicity. The degree of development of sodicity (Exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP) ≥ 5) is more in soils of MH as evidenced by the higher amount of pedogenic CaCO3 (PC). The lack of water in soils of MH position is the reason for weak swelling of smectite, for larger amounts of PC, for higher alkalinity and sodicity, and for cracks cutting through the slickenside zones. Formation of sodic Vertisols in MH alongside non-sodic Vertisols in ML positions is a unique phenomenon. It develops because of microtopographic differences which modify distribution of water across the landscape and facilitate greater penetration of rainwater in ML positions. The development of sodicity due to microtopographic differences assumes a great importance when a future land resource management programme on Vertisols in the higher MAR zone of overall a semiarid climate is considered.

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Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s)

Vaidya, P.H.
Pal, D.K.

Data Provider
Geographical focus