Soil Acidification in India

GS-1 Mains (Geography)

Short Notes or Revision Notes 

Question :  Examine the causes and extent of soil acidification in India. Suggest Wayforwad.

What is it?

  • Soil acidification is a decrease in soil pH over time.
  • Caused by removal of base cations (Ca, Mg, K, Na) and their replacement with H+ and Al+ ions.
  • Accelerated by intensive agriculture.


  • Natural:
    • Weathering of soil minerals releases H+ ions.
    • Rainwater has a naturally acidic pH (around 5.6).
  • Anthropogenic:
    • High levels of ammonium-based fertilizers.
    • Long-term rainfall.
    • Draining sulfuric soils.
    • Acid deposition.
    • Removing all harvested materials.


  • Global:
    • Future warming could deplete soil inorganic carbon (SIC) by 1.35-5.83 GtC by 2100.
    • 13 billion tonnes of SIC lost from soils annually.
  • India:
    • Over 30% of cultivable land is acidic (48 million hectares).
    • Widespread in humid southwest, northeast, and Himalayas.
    • Northeast India: 95% of soils are acidic.


  • Depletes soil inorganic carbon (SIC), harming soil health and carbon storage.
  • Reduces availability of plant nutrients, affecting crop growth and productivity.
  • Increases susceptibility to other stresses.
  • India: Potential loss of 3.3 billion tonnes of SIC in next 30 years.

Soil Carbon Types:

  • Soil Inorganic Carbon (SIC): Mineral forms like calcium carbonate.
  • Soil Organic Carbon (SOC): From plant/animal waste, microbes, etc.

Improving Acidic Soil:

  • Sustainable methods: Compost, wood ash.
  • Management strategies: Optimize fertilizer use, minimize leaching.
  • Liming: Adding materials to neutralize acidity (Ca/Mg oxides, hydroxides, carbonates).

Government Initiatives:

  • Soil Health Card Scheme: Provides info on soil nutrients for corrective measures.
  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana: Promotes organic farming to improve soil organic matter.
  • Neem Coating of Urea: Slows down urea degradation and improves plant uptake.
  • Save Soil Movement: Aims for chemical-free soil, healthy soil organisms, moisture conservation, reduced groundwater depletion, and minimized soil erosion.


  • Soil acidification is a serious threat to soil health, productivity, and livelihoods.
  • Sustainable practices and effective management are crucial to mitigate its impacts.


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