AGRICULTURE AND IRRIGATION
The soils of the district can be divided into three classes, viz., light soils locally known as Malran lands, medium black soils and black cotton soils. The Malran lands are shallow, coarse and contain partially decomposed parent material. They occur on hill-slopes and are severally eroded. The depth of such soils is up to 23 cms. Area under medium black soils is comparatively more in the district. The depth of such soils varies from 23 to 45 cms. The texture of medium black soils varies from silty loam to clay loam and they contain a fairly large amount of lime nodules. The clay content increases with depth. The depth of black soils exceeds 45 cms.
The Chief Soil Survey Officer started his work of collecting the information on soils all over the State on a 10 mile grid pattern from 1966. The soils from the Sholapur district are grouped with reference to tentative agro-climatic zones of Maharashtra State based on climate, vegetation, relief parent material. The major area in
Sholapur district comes under scarcity zone, which is characterised by low average annual rainfall. The major soil group observed in this district includes mostly brown to black calcareous soils with varying depth and texture. The soils generally met with in this zone are similar to scarcity zone, with the difference that the deep soils are rather restricted in drainage. Two types of soils are observed, viz., deep, brown-black clays with yellowish brown mottled coloured sub-soil layer, and deep brown black clays with dirty white lime sub-soil.
The soils in South Sholapur are of three kinds, viz., kali or black, barad or coarse gray and tambdi or reddish. Except in Barshi taluka where black soil is generally found and coarse gray is rare, in most of the district the soil is cither gray or red. In North Sholapur taluka, the soil is generally light and of moderate depth. Deep black soil of richer quality is. however, predominant between the two rivers, viz., Sina and Bhima. Jowar, pulses, ground-nut and bajri to a small extent are grown in this soil.
In Pandharpur taluka the soil is generally poor and capable of producing mostly jowar, bajri and kardai.
The soil of Sangola taluka is for the most part poor and shallow. Along the banks of the rivers, and in low-lying position, however, some small tracts of fairly black clayey soil of fair depth are found. Jowar, bajri, ground-nut and pulses are grown in this taluka.
Barshi taluka has the best soil in the district. In this taluka the richest land is found at the bottom of the slopes which commonly become almost level with the banks of the streams. The soil is generally black and fertile. Rice, jowar, bajri, wheat, tur, cotton, mung, ground-nut and til are grown in this soil. The soil of Malshiras taluka is in general shallow and light in colour and not retentive of moisture. Moreover, some part is stony. It is hard and sterile near the foot of the hills. Fertile black soil of sufficient depth is found in the numerous valleys and in a few villages on the banks of river. The principal crops are jowar and bajri. Wheat and kardai or safflower are also grown.
Larger portion of Madha taluka has generally shallow soils with varying depth and quality. Soils in the villages along the banks of the Sina are mostly black and of great depth and excellent quality. Along the slopes of the ridges, the soil is shallow and at times covered with loose stones. Where dams have been constructed, the soil is fertile. In the low-lying tracts, the soil is of brown to dark black colour and of richer quality, but the richest deep black soil of great depth is found along the river Sina. Jowar, bajri, pulses, cotton and oil-seeds are grown in it. Wheat is raised as a late crop mainly on irrigated lands.
In Akkalkot taluka, the soil is rich in the vicinity of the rivers Bhima and Sina. In other parts though covered in some places with loose stones it is mostly black and of fairly good depth. There is a distinct
difference between the quality of the soil on the high land and that of in the hollows. The former is light and stony and in places uncultivable waste; but elsewhere it produces quite a good crop of jowar. In the hollows the soil is richer and deeper and produces heavy crops when there is sufficient manure.
In Karmala taluka about one-half of the soil is black and one quarter each red and barad. The black soil here is somewhat short of depth, except along the banks of the nalla and in the valleys of the Sina river, it is somewhat stiff and clayey. There is also a small quantity of alluvial land which is chiefly found along the banks of the Bhima river. Jowar, kardai and bajri are grown in it.
The soils of Mangalwedha taluka are deep black.
The old Gazetteer of Sholapur district described the soils in the district as under:-
"The soil of Sholapur is of three kinds, kali or black, barad or coarse gray, and tambdi or reddish. Except in Barshi where black soil is the rule and coarse gray is rare, most of the district is either gray or red. As there are few table-lands, the black soil is almost confined to the banks of rivers and large streams. Most of the black soil is stiff and clayey, though near the meeting of the Bhima and Sina in the Sholapur sub-division it is particularly fine. Of three main divisions of soil the black has three varieties, pure black, morvandi and chopan or chikan that is loamy; the barad or gray has three varieties, pandhar or white, barad or coarse gray, and chun-khadi or limy; and the tambdi or red has two varieties, gada and pure tambdi or reddish. Of the three varieties of black soil the pure black is generally found in flat plots. The soil is perfectly black and free from sand or stones. When mixed with water it swells and is very soft to the touch. However abundant the rainfall, it soaks in the whole of the rain and does not allow it to flow off or to stagnate. When the rains are over it does not crack. For a depth of about seven feet below the surface the soil is found of the same quality; below this is either water or a rocky black stratum. This soil does not need an abundant supply of fresh water. With one heavy shower good crops grow even though the later rains fail. This soil is generally used for rabi or cold-weather crops such as jondhala that is Indian millet and gram. It is seldom suited for kharif or rain crops, and among rain crops, only for cotton, kardai or safflower, and tur or Cajanus indicus. Of garden crops, ground-nuts, even if not constantly watered, thrive in this soil. In a few parts of the district this pure black soil occurs in whole numbers. In most places the black soil occurs as small patches in gray and red fields. A mixture of this black is required before red or gray soils can be fertile. Pure black soil is not difficult to plough and the seed grows surely
and rapidly. The morvandi soil is found away from river-banks and streams. It is less black and soft to the touch than the pure black soil, but like pure black, it is altogether free from a whitish or reddish element. In this soil occur a black sandy substance and flat pieces of white reddish or black flint, as large as small lemons. The soil is two to three feet deep; below it are white and black layers of rock coloured like burnt black bricks. This soil does not need heavy showers. It is generally sown when a short rainfall seems likely. If the seedling once takes it needs no more water than the natural moisture of the soil. Morvandi soil is easily ploughed. It is well suited for gram, and is used only for rabi or cold-weather crops such as jondhala or Indian millet, gram, safflower and barley. In years of heavy rainfall this soil does not yield good crops; otherwise the growth of the crops is speedy and certain. When the rain fails the surface gapes in large deep cracks. The pieces of flint which occur in this soil seem to help it to keep its moisture. Chopan or chikan that is loamy soil is found within a mile or two of river-banks and streams. It is mixed white and black, the white element being not very noticeable. Under this loam which is often as much as fifteen to twenty feet deep, lies a layer of rock. It is saltish and free from stones or sand. It is soft to the touch, even softer than the pure black. It is very hard and does not easily yield either to the plough pr to the rain. It grows wheat and Indian millet jondhala, and during the rains, it can grow bajri. When the rains cease the soil gapes in large cracks and fissures, often fifteen to twenty feet deep; these serve as village granaries, and keep grain ten to twenty years without spoiling. An inferior but widely-used salt used to be made from this soil, but since the passing of the Salt Act (Act VII of 1873) the manufacture has been stopped. Of the three varieties of barad soil the pandhar or white is generally found near villages, seldom far from the village-site or gavthan. It is never found near the banks of rivers or streams. It is whitish, saltish, and free from stones or sand. When mixed with water it does not swell and is hard to the touch. It is not sticky and can be easily worked by water. This soil is found to a depth of four or five feet, below which comes a layer of rock. It does not easily yield to the plough. With constant water it grows tobacco, wheat, chillies and fruit-trees. Though a useful soil it is so hard to work that it is often left waste, or used in making unfired bricks, building walls, plastering roofs, and in making sora or saltpetre. Barad or coarse gray soil is found on the slopes of high lands. It is whitish and reddish and much mixed with murum or crumbly trap. A layer of pure barad soil is rarely found more than one foot deep; below this is a layer of crumbly trap mixed with sand, earth, and small brittle stones
which under pressure turn to dust. It is formed of different substances washed out of the rocks. When mixed with water it becomes solid. It is not sticky and can be easily pulverised. It requires constant showers, and if the rains hold off for a week becomes dry and useless. Cold-weather crops are rarely grown in barad or coarse gray soil and of the rain crops red Indian millet called jogdi alone does well. Chunkhadi or lime-laden soil is found on the tops of high lands. It is whiter than the coarse gray or barad and has a strong limestone element. Even on the surface this soil is not unmixed with lime. About a foot below the surface is a layer of soft murum or crumbly trap which is less red than the murum found under gray soil. It needs constant water. It is never used for rabi or cold-weather crops. Of the kharif or rain crops it is best suited to hulga or Dolichos biflorus. Of the two varieties of tambdi or red soil the gada is chiefly found in hollows near river-banks and streams. It is reddish and free from stones and sand. The soil is five to six feet deep, below which is a layer of sand. When wet it becomes very soft. It does not yield salt and does not crack when dry. During the rains gada soil is constantly liable to be washed by floods. As it consists of fine earth deposited from running or standing water the gada soil is rich, and is very favourable to the growth of trees, plants and vegetables. Grass of excellent quality grows readily on this soil. The soil is not hard to the plough and is well fitted for rabi or cold-weather crops. Of the crops grown on it Indian millet or jondhala and castor seed or erandi thrive best. It does not want a constant supply of moisture and with one heavy shower yields a good crop. In yield it comes next to the best black soil. It is the soil most used by potters in making earthen vessels. Pure red or tambdi soil is generally found on the tops and slopes of high lands, much mixed with small soft stones. It does not remain pure for more than half a foot from the surface. About a foot from the surface comes a layer of soft murum or crumbly trap which is easily ground to powder. It is well fitted for growing mangoes and other fruit trees, especially the plantain. Of the rain crops bajri, til, mugi and matki thrive best in this soil. Cold-weather crops are sometimes grown but the out-turn is small." [ Gazetteer of Bombay Presidency, Sholapur District, Vol. XX, 1884, pp. 219-21.]