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Difference between Saline Soil and Silty Soil

Saline Soil vs Silty Soil


For a layman, the difference between different types of soils would probably be only about their colors. Indeed, how many people know that there are five soil types? Someone who has dabbled with or has a career in geology would know, but a normal person mostly wouldn’t. Saline and silty soils are two of the most common soil types and they are very different from each other.


Saline Soil

Saline soil has the most salt content of all soil types. So high is the salt content in this soil that it cannot be absorbed by the roots of the plants. Wherever there is saline soil, you can expect to see a drought-like condition.


Silty Soil

Silty soil is a very smooth soil and leaves dirt on your skin when you mess with it. It can retain water for a fairly long time and when moist, has a slick, soapy feeling.


Difference in Texture

There is a marked difference in texture between saline and silty soils. When you rub saline soil between your fingers, you get a gritty feel. On the other hand, silty soil, as mentioned above, has a smooth feel to it. This is easy to comprehend – silty soil has a lot of mud content and this is why it has a muddy feel to it. Saline soil, on the other hand, has larger salt particles and this is what gives it that grainy and gritty texture.

The particle diameters of saline and silty soils also vary. Silty soil has a particle diameter between 0.002 and 0.05 mm and saline soil has a particle diameter between 0.05 and 2.0 mm. This tells you that saline soil has larger sized particles while silty soil has moderately sized particles.


Where are these soils found?

Silty soil can be commonly found in the estuarine regions. This means that wherever there is a river delta, you can expect to find silty soil there. As rivers flow, they keep collecting solids throughout their journey. Just before the river enters the sea, it floods its banks on both the sides. All the soil and the mineral contained therein get deposited on the river banks. As this continues year after year, a heavy layer of very fertile soil is created.

Saline soil is usually found in the arid areas. The arid, southern parts of countries like China, Egypt, India and Pakistan have large areas covered by saline soil. If you consider the former USSR, 2.4% of its entire landmass was covered by saline soil.


Plants that grow in saline and silty soils

Saline soil is not exactly great for growing plants. The root cells of plants have a membrane that stops salt and allows water to pass through. The salt content of saline soil is so high that the membranes find it very difficult to let the water inside. Hence, there are relatively fewer varieties of trees and shrubs that can grow in saline soil. Some of the trees that can grow in saline soil are red buckeye, white fringe tree, common persimmon, sweetbay magnolia and pin oak. The shrubs that can grow in saline soil include red chokeberry, red osier dogwood, house hydrangea, Japanese holly and shore juniper.

Silty soil has great water retention ability and it is rich in nutrients. Thus, a lot many varieties of trees and shrubs grow in this soil. Some of the common tree names include bald cypress, river birch and weeping willow. The shrubs that are commonly seen growing in silty soil include red choke berry, summer sweet and American elder. Flowers like yellow iris and Japanese iris also grow in silty soil. Thanks to the technology available for improving the water drainage capacity of silty soils, it is also possible to create a nice vegetable garden in this type of soil.



  • Saline soil is rich in salt content while silty soil is rich in nutrient content.

  • Saline soil has a grainy and gritty feel while silty soil has a soapy, smooth feel.

  • The particle diameter of saline soil is more than that of silty soil.

  • Saline soil is found in arid areas while silty soil is found in delta regions.

  • Saline soil is not conducive to plant growth while silty soil, with its high nutrient content, is highly conducive to plant growth.

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