152. The geological formation, of the District is Deccan
intrarappean beds of shale,
sandstone and limestone which are exposed in places. From the disintegration of the trap and the less prominent layers of non-cystalline rock can be traced the various classes of soil of this tract, varying from the very fertile deep loam of the plains, commonly known as black cotton soil, to the thin red soils of the plateaux resting on partially decomposed trap. The rivers Purna in the west and Wardha in the east with their numerous tributaries, together with the undulating nature of the District, provide a natural system of drainage, which is very favourable to the cultivation of the staple crops-cotton and juari, which only thrive well on well drained land. The soil is largely a deep black loam, which cakes into a solid mass in the beginning of the dry weather, and cracks freely in all directions later. These fissures run to a depth of several feet and give the soil a reticulated appearance; hence the statement that " black cotton soil ploughs itself." The depth of the black cotton soil varies from a thin covering to a stratum of unknown depth. It reaches its greatest depth in the valleys into which it has been washed as a fine silt from the higher lands. The richest soil of the District is the alluvium of the Puma valley lying north of the railway. This soil locally known as thet or awalkali is of fine texture, very retentive of moisture, becomes sticky when wet, cracks freely in the dry weather and is comparatively heavy to work. The largest stretches of it are found in the north of the Daryapur taluk, in the west of the Amraoti taluk, in the south-west of Morsi, the east of Chandur and round about the town of Ellichpur. In different places it is known under
different names such as chikni, which means a sticky soil, gaohari, a wheat soil, and the like. It is very fertile, and well suited to the cultivation of all the different crops grown in the District. As it is mainly found in low-lying or level areas, however, its retentivity sometimes results in water-logging in years of excessive rainfall. In such years cotton grown in this soil suffers badly, while in years of short but well distributed rainfall, the same soil will give a bumper crop. Owing to this tendency of the soil to retain too much moisture during the rains and to retain that moisture late in the season, it used to be largely devoted to wheat. But within the last thirty years wheat has often done badly owing to the failure of the late rains, and the cultivators now grow cotton or juari in preference to it in this class of soil; or if wheat is grown at all, it is generally in rotation with these. The large rise in the price of cotton has also stimulated the growth of this crop. The area under wheat has decreased from 8.8 per cent. of the total cropped area in 1876 to 4.6 per cent. in 1907; while the area under cotton has, within the same period, risen from 36 to 50 per cent. of the cropped area. The black cotton soil of the plains rests on a layer of marl of a light yellow colour. The water-bearing stratum is generally very deep. In the rich tract of the Daryapur taluk it varies from 40 to 80 feet. The water of the wells in such tracts is often brackish owing to the presence of certain soda salts; and it was at one time customary in Berar to utilize the water of these wells for the manufacture of salt. Black cotton soil containing a small percentage of lime in a finely powdered state is known as kali. If there is a still higher percentage of lime present in the form of nodules about as large as peas, the soil is known as morandi. These soils containing lime are lighter to work than pure black cotton soil, are less retentive of moisture and less fertile. Sandy soil found on the banks of rivers and streams is known as retari. A shallow stony soil found on high-lying places and producing only inferior grasses and brushwood is called bardi. The thin layer of red soil overlying trap rock or muramon the plateaux is known as lalmatti; a soil subject to scouring is called Khardi. A shallow hilly soil interspersed with stones and boulders is known as gotar and the patches of greyish coloured marly soils which occur in certain fields, and which are very wet owing to the subsoil being impervious to water, are known as chopan. An alluvial soil formed from deposits of silt is called mali or garwat. A soil containing much saline matter is designated kharwan. A hard shallow muram soil of only a few inches in depth is known as murmatikharki or khairati. Land when irrigated from wells is known as motasthalbagayat and as patasthal when irrigated from a channel or pat. Land in close proximity to a village is known as akhar, and the light coloured soil of such land is known as pandhri. The colour is supposed to be due to the chemical changes which take place in black soil when impregnated with much fermentable organic matter. Pandhri is the soil parexcellence for garden cultivation,
153. By the Berar system of soil classification for land-revenue assessment, there are three
main classes of soils, viz., black soils,
red soils and grey soils. The factors that lessen or increase the productive power of a soil are considered and a certain value attached to each, the standard for comparison being that of a soil of standard quality. A table is then prepared showing how far any combination of these factors causes a particular soil to differ in productive capacity from soil of standard quality. Fields are not classified as having particular kinds of soil, but are valued at so many annas as compared with soil of sixteen anna quality.
154. With the exception of the Melghat the standard of
cultivation of this District is high. This is evident from the care with which
both field and garden crops are cultivated. The best cultivators are of the Kunbi, Mali and Bari castes. The typical
Kunbi is a quiet hard-working unassuming man, who though not very intelligent, is a good and successful practical farmer. Formerly when the caste system was more rigid, the
Kunbi cultivated dry crops only, while the Mali attended to garden crops including flowers, vegetables and fruit, and the Bari to his betel vines. Each was considered expert in his own particular branch of cultivation, The
barriers that separated these cultivating castes have to some extent broken down, and the Kunbi no longer altogether neglects garden cultivation, nor the Bari and Mali the cultivation of ordinary field crops. Of these castes cultivation is the hereditary occupation. As the population increased, and the competition in other industries grew keener, other castes have been compelled to take up farming as an occupation. Among these are found cultivators who, though they take less kindly to farming than the hereditary farming castes, are often more enterprising than the latter, and for that reason some of them have become successful cultivators. Farm labour is largely done by the poorer Kunbis and by Mahars and Muhammadans.