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Saline Soil vs. Silty Soil

The main difference between saline and silty soil is of their texture. You get a gritty feel when you rub saline soil between your fingers and silty soil has a smooth feel to it.

Key Differences

Saline soil is found in arid areas conversely silty soil is found in delta regions.
Saline soil is not great for the plant growth while silty soil has a high nutrient content making it highly conducive to plant growth.
Saline soil has a grainy and gritty texture on the flip side silty soil has a soapy, smooth texture.
The particle diameter of the saline soil is more (between 0.05 and 2.0 mm); on the contrary, the particle diameter of silty soil is less (between 0.002 and 0.05 mm).
Saline soil is rich in salt content, whereas silty soil is rich in nutrient content.

Comparison Chart


A type of soil that is rich in salt content
A type of soil that is rich in nutrient content


Grainy and gritty
Soapy and smooth

Found in

Arid Areas
Delta Regions

Particle Diameter

Between 0.05 and 2.0 mm
Between 0.002 and 0.05 mm


Harlon Moss
Jun 26, 2019

Saline Soil vs. Silty Soil

There is a difference in texture between saline soil and silty soil. Silty soil has a high mud content. That is why you get a gritty feel when you rub saline soil between your fingers. Saline soil has larger salt particles. This large amount of salt particles gives it a grainy and gritty texture. Saline soil has a muddy feel to it. Silty soil has a smooth feel to it. The diameter of particles of saline and silty soils also vary. The particle diameter of saline soil is between 0.05 and 2.0 mm. The particle diameter of the silty soil is between 0.002 and 0.05 mm. Hence, saline soil has larger sized particles, and silty soil has moderately sized particles. Saline soil is commonly found in the arid areas. The arid, southern parts of the countries like Egypt, China, India, and Pakistan have large areas covered by saline soil. The entire landmass of the former USSR, 2.4% were covered by saline soil. Silty soil is commonly found in the estuarine regions. It means that you can expect to find silty soil wherever there is a river delta. The rivers keep collecting solids throughout their journey as they flow. Just before they enter the sea, they flood their banks on both sides. All the mineral and soil contained therein get deposited on the river banks. A heavy layer of extremely fertile soil is created as this continues year after year. Saline soil is not conducive to the plant growth. Silty soil has a high nutrient content making it highly conducive to plant growth.

What is Saline Soil?

Saline soil is the type of soil that has the most salt content of all soil types. The salt content in saline soil is so high that it cannot be absorbed by the roots of the plants. Wherever there is saline soil, there is a drought-like condition. Saline soil is found in extremely dry regions. It is usually brackish because of its high salt content. It can cause damage to plant growth, impede germination, and cause difficulties in irrigation. The salinity of this soil is due to the buildup of soluble salts in the rhizosphere. The root cells of the plants have a membrane. This membrane allows water to pass through and stops salt. The salt content of saline soil is very high that the specific membrane finds it very difficult to let the water inside. The high salt contents prevent water uptake by plants, leading to drought stress. It is easy enough to test if the soil is saline soil. A layer of white color coating the surface of the soil indicates that it is saline soil. The plants growing in saline soil would be growing poorly, and suffering from leaf tip burn, especially on young leaves. There are very few varieties of trees and shrubs that can grow in saline soil. Some of the trees and shrubs that can grow in saline soil are:

  • red buckeye
  • white fringe tree
  • common persimmon
  • sweetbay magnolia
  • pin oak
  • red chokeberry
  • red osier dogwood
  • house hydrangea
  • Japanese holly
  • shore juniper

What is Silty Soil?

Silty soil is a very smooth soil. It leaves dirt on the skin when you rub it between fingers. Silty Soil can retain water for a fairly long time. When moist, it has a slick and soapy feeling. Silty soil is light and moisture retentive soil with a high fertility rating. It comprises of medium-sized particles which are well drained and hold moisture well. These particles can be easily compacted and are prone to washing away with rain. The silt particles can be bound into more stable clumps by adding organic matter. As silty soil has much smaller particles than sandy soil, so it is smooth to the touch. Silty soil is rich in nutrients and retains water longer. But it can not hold on to a great number of nutrients as it is fairly fertile. Due to its moisture-retentive quality, the silty soil is cold and drains poorly. Silty soil also easily compacts. It needs to avoid trampling on it when working your garden. It can also become poorly aerated. Due to its great water retention ability and richness in nutrients, a lot many varieties of trees and shrubs grow in silty soil. The technology is available for improving the water drainage capacity of silty soils. It is also possible to create a fine vegetable garden in silty soil. Flowers like Japanese iris and yellow iris also grow in silty soil. Some of the common trees and shrubs growing in silty soil are:

  • bald cypress
  • river birch
  • weeping willow
  • red chokeberry
  • summer sweet
  • American elder

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