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Types Of Hardpan: A Comprehensive Guide

Types Of Hardpan


Hardpan, also known as a compacted layer of soil, can greatly impact soil health and plant growth. There are various types of hardpan, each with its unique characteristics and formation processes. In this article, we will explore different types of hardpan, their characteristics, and the effects they have on soil and plants.

1. Plowpan

Definition and Formation

Plowpan refers to a hardpan layer that forms as a result of repeated plowing or tillage operations. It is typically found in agricultural fields where extensive tillage has been practiced. Plowpan forms just below the depth of regular plowing, usually around 15 to 30 centimeters.


Plowpan is characterized by its compacted structure and higher bulk density compared to the surrounding soil layers. It restricts root penetration, limits water infiltration, and hampers nutrient movement within the soil profile.

Also Read: Hardpan Formation

Types Of Hardpan


The presence of plowpan can lead to shallow root systems, reduced plant growth, and increased susceptibility to drought stress. It also contributes to waterlogging, as water is unable to drain through the compacted layer, causing poor drainage and increased runoff.

2. Fragipan

Definition and Formation

Fragipan is a dense, brittle hardpan layer that forms in certain soils, often associated with specific clay mineral properties. It occurs below the plow layer, typically at depths of 30 to 60 centimeters, although it can vary depending on the soil type.


Fragipan is known for its high bulk density, low permeability, and pronounced brittleness. It is often dense and cemented, making it challenging for roots to penetrate. Fragipan layers are characterized by a distinct soil structure and can exhibit a blocky or platy appearance.


Fragipan layers severely impede water movement, resulting in poor drainage and increased risk of waterlogging. The restricted root penetration limits nutrient uptake, leading to nutrient deficiencies and reduced plant productivity. Fragipan layers can also contribute to erosion, as water runoff is increased due to reduced infiltration.

3. Duripan

Definition and Formation

Duripan is a cemented hardpan layer that forms in arid and semiarid regions with high evaporation rates and limited leaching. It develops due to the accumulation of calcium carbonate, clay, and other cementing agents. Duripan layers are typically found at greater depths, ranging from 60 centimeters to several meters.


Duripan layers are extremely dense and cemented, often exhibiting a hard, compacted structure. They can vary in thickness and hardness, depending on the specific soil conditions and the amount of cementing agents present.


Duripan layers significantly limit water infiltration, resulting in poor moisture retention and increased water runoff. They restrict root penetration, leading to shallow root systems and reduced plant access to water and nutrients. Duripan layers can also cause excess moisture accumulation above the hardpan, creating waterlogging issues.

4. Caliche

Definition and Formation

Caliche is a hardpan layer formed primarily by the accumulation of calcium carbonate in arid and

semiarid regions. It is commonly found in desert soils and can develop near the soil surface or at deeper depths, depending on the specific climatic and geological conditions.


Caliche layers are often white to light brown in color and can vary in hardness and thickness. They have a high concentration of calcium carbonate, which cements soil particles together, resulting in a compacted and hard layer.


Caliche layers restrict water movement and infiltration, leading to poor drainage and limited water availability for plant roots. They impede root penetration and reduce nutrient uptake, contributing to plant stress and reduced productivity. Caliche layers can also limit the development of deep-rooted plant species in arid regions.


Understanding the different types of hardpan is essential for effective soil management and crop production. Plowpan, fragipan, duripan, and caliche are some of the common hardpan types that can significantly impact soil structure, water movement, and root development. By recognizing the characteristics and effects of these hardpan types, farmers, gardeners, and land managers can implement appropriate strategies to mitigate their negative impacts and promote healthy soil and plant growth.

Sources: Raney, W. A., T. W. Edminster, and W. H. Allaway. “Current status of research in soil compaction.” Soil Science Society of America Journal 19.4 (1955): 423-428. Link: https://acsess.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.2136/sssaj1955.03615995001900040008x

Raghavan, G.S.V., Alvo, P. and McKyes, E., 1990. Soil compaction in agriculture: a view toward managing the problem. Advances in Soil Science: Soil Degradation Volume 11, pp.1-36. Link: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4612-3322-0_1

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John Kamau is a highly experienced agriculture expert based in Kenya. He holds a degree in Agriculture from the University of Nairobi and has over 15 years of experience in the field. Throughout his career, John has been committed to promoting sustainable agriculture practices in Kenya. He has worked with small-scale farmers in rural communities to improve their crop yields, implement irrigation systems, and adopt environmentally friendly farming practices. John is also an expert in the use of technology in agriculture. He has worked with organizations to develop mobile applications that help farmers access information about weather patterns, market prices, and best practices for crop management. In addition to his work in Kenya, John has also been involved in agricultural projects in other African countries, including Tanzania and Uganda. He has served as a consultant for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and has been recognized for his work with numerous awards.


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