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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Soil characterization in contrasting cropping systems under the fast track land reform programme in Zimbabwe - African Journal of Food, Agriculture and Development Vol.11 No.3

A recent article by The Guardian on land management in sub-saharan Africa specifically addresses the need for adequate soil care in order to better overall agricultural crop yields in the long-term. What's interesting is that the author underscores the total economic losses regionally by the improper care of soil within this region to gain a more fluid insight as to the need of a more established land management system altogether.

To understand this issue further, Shoko and Moyo in their article "Soil Characterization In Contrasting Cropping Systems Under The Fast Track Land Reform Programme In Zimbabwe", study the the soil found in Zimbabwe (sub-sarahan Africa) at the molecular level in hopes of better understanding the health of the soil via the levels of molecules found within. The article is in the African Journal of Food, Agriculture and Development vol.11 no.3. 

The research was conducted by studying three contrasting cropping systems in Zimbabwe: communal areas, large-scale resettlement (A2) and small-scale systems (A1), and all systems were found within the province of Manicaland. 

The soil samples were collected during the off seasons of 2006 to 2008 and the following soil sample characteristics were as follows: Ca, Mg, K, Zn, pH were tested to be in the soil, as well as variants of organic matter. Yet there were significant differences between the soil chemical properties and production systems. Calcium, magnesium, and potassium levels were generally low in all three production systems, due to overall lower than normal pH levels found in the soil. 

A2 farms were found to have the highest (p< 0.05) Ca, Mg, and K, while the communal area had the lowest levels of soil organic matter content. That said, the soil organic content in A2 (large-scale) farms are very much able to sustain plant growth. The reason for this could be, as suggested by Shoko and Moyo, because of better land management practices, such as liming and fertilization. Suggesting that there may be a need for both the communal and A1 (small-scale) farmers to apply organic matter to boost SOM in their fields. 

With that said, the most optimum levels of organic matter for the region of Zimbabwe are between 1.5% - 5%, with results of the study showing the pH of the soil measuring between 5.0 - 6.8 (slightly acidic) in all three production systems. Yet, the acidity of the soil being significantly stronger in communal areas at the depth of 0-30cm, resulting in a negative yield of maize and groundnut within those areas. In both the A1 and A2 farms, it is suggested that the soil acidity levels could sustain the production of tobacco and sunflower and generally, there is a need for farmers in all three production systems to lime their soils and improve their organic matter through the application of crop residues and cattle manure. 

For this journal and others from this issue, click here.



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