Influence of land-use on properties of a ferralitic soil under low external input farming in southeastern Swaziland

Materechera, S A
Mkhabela, T S
Soil and Tillage Research
Publication Year: 
An assessment of changes in soil properties associated with land-use and management practices is vital for the selection and establishment of appropriate sustainable practices under different agroecosystems. This study compared soil properties between land located on an abandoned kraal site (KS), under fallow (FL) and one that was continuously cropped to maize (CC) for over 12 years. Aggregation and aggregate stability as measured by both dry and wet sieving showed large differences between land-use systems. The soil under CC had a higher proportion (26.4%) of micro aggregates (<0.25 mm) compared with that of FL (10.1%) and KS (6.9%). The dry mean weight diameter (DMWD) was larger in KS (3.03 mm) than in FL (2.17 mm) and CC (1.38 mm). Soil aggregates in CC were the least stable with a wet mean weight diameter (WMWD) of (1.61 mm) compared with those of FL (2.18 mm) and KS (2.89 mm). Reduced stability of aggregates in CC is likely due to the lower organic carbon content of soil in this land-use (1.7%) compared with that of FL (2.5%) and KS (3.2%). The soil under KS had lower bulk density (BD), penetration resistance (PR) and aggregate tensile strength (ATS) than that of FL and CC. Soil moisture content (MC) and available water capacity (AWC) showed an opposite trend. The soil in KS had a higher concentration of total N (TN), available P and exchangeable K, Ca, Mg and Zn. Soil on CC, on the other hand, had a higher concentration of Mn than that from FS and KS possibly because of its acidic nature. There were significant strong correlations between soil organic carbon and BD (-0.86***), PR (-0.61*), MC (0.82**), ATS (-0.62*), WSA (0.79***), AWC (0.91***), pH (-0.61**) and TN (0.76***). Grain yields of maize were highest in KS followed by FL and least in CC. The high yields were attributed to improved soil properties in plots of KS compared with both FL and CC. In conclusion, the findings suggested that organic matter had a major influence on soil properties and fertility.
Name of Journal: 
Soil and Tillage Research
no. 1-2
Resource Type: 
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.