Soil profile descriptions for steeplands research sites in Haiti
Guthrie, Richard L.
Shannon, Dennis A.
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DescriptionThe Steeplands project (Soil Management Practices for Sustainable Production on Densely Populated Tropical Steeplands) studies the use of the agroforestry practice known as alley cropping as a means to sustain or improve soil productivity in hillside agriculture in Haiti.
Soils from different locations in Haiti intended as sites for alley cropping trial studies were examined and classified. Because limestone is the parent material associated with a majority of soils of the Steeplands, pH is frequently above neutral and most of the soils are calcareous throughout. Calsium was determined to dominate the soil exchange complex. High pH values lead to induced low soil fertility through nutrient imbalances. In particular, phosphorus and micronutrients are locked into insoluable forms and thus not available to plants, preventing adequate growth and affecting photosynthetic and physiological activity. In addition, the amount of available magnesium and potassium are in imbalance compared to the very large amounts of calcium. Organic matter content is high for all soils, especially considering these soils have been subjected to erosion. The major limitations for the soils described in this report are low inherent fertility, poor physical properties, and low available water. Also, the fact that most of them are on very steep slopes makes most land preparation, cultural practices, and mechanization difficult. Special attention needs to be given to the introduction of crop or tree species that are tolerant of high pH. Practices aimed at sustaining the relatively high percentages of organic matter in all soils should be given special emphasis in order to minimize nutrient imbalance and enhance moisture retention.
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