Physical and Chemical Parameters of Common Soils in the Central Plateau Region of Haiti
Stewart, Ryan Elliott
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Soil degradation is a common occurrence in Haiti that is mainly caused by the cultivation of marginal lands and deforestation, which both contribute to the excessive erosion rate seen in the country today. The Central Plateau of Haiti is a mountainous region in which a majority of the population is rural and practices subsistence agriculture on hillsides and steeply-sloping land. Essential plant nutrients, such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), are commonly a limiting factor in crop production, yet fertilizer is unavailable or is too expensive for smallholder farmers to purchase. This study was conducted to a) evaluate organic matter and nutrient stocks of various soils in the Central Plateau region, along with other chemical and physical characteristics and b) to evaluate the phosphorus-scavenging ability of commonly-grown crops to isolate those that may benefit subsequent smallholder yields. Soils from four locations in the Central Plateau were assessed for organic matter in labile and non-labile fractions as well as for cation exchange capacity (CEC), total organic carbon (C) and N, pH, texture, and other characteristics. Results indicated that most of the soil (92%) was contained within aggregates, and organic matter was mainly present in stable, slowly-decomposing fractions. Seven species were evaluated in a controlled-environment pot experiment for bulk and rhizosphere soil P and pH, plant dry weight, and above- and below-ground P tissue content as indicators of the speciesâ ability to solubilize P from the soil. Velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC) produced the most biomass and was able to take up the most P, though lablab (Lablab purpureous (L.) Sweet), took up comparable amounts of P.
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