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Sustainability 2015, 7(3), 2322-2337;

Soil Quality Indices for Evaluating Smallholder Agricultural Land Uses in Northern Ethiopia

Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, P.O. Box 708, Off Meskel Flower Road across Commercial Graduates, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Norwegian University of Life Sciences, P.O. Box 5003, 1432 Ås, Norway
Carbon Sequestration and Management Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Douglas L. Karlen
Received: 12 January 2015 / Revised: 11 February 2015 / Accepted: 15 February 2015 / Published: 27 February 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Enhancing Soil Health to Mitigate Soil Degradation)
Full-Text   |   PDF [771 KB, uploaded 27 February 2015]   |  


Population growth and increasing resource demands in Ethiopia are stressing and degrading agricultural landscapes. Most Ethiopian soils are already exhausted by several decades of over exploitation and mismanagement. Since many agricultural sustainability issues are related to soil quality, its assessment is very important. We determined integrated soil quality indices (SQI) within the surface 0–15 cm depth increment for three agricultural land uses: rain fed cultivation (RF); agroforestry (AF) and irrigated crop production (IR). Each land use was replicated five times within a semi-arid watershed in eastern Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. Using the framework suggested by Karlen and Stott (1994); four soil functions regarding soil’s ability to: (1) accommodate water entry (WE); (2) facilitate water movement and availability (WMA); (3) resist degradation (RD); and (4) supply nutrients for plant growth (PNS) were estimated for each land use. The result revealed that AF affected all soil quality functions positively more than the other land uses. Furthermore, the four soil quality functions were integrated into an overall SQI; and the values for the three land uses were in the order: 0.58 (AF) > 0.51 (IR) > 0.47 (RF). The dominant soil properties influencing the integrated SQI values were soil organic carbon (26.4%); water stable aggregation (20.0%); total porosity (16.0%); total nitrogen (11.2%); microbial biomass carbon (6.4%); and cation exchange capacity (6.4%). Collectively, those six indicators accounted for more than 80% of the overall SQI values. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil quality; soil functions; land degradation; land use; Ethiopia soil quality; soil functions; land degradation; land use; Ethiopia

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Gelaw, A.M.; Singh, B.R.; Lal, R. Soil Quality Indices for Evaluating Smallholder Agricultural Land Uses in Northern Ethiopia. Sustainability 2015, 7, 2322-2337.

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