Soil physical and chemical properties under continuous maize and a maize-mucuna rotation on hillsides in Honduras. (164)


  • A.J. Horowitz Department of Soil Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7619, U.S.A.
  • D.K. Cassel Department of Soil Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7619, U.S.A.
  • M.J. Lopez Department of Soils, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras, Centro Universitario Regional def Litoral Atlantico, La Ceiba, Atlantida, Honduras


Maize, Mucuna, Soil physical properties, Hillside farming, Humid tropics


A maize (Zea mays L.)-mucuna (Mucuna deerinniana) rotation is used by more than half of the hillside farmers in northern Honduras. While maize yields are reported by local farmers to increase under the rotation, there is concern that this rotation increases water infiltration and thereby increases the incidence of landslides under high rainfall conditions. This study was conducted during the summer of 1994 to determine if mucuna in the cropping system provides measurable differences in soil physical properties. The on-farm study used adjacent paired plots of continuous maize (Treatment C) and a maize-mucuna rotation (Treatment M) conditions on hillsides at three locations near La Ceiba. In each plot bulk density, saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat), wet aggregate stability, total and macro-porosity, and mechanical impedance (Ml) were intensively measured in the 0-10 cm depth at 40 random sites, and in the 10-20 cm depth at 5 random sites. Four soil samples were collected from the 0-15 and 15-30 cm depths for determination of organic C and total N. The soil temperature was measured three times during the study. Bulk density and MI in the 0-30 cm depth were not affected by the treatments. Treatment effects were inconsistent for macro-porosity and Ksat in the 0-10 cm depth. Soil temperature at the 8 cm depth was 3°C lower in Treatment M than Treatment C. Mean aggregate stability for the 0-10 cm depth was significantly higher in Treatment M (92.5 for maize vs 90.6% for maize-mucuna). Soil organic matter was higher in Treatment C in the 15-30 cm depth (2.40% for maize vs 2.13% for maize-mucuna). Total N was higher (P = 0.05) in Treatment M in the 0-15 cm depth (0.24% for maize vs 0.27% for maize-mucuna). Overall, the maize-mucuna rotation did not further improve the excellent soil physical properties present under continuous maize.



Research Papers