Land suitability evaluation to optimize land management of small-scale farms in the Gerado catchment, North-Eastern Ethiopia
Addis Ababa University, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; University of Southern Queensland, National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture, Toowoomba, QLD, Australia
Biophysical and socio-economic constraints and sub-optimal utilization of soil and water resources have resulted in progressive reduction of land productivity in Ethiopia. This study investigated the suitability of land mapping units of the Gerado catchment for subsistence rainfed cultivation of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), maize (Zea mays L.) and teff (Eragrostis tef Zucc.). A land resource survey was conducted and it identified nine different land mapping units (LMU). The FAO maximum limitation method was used to assess LMU and determine land suitability subclasses. The study indicated that soil erosion, soil wetness, soil fertility status, and soil workability were the main limiting factors affecting land quality within the catchment. We suggest that drainage using traditional ditches may be a cost-effective method to reduce the incidence of waterlogging conditions. Long-term fertility management requires the implementation of suitable fertilization programs that consider the use of organic materials such as manure and compost. Such programs need to account for nutrient budgets over the entire crop rotation to maximize use efficiency and minimize environmental losses. Soil erosion may be mitigated through stone terracing, soil bunding and by adopting a more conservative approach to agriculture, that is, by matching land use with land capability based on the correct assessment of land suitability. Implementation of the proposed approach to optimizing land management in the Gerado catchment will deliver a range of socio-economic and agri-environmental benefits to the local communities. © 2015 Trop. Agric.
Eragrostis tef; Triticum aestivum; Zea mays