Soil physical properties under avocado and tropical rainforest

Research Poster
Patricia Marie Cordero Irizarry
Dr. Rattan Lal
School of Environment and Natural Resources

Soil is a finite resource that is vulnerable to degradation as soil organic carbon stocks (SOCS) may become depleted with improper land management. They are influenced by land use, soil moisture, and physicochemical properties. Soils of the tropics have the lowest aboveground to belowground carbon storage ratio. Increasing SOCS in this region can improve soil quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as CO2. Consequently, soil organic carbon stocks in the tropics must be quantified and conserved. Depending on vegetation and land management, the rate of soil carbon sequestration can vary, and thus the SOCS, which can affect soil structure and water retention. Therefore, the objective of this study is to quantify the SOCS of two management systems: an avocado orchard (AO) and a tropical forest (TF) and to evaluate their effect on aggregate strength and stability and plant available water capacity. Because agricultural soils tend to have lower SOCS than natural systems, the TF will be evaluated to determine if it has higher SOCS due to less disturbance and greater biodiversity, leading to stronger aggregates and higher soil moisture. The overall goal of the project is to provide data that can assist avocado farmers in increasing soil carbon sequestration in their orchards. The TF data may suggest that by mimicking natural systems, farmers will be able to practice climate-resilient horticulture. Higher SOCS enhance soil quality which can lead to an increase in crop productivity, water-use efficiency, and natural resources conservation, and most importantly, serve as a climate change mitigation strategy.