Soil quality indices for evaluation of long-term land use and soil management practices in semi-arid sub-tropical India

R.E.M.sto; P.K.C.honkar; T.J.P.rakayastha; A.K.P.tra; D.S.ngh

Land Degradation and Development 19(5): 516-529


ISSN/ISBN: 1085-3278
DOI: 10.1002/ldr.857
Accession: 023614937

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Land use changes and soil management can potentially alter soil quality. A study was conducted to assess the long-term (>20 years) effects of perennial trees (PT), vegetable crops (VC), rice–wheat (RW) system, sewage-irrigated fields (SF), maize–wheat (MW) system and uncultivated soils (US) on soil quality. Soil physical quality parameters were significantly affected only in the SF system when compared with the US soil, particularly for bulk density (BD 1·51 Mg m−3 in SF vs. 1·34 in US). Among chemical parameters, electrical conductivity was high in SF, and soil nutrients (N, P, K, S, Zn, Fe, Cu and Mn) were well above the critical limits of deficiency in all the systems. Soil parameters were integrated into soil quality indices (SQIs) by unscreened transformation and principal component analysis (PCA). SQI observed under each system were compared with the US to assess the degree of degradation. Mean SQI differences showed that PT (+16·02 per cent), VC (+4·80 per cent), RW (+10·04 per cent), and MW (+11·30 per cent) are aggrading, whereas SF (−2·06 per cent) is degrading with respect to the reference soil (US). Adoption of MW system proved to be better than traditional RW; and in general agricultural crops have a significant advantage than VC, in terms of maintaining soil quality. Sewage irrigation is not a sustainable practice and long-term use may degrade the soil. Among the SQIs, PCA with nonlinear scoring function (NLSF) based SQI was effective in judging land degradation due to soil quality changes as affected by long-term land use and soil management practices. Copyright