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The management of agro-ecosystems associated with sandy soils

Bell, R.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-7756-3755 and Seng, V. (2007) The management of agro-ecosystems associated with sandy soils. In: Management of Tropical Sandy Soils for Sustainable Agriculture: Symposium on the Management of Tropical Sandy Soils, 27th November – 2nd December, 2005, Khon Kaen, Thailand pp. 298-304.

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Sandy soils are prevalent in tropical environments especially where felsic volcanic, or siliceous sedimentary rocks and their erosional products are found. Whereas some of these soils are only sandy in the surface layers, others are sandy throughout the root zone. In terms of the agro-ecosystems developed on sandy soils, the prime limiting factors and the main concerns for sustainability, vary according to their position in the landscape (steeplands, uplands and lowlands) and agro-ecological zoning. Sandy soils occur in arid, semi-arid and humid rainfall zones of the tropics and from coastal lowlands to high altitudes. Sloping sandy soils tend to be used for conservation reserves, forestry (including plantations) and for shifting cultivation, and may also serve as important water catchments. Sandy uplands and lowlands are used for a range of cropping systems including rice-based systems. Plantation crops and forestry are also prevalent. The continuously or seasonally waterlogged lowlands are largely developed for irrigated and rainfed rice cultivation. Tropical sandy soils have a wide range of limiting factors for agricultural use, these include nutrient deficiencies, acidity, water stress and poor physical attributes. The environments in which they occur are prone to degradation risks from nutrient decline, erosion, leaching, salinity, and acidification. Development of sustainable agro-ecosystems in these sandy terrains should be based on optimisation of key ecosystems processes: closing nutrient cycles, restoring hydrological balance; enhancing biodiversity and strengthening resilience of these processes to perturbations. A range of opportunities exist to achieve sustainability of sandy landscapes through plantation forestry, agroforestry, clay and other mineral soil amendments, maintenance of soil organic matter, balanced fertilisation, strategic irrigation, and breeding species for adaption to the constraints present. Management of agro-ecosystems associated with sandy soils will be explored with respect to agricultural productivity and sustainability, and the supply of ecosystem services.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
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