Quantified soil evolution under shifting agriculture in Southern Cameroon

Yemefack, Martin; Njomgang, Rosaline; Rossiter, David G.


In the tropical rain forest zone of Southern Cameroon, shifting cultivation and perennial plantations of cocoa are the main farming systems practiced by small-scale farmers to ensure subsistence food crop production and a small income. This research used scientific modeling tools to produce quantitative information on the evolution of soils under this shifting agricultural system. An analysis of farming system led to the development of a conceptual model of the spatio-temporal dynamics of shifting agriculture, including transition matrices of rotational cycles that guided the sampling strategy for the study of soil evolution under the system. The study of soil variability showed that 30-35% of the total variance of some topsoil (0-20 cm) properties was due to the influence of land use practices. Five soil properties (pH, calcium, available phosphorus, bulk density and organic carbon) that are the most sensitive to these agricultural practices were empirically modeled and linear/quadratic fractional rational functions were successfully fitted to time series soil variables to derive quantitative measures on temporal changes in soil with land use. Data and methods produced are useful for soil quality assessment and spatio-temporal dynamic simulation in order to guide decision-making for sustainable land-use planning and soil resources management.