Extent of soil acidity in no-tillage systems in the Western Cape Province of South Africa

Liebenberg, Adriaan Louwrens ; Van Der Nest, John Richard (Ruan) ; Hardie, Ailsa G. ; Labuschagne, Johan ; Swanepoel, Pieter Andreas (2020)

CITATION: Liebenberg, A., et al. 2020. Extent of soil acidity in no-tillage systems in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Land, 9(10):361, doi:10.3390/land9100361.

The original publication is available at https://www.mdpi.com

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund


Roughly 90% of farmers in the Western Cape Province of South Africa have converted to no-tillage systems to improve the efficiency of crop production. Implementation of no-tillage restricts the mixing of soil amendments, such as limestone, into soil. Stratification of nutrients and pH is expected. A soil survey was conducted to determine the extent and geographical spread of acid soils and pH stratification throughout the Western Cape. Soil samples (n = 653) were taken at three depths (0–5, 5–15, 15–30 cm) from no-tillage fields. Differential responses (p ≤ 0.05) between the two regions (Swartland and southern Cape), as well as soil depth, and annual rainfall influenced (p ≤ 0.05) exchangeable acidity, Ca and Mg, pH(KCl), and acid saturation. A large portion (19.3%) of soils (specifically in the Swartland region) had at least one depth increment with pH(KCl) ≤ 5.0, which is suboptimal for wheat (Triticum aestivum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), and canola (Brassica napus). Acid saturation in the 5–15 cm depth increment in the Swartland was above the 8% threshold for production of most crops. Acid soils are a significant threat to crop production in the region and needs tactical agronomic intervention (e.g. strategic tillage) to ensure sustainability.

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