, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 61-109
Date: 01 Jun 2010

Factors Controlling Pre-Columbian and Early Historic Maize Productivity in the American Southwest, Part 2: The Chaco Halo, Mesa Verde, Pajarito Plateau/Bandelier, and Zuni Archaeological Regions

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Abstract

Chemical and nutrient analyses of 471 soil samples from 161 sites within four archaeological regions (Pajarito Plateau/Bandelier, Zuni, Mesa Verde, and the Chaco Halo) were combined with historical climate data in order to evaluate the agricultural productivity of each region. In addition, maize productivity and field-life calculations were performed using organic-nitrogen (N) values from the upper 50 cm of soil in each region and a range (1–3%/year) of N-mineralization rates. The end-member values of this range were assumed representative of dry and wet climate states. With respect to precipitation and heat, the Pajarito Plateau area has excellent agricultural potential; the agricultural potentials of the Zuni and Mesa Verde regions are good; and the agricultural potential of the Chaco Halo is poor. Calculations of N mineralization and field life indicate that Morfield Valley in Mesa Verde should be able to provide 10 bu/ac of maize for decades (without the addition of N) when organic N-mineralization rates exceed 2%. Productivity and field-life potential decrease in the following order: Zuni, Mesa Verde, Bandelier, Chaco Halo. The Chaco Halo is very unproductive; e.g., 10 bushels per acre can be achieved within the Halo only from soils having the highest organic N concentration (third quartile) and which undergo the highest rate (3%) of N mineralization.

An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10816-010-9091-y