Advertisement

GeoJournal

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 425–437 | Cite as

The agricultural utility of lithic-mulch gardens: Past and present

  • Lightfoot Dale R. 
  • Eddy Frank W. 
Article

Abstract

The mulching of agricultural fields and gardens with stones, pebbles, volcanic ash and similar lithic materials is a variant agricultural strategy uniquely suited to the constraints of a dryland environment. While the agricultural literature contains reports on limited experiments with stone or gravel mulch, data regarding the employment of lithic mulch are lacking. This paper works to bridge this gap by comparing empirical data collected from prehistoric pebble-mulch gardens in the Galisteo Basin (New Mexico) to contemporary agricultural experiments with lithic mulch. Such past-present and experimental-real world comparisons allow us to more fully address the effectiveness of lithic mulching as an agricultural strategy. It is affirmed that lithic mulch is applied to garden plots, especially during periods of drought, in order to reduce soil erosion from wind and water, increase soil temperature to extend the growing season, increase water infiltration, and reduce the evaporative loss of water from wind and sun. The cumulative effect of this soil and water conserving technique is an increase in crop biomass and crop yield.

Keywords

Gravel Soil Temperature Soil Erosion Pebble Water Infiltration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Adams, J. E.: Effect of mulches on soil temperature and grain sorghum development. Agronomy Journal 57 (5), 471–474 (1965).Google Scholar
  2. Alderfer, R. B.; Merkle, F. G.: The comparative effects of surface application versus incorporation of various mulching materials on structure, permeability, runoff, and other soil properties. Soil Science Society of America Proceedings 8, 79–86 (1943)Google Scholar
  3. Anschuetz, K. F.; Maxwell, T. D.; Ware, J. A.: Testing report and research design for the Mendenales North project, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. Laboratory of Anthropology Note No. 347. Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe 1985.Google Scholar
  4. Anschuetz, K. F.; Maxwell, T. D.: The multidisciplinary investigation of prehistoric Puebloan gardens in the lower Rio Chama valley, New Mexico. Paper presented at the Ninth Annual Ethnobiology Conference, Society of Ethnobiology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1986.Google Scholar
  5. Benoit, G. R.; Kirkham, D.: The effect of soil surface conditions on evaporation of soil water. Soil Science Society of America Proceedings 27, 495–498 (1963)Google Scholar
  6. Bronitsky, G.: Economic change in the Rio Grande valley. In: Bronitsky, G. (ed.), Ecological Models in Economic Prehistory, pp. 168–188. Arizona State University Anthropological Research Paper No. 29. Arizona State University, Tempe 1983.Google Scholar
  7. Chang, Y.: Climate and Agriculture: an Ecological Survey. Aldine Press, Chicago 1968.Google Scholar
  8. Choriki, R. T.; Hide, J. C.; Krall, S. L.; Brown, B. L.: Rock and gravel mulch aid in moisture storage. Crops and Soils 16 (9), 24 (1964)Google Scholar
  9. Cordell, L. S.: The prehistory of Santa Fe country. In: Ingersoll, R. V.; Callender, J. F. (eds.), Archaeology and History of Santa Fe Country. pp. 1–5. New Mexico Geological Society Special Publication No. 8. New Mexico Geological Society, Santa Fe 1979.Google Scholar
  10. Cordell, L. S.; Earls, A. C.; Binford, M. R.: Subsistence systems in the mountainous settings of the Rio Grande Valley. In: Fish, S. K.; Fish, P. R. (eds.), Prehistoric Agricultural Strategies in the Southwest, pp. 233–241. Arizona State University Anthropological Research Paper No. 33. Arizona State University, Tempe 1984.Google Scholar
  11. Corey, A. T.; Kemper, W. D.: Conservation of soil water by gravel mulches. Colorado State University Hydrology Papers No. 30. Colorado State University, Ft. Collins 1968.Google Scholar
  12. Fairbourn, M. L.: Gravel mulches improve dryland tomato yields. Colorado Rancher and Farmer 24 (3), 64–65 (1970)Google Scholar
  13. Fairbourn, M. L.: Effect of gravel mulch on crop yields. Agronomy Journal 65 (6), 925–928 (1973)Google Scholar
  14. Hakimi, A. H.; Kachru, R. P.: Silage corn responses to different mulch tillage treatments under arid and semiarid climatic conditions. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science 147, 15–23 (1978)Google Scholar
  15. Hanks, R. J.; Woodruff, N. P.: Influence of wind on water vapor transfer through soil, gravel, and straw mulches. Soil Science 86, 160–164 (1958)Google Scholar
  16. Hanks, R. J.; Gardner, H. R.; Fairbourn, M. L.: EVaporation of water from soils as influenced by drying with wind or radiation. Soil Science Society of America Proceedings 31 (5), 593–598 (1967)Google Scholar
  17. Heinonen, R.: Soil Management and Crop Water Supply, 4th edition. Department of Soil Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden 1985.Google Scholar
  18. Lamb, J. Jr.; Chapman, J. E.: Effect of surface stones on erosion, evaporation, soil temperature, and soil moisture. Agronomy Journal 35, 567–578 (1943)Google Scholar
  19. Lang, R. W.: Archaeological investigations at a Pueblo agricultural site, and Archaic and Puebloan encampments on the Rio Ojo Caliente, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. Contract Archaeology Division Report No. 007. School of American Research, Santa Fe 1980.Google Scholar
  20. Lightfoot, D. R.: The Prehistoric Pebble-Mulched Fields of the Galisteo Anasazi: Agricultural Innovation and Adaptation to Environment. Unpublished Ph. D. Dissertation, University of Colorado, Boulder 1990.Google Scholar
  21. Lightfoot, D. R.: Global-historical variations in the design and application of lithic-mulch agriculture. Paper presented at the 88th Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, 5 an Diego, California 1992.Google Scholar
  22. Mannering, J. V.; Meyer, L. D.: The effects of various rates of surface mulch on infiltration and erosion. Soil Science Society of America Proceedings 27, 84–86 (1963)Google Scholar
  23. Nelson, N. C.: Pueblo ruins of the Galisteo Basin, New Mexico. Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, Volume 15 (1). American Museum of Natural History, New York 1914.Google Scholar
  24. Othieno, C. O.; Ahn, P. M.: Effect of mulches on soil temperature and growth of tea plants in Kenya. Experimental Agriculture 16, 287–294 (1980)Google Scholar
  25. Reed, E. K.: Sources of upper Rio Grande Pueblo culture and population. El Palacio 56 (6), 163–184 (1949)Google Scholar
  26. Soil Conservation Service (SCS): Soil Survey of Santa Fe Area, New Mexico. US Government Printing Office, Washington 1975.Google Scholar
  27. Seckler, D. W.; Tejwani, K. G.: Effect of sand and gravel mulching on moisture conservation for tree saplings. Journal of Tree Sciences 2 (1–2), 20–23 (1983)Google Scholar
  28. Singh, B.; Gupta, G. N.; Prasad, K. G.: Use of mulches in establishment and growth of tree species on dry lands. Indian Forester 114 (6), 307–316 (1988)Google Scholar
  29. Southern Illinois University (SIU): San Lazaro pueblo project. Center for Archaeological Investigations Newsletter, p. 3. Southern Illinois University, Carbondale 1989.Google Scholar
  30. Tsiang, T. C.: Soil conservation: an international study. FAO Agricultural Studies No. 4. UNFAO, Washington 1948.Google Scholar
  31. Unger, P. W.: Soil profile gravel layers: (I) effect on water storage, distribution, and evaporation; (II) effect on growth and water use by a hybrid forage sorghum. Soil Science Society of America Proceedings 35, 631–634, 980–983 (1971)Google Scholar
  32. Vivian, R. G.: Conservation and diversion: water control systems in the Anasazi Southwest. In:, Downing, T. E.; Gibson, M. (eds.), Irrigation's Impact on Society, pp. 95–112. Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona No. 25. The University of Arizona Press, Tucson 1974.Google Scholar
  33. Walker, J. M.: One-degree increments in soil temperatures affect maize seedling behavior. Soil Science Society of America Proceedings 33 (5), 729–736 (1969)Google Scholar
  34. Wendorf, F.; Reed, E. K.: An alternative reconstruction of northern Rio Grande prehistory. El Palacio 62 (5–6), 131–173 (1955)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lightfoot Dale R. 
    • 1
  • Eddy Frank W. 
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeographyOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

Personalised recommendations