Environmental Management

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 753–763 | Cite as

Soil Fertility in Relation to Slope Position and Agricultural Land Use: A Case Study of Umbulo Catchment in Southern Ethiopia



A study was conducted in southern Ethiopia to evaluate the nutrient status on smallholder farms with respect to land use class (garden, grassland, and outfield) and slope position (upper, middle, and lower). Soil physical and chemical properties were quantified using soil samples collected at two depths (0–15 and 15–30 cm). Available phosphorous was significantly different among the three land use classes. However, organic carbon and total nitrogen were lower in the outfield compared to the garden and grass land but not significantly different. The lower than expected nutrient status of the garden and grassland, which receive almost all available organic supplements, was attributed to the overall low availability of these inputs. Similarly, pH and cation exchange capacity were not significantly different among the different land use classes. However, the sum of the exchangeable cations was significantly higher in the garden compared to the outfields. Comparison at landscape level revealed that the sand fraction was significantly greater, whereas the silt fractions were significantly smaller, on the lower slopes relative to the middle slopes. Moreover, the organic carbon, total nitrogen, cation exchange capacity, Ca, and Mg values were significantly less on lower slopes than upper and middle slopes. Perhaps this is because of leaching and the effect of deposition of coarser sediments from the prevailing gully system. Overall, the fertility of the soil was adequate for supporting smallholder farming, but consideration must be given to reducing pressure on the land resources, addressing erosion problems, and providing a line of credit for purchasing inputs.


Land use class Food insecurity Slope position Soil fertility Sustainability Ethiopia 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hawassa UniversityAwassaEthiopia
  2. 2.UCD School of AgricultureFood Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College DublinBelfieldIreland

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