Characterization and Fertility Status of the Soils of Ayehu Research Substation, Northwestern Highlands of Ethiopia

  • G Fisseha
  • H Gebrekidan


The pedogenic properties and fertility status of the soils at Ayehu Substation of the Amhara Region Agricultural Research Institute were studied both in the field and through laboratory analysis. On the basis of in situ description of two soil profiles and laboratory analysis, the soils of the study site qualified for the Nitisol soil group as per the FAO/UNESCO Soil Grouping System. The soils were moderately acidic in reaction and silty clay to clay in texture. The pedons exhibited increasing clay contents with depth qualifying for argillic (Bt) horizons. The surface horizons of both pedons revealed the lowest and the bottom (Bt3) horizons indicate the highest bulk density values. The consistent increase of bulk density with depth is apparently due to the decreasing level of organic carbon (OC) with depth from 2.6 to 0.6% in pedon 1 and from 2.8 to 1.1% in pedon 2. The lowest total porosity (44.2%) was observed in the Bt3 horizon of pedon 1 and the highest (55.2%) in the composite surface soil collected around pedon 2. Throughout the depths of the two pedons and surface soil samples, pH (H2O) values were higher than pH (KCl) resulting in positive ΔpH values and indicating the presence of variable charge clay surfaces. The subsoil horizons showed lower values of cation exchange capacity (CEC) and percentage base saturation suggesting intensive weathering and presence of 1:1 (kaolinitic) clay minerals. The quantity of exchangeable Na was trace whilst appreciable amount of exchangeable K was available in both pedons. The surface horizons contained high exchangeable Ca and Mg to the extent that the sum of these bases occupied over 83% of the CEC in both pedons. In accordance with OC, total N decreased with depth from 0.19 to 0.05% in pedon 1 and from 0.22 to 0.10% in pedon 2. The highest contents of Olsen P (3.21 mg l-1) and Bray P (4.40 mg l-1) were obtained in the surface horizon of pedon 1 and both showed decreasing trends with depth in the two pedons. Application of increasing rates of P fertilizer increased both the Olsen and Bray II P consistently, while applied rates of N did not bring significant change in soil total N content.

Keywords: Ayehu Area; Bray II Available P; Nitisols; Olsen Available P; Pedon

East African Journal of Sciences Vol. 1 (2) 2007: pp. 160-169

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eISSN: 1992-0407