Intensification of upland agriculture in Thailand: development or degradation?

Thilde Bech Bruun, Andreas de Neergaard, Maria Libach Burup, Catherine Maria Hepp, Marianne Nylandsted Larsen, Christin Abel, Supathida Aumtong, Jakob Magid, Ole Mertz

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The large scale conversion of extensive swidden agriculture to intensive market oriented production of maize in upland areas of South East Asia is a cause of environmental concern. This study investigates how intensive maize cultivation affects soil quality in an upland area of Northern Thailand by comparing commonly used indicators of soil quality in soils from maize fields used at various intensities. Relations between these indicators and concentration of permanganate oxidizable carbon (Pox-C) – a low cost proxy for soil quality – are also examined. The extent, type and drivers of land use changes between 2002 and 2012 are investigated by classification of high resolution satellite images, interviews, participatory mapping and questionnaires. We document a widespread change from traditional swidden agriculture to intensive cultivation of maize that is mainly brought about by economcic and political drivers. We show that the concentration of Pox-C in the top soil of the maize fields is closely related to common indicators of soil quality and to farmers' perceptions of soil quality. Most of the other soil quality indicators are negatively – albeit not significantly – related to intensity of maize cultivation. There is a strong negative correlation between intensity of maize cultivation and concentration of Pox-C in the upper 5 cm of the soil where the Pox-C concentration declines with a rate of 40 mg year under maize −1. We conclude that Pox-C is a sensitive indicator of effects of land use intensity on the soil and a useful integrative measure of soil quality.

TidsskriftLand Degradation & Development
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)83-94
Antal sider12
StatusUdgivet - 2017
Udgivet eksterntJa

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