Loughborough University
Thesis-1998-ArevaloMendez.pdf (14.34 MB)

Soil conservation with leguminous cover crops following deforestation of tropical steepland

Download (14.34 MB)
posted on 2018-05-31, 10:53 authored by Ignacio Arevalo-Mendez
The steeplands of Central America are being systematically deforested as population pressure dictates a need for an increase in subsistence agriculture. The combined effect of high rainfall and lack of conservation measures leads to high levels of soil erosion. In order to assess sustainable soil conservation technology, research was conducted in the mountainous agricultural area of Guinope, Honduras. Runoff and soil loss from a number of plots that were established on various ground slopes and under different land uses were measured during the 1994 and 1995 seasons. Natural and fired woodland were assessed to provide an indication of both baseline conditions and those associated with the initial stage of deforestation. Against these, the impacts of agriculture involving maize - Zea mays L.- with and without two leguminous cover crops - Mucuna sp. and Canavalia ensiformis (l)DC. - were assessed on ground sloping at 6, 11 and 18 degrees. Seasonal runoff under natural pine forest is shown to be 10 % that of maize agriculture on similar slopes while fired forest is 49 %. Of the cover crops, after a second year Mucuna is the most protective when intercropped with maize, giving runoff on 18 degree slopes which is 47 % that of maize grown by itself, compared with 51 % for Canavalia. On 11 degree slopes, Canavalia offers greater protection but here the difference between the two cover crops is marginal Soil erosion can be shown to be a function of ground slope. For maize grown by itself, soil losses from 6 and 11degree slopes are 13 % and 23 % those from 18 degree slopes. On two years of research Canavalia is more stable in giving protection. On 18 degree slopes, soil loss where Mucuna is intercropped is 43 % that under maize alone while for Canavalia it is 47 %. By comparison, the natural forest loses much less than 1 % that of the maize fields. This study clearly shows the vulnerability of steep lands that are being clear-felled. It also demonstrates the considerable advantages of using extensive green soil conservation technology in reducing soil erosion and prolonging the usefulness of land. This extends to relieving the pressure on virgin forest in a situation where population growth discourages long periods fallow as part of a form of shifting cultivation.


Great Britain, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Overseas Development Administration (ODA).



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment


© Ignacio Arévalo-Méndez

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy at Loughborough University.


  • en

Usage metrics

    Geography and Environment Theses


    Ref. manager