Soil physico-chemical properties in Lapalala Wilderness old agricultural fields, Limpopo Province of South Africa
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Natural recovery of abandoned agricultural fields take decades due to biotic and abiotic constraints. A key question is how does soil physico-chemical properties prevent the transition from degraded to restored state. This study examined changes in soil physico-chemical properties between old field sites that were abandoned 35 year ago and adjacent natural sites in Lapalala Wilderness, located in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Top soils were collected from three paired sites (old field and natural sites) in five different locations, over three months and were quantified for soil moisture, total soil macro elements (N, C and P), pH, exchangeable cations (K, Ca, Mg, Na), resistivity, penetration resistance, cumulative infiltration and hydraulic conductivity. Results show that soils in old field sites had lower pH, total N and C, K, Mg, gravimetric soil moisture and were compact compared to soils in adjacent natural sites. Soil resistivity, total P, Na, Ca, cumulative infiltration and hydraulic conductivity showed no significant (p > 0.05) differences between the two sites. It appears that the soils in old field sites have poor properties, and indication that soil manipulation techniques e.g. fertilizer addition, top soil removal and soil transfer must be considered for vegetation recovery to take place.