Land suitability evaluation for maize in Alakara mixed farm, Kaberamaido district, Eastern Uganda.
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A detailed study was conducted in Alakara mixed farm, Eastern Uganda, triggered by the pressure on the available agricultural land resulting from the low and declining soil fertility that led to low and declining yields. This was to characterize the soils using FAO criteria and evaluate their suitability to maize production in order to contribute to better understanding of nutrient variations in the soils of Alakara mixed farm in relation to their suitability for maize. Soil samples from different land units were collected at 0-30 cm depth and analyzed for soil pH, organic matter, total nitrogen, exchangeable potassium and available phosphorous in the soil laboratory of Makerere University. Critical land and soil requirements for maize were collected from past research works and compared with data obtained from field survey. FAO guidelines, (1976), were used to evaluate the land suitability for maize and geographical information system (GIS) was employed to analyze and map the soils within the farm. Results indicated that the soils of the farm were dominantly slightly acidic to neutral with pH ranging from 5.9 to 6.9, the organic matter content ranged from 1.9 % to 3.4 %, the total nitrogen content ranged from 0.14% to 0.19%, available phosphorous content varied from 4.2 mg kg-1 to 59.7 mg kg-1 and exchangeable potassium levels varied from 2.3 cmol/kg to 19.3 cmol/kg. Analysis of land suitability showed that although qualities such as exchangeable potassium, total nitrogen and soil pH were optimum for maize cultivation, there were limitations arising from low levels of especially available phosphorous and to a lesser extent, moderate levels of soil organic matter at almost all land units. The soils were classified into highly suitable (S1) due to their optimum nutrient levels, moderately suitable (S2) and parts of the soils were classified as marginally suitable (S3) subclass due to their low nutrients levels. To enhance the productivity levels of Alakara mixed farm for optimum maize production, farm management techniques that improve soil nutrient levels and structures are recommended.