How the soil moves upward in the olive orchards of NW Syria: sustainability analysis of a local innovation
Colen, Liesbeth × Turkelboom, Francis Van Steenwinkel, Sarah Al Ahmed, Kasem Deckers, Jozef Poesen, Jean #
John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Land Degradation & Development vol:27 issue:2 pages:416-426
This paper analyses a local innovation in response to intense soil degradation in olive orchards of north-west Syria. Farmers developed a practice consisting of quarrying red clayey soil in valley bottoms and applying this soil to hillslope olive orchards with heavily degraded calcareous soils. A biophysical, economic and social analysis of the practice of soil application identified the opportunities and risks of this innovative soil management technique. On the basis of a pairwise comparison of nine adjacent treated and nontreated orchard plots, soil applications were found to increase soil depth by 36%, soil water availability by 28% and total available soil nutrients: potassium (+45%), nitrogen (+12%) and phosphorus (+6%). Olive yield increased by about 40%. A cost–benefit analysis found this practice to be economically viable within a large geographical area, and farmers scored the practice higher than alternative methods. A socio-economic analysis revealed its widespread adoption among different farmer types. The positive results of soil applications at the farm level explain its fast adoption. However, potential risks – including the further depletion of soil resources and the transfer of soil-borne diseases – limit the long-term sustainability of this locally developed practice.