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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - Soil & Water Management & Conservation

A Soil Management Assessment Framework (SMAF) Evaluation of Brazilian Sugarcane Expansion on Soil Quality


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 80 No. 1, p. 215-226
    unlockOPEN ACCESS
    Received: Sept 10, 2015
    Accepted: Oct 20, 2015
    Published: February 5, 2016

    * Corresponding author(s): cherubin@usp.br
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  1. Maurício R. Cherubin *a,
  2. Douglas L. Karlen *b,
  3. André L.C. Francoc,
  4. Carlos E. P. Cerrid,
  5. Cássio A. Tormenae and
  6. Carlos C. Cerrif
  1. a Dep. of Soil Science “Luiz de Queiroz” College of Agriculture Univ. of São Paulo 11 Pádua Dias Avenue Piracicaba, SP 13418-900 Brazil
    b USDA-ARS Natl. Lab. for Agric. and the Environment 2110 University Boulevard Ames, IA 50011
    c Dep. of Biology Colorado State Univ. 200 West Lake Street Fort Collins, CO 80523
    d Dep. of Soil Science “Luiz de Queiroz” College of Agriculture Univ. of São Paulo 11 Pádua Dias Avenue Piracicaba, SP, 13418-900 Brazil
    e Dep. of Agronomy State Univ. of Maringá 5790 Colombo Avenue Maringá, PR 87020-900 Brazil
    f Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture Univ. of São Paulo 303 Centenário Avenue Piracicaba, SP 13400-970 Brazil
Core Ideas:
  • The SMAF efficiently detected soil quality changes under Brazilian tropical conditions.
  • Soil Quality Index was 0.87 (native vegetation), 0.70 (pasture), and 0.74 (sugarcane).
  • Sugarcane expansion improves soil quality, mainly due to increasing soil chemical quality.
  • The SMAF–Soil Quality Index was significantly correlated with soil organic C stocks.
  • The SMAF is useful for monitoring soil quality changes in Brazilian sugarcane production.


The Soil Management Assessment Framework (SMAF) was developed to evaluate impacts of land use and management practices on soil quality (SQ), but its suitability for Brazilian tropical soils was unknown. We hypothesized that SMAF would be sensitive enough to detect SQ changes associated with sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum L.) expansion for ethanol production. Field studies were performed at three sites across the south-central region of Brazil, aiming to quantify the impacts of a land use change sequence (i.e., native vegetation–pasture–sugarcane) on SQ. Eight soil indicators were individually scored using SMAF curves developed primarily for North American soils and integrated into an overall Soil Quality Index (SQI) and its chemical, physical, and biological sectors. The SMAF scores were correlated with two other approaches used to assess SQ changes, soil organic C (SOC) stocks and Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS) scores. Our findings showed that the SMAF was an efficient tool for assessing land use change effects on the SQ of Brazilian tropical soils. The SMAF scoring curves developed using robust algorithms allowed proper assignment of scores for the soil chemical, physical, and biological indicators assessed. The SQI scores were significantly correlated with SOC stocks and VESS scores. Long-term transition from native vegetation to extensive pasture promoted significant decreases in soil chemical, physical, and biological indicators. Overall SQI suggested that soils under native vegetation were functioning at 87% of their potential capacity, while pasture soils were functioning at 70%. Conversions of pasture to sugarcane induced slight improvements in SQ, primarily because of improved soil fertility. Sugarcane soils are functioning at 74% of their potential capacity. Based on this study, management strategies were developed to improve SQ and the sustainability of sugarcane production in Brazil.

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