Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - 11:25 AM

History and Development of Soil Science in Mexico.

Javier M. Gonzalez, Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center, Agricultural Research Services, US Dept. of Agriculture, 1224 Airport Road, Beaver, WV 25813, Eusebio Ventura Jr., Faculta de Ingenieria, Univ Autónoma de Queretaro, Centro Universitario Cerro de Las Campanas, Queretaro, Mexico, and Javier Z. Castellanos, Campo Experimental Bajío. Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales y Agropecuarias, Carretera Celaya-San Miguel de Allende Km. 6, Celaya, Mexico.

Soil knowledge in the pre-Colombian era was a noticeable attribute of indigenous people in Mexico. A Mayan soil classification for the Yucatan peninsula has been used by local people. The Aztecs and Toltecs in the Central Valleys classified soils by land use and textures. Some names still persist today. In spite of this, the “modern” era of soil science in Mexico started in 1926 when the Mexican National Commission of Irrigation (NCI) brought American soil scientists to train the first agronomists on soil surveys required for the implementation of irrigation of lands. In 1929, the first Mexican scientific meeting, known as “The First Agrological College”, was held in Meoqui, Chihuahua. This meeting is considered as the first formal activity in the field of soil science in Mexico. The Rockefeller Foundation played an important role in the development of soil science in Mexico. In 1943, a collaborative agreement was signed between the Mexican Department of Agriculture and the Rockefeller Foundation. As a result, the use of fertilizers for crop production was implemented and soil fertility as an area of study developed significantly in the country. One of the most significant impacts of the Rockefeller Foundation on the development of soil science in Mexico was through an academic exchange, in which Mexican technicians obtained graduate-level degrees in the USA and later returned to Mexico to conduct research programs. In 1946, the NCI was restructured and transformed into a federal-level department named the Secretary of Water Resources (SRH). As a consequence, reduction of experienced soil surveyors occurred during the period of 1947-1966. In 1968, the Commission for Studies of the National Territory (CETENAL) was created under a collaborative project with FAO, a soil map of Mexico was completed during the 70s. This information was included in the FAO soil world map. Soil maps created by CETENAL and its successor, the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (INEGI), have used the FAO/UNESCO soil classification system. A new version of the FAO Soil Classification System was generated in 1988, which affected the soil maps generated by INEGI. However, the maps have not been and possibly will not be updated, giving a chance to the negative idea that the maps are not really useful. One of the major problems in the development of soil science in Mexico has been the lack of communication between the farmers and scientists. To alleviate this problem, some researchers have suggested that the ethnopedological knowledge should be incorporated into soil maps, since, in many cases, a map generated from ethnopedological knowledge is more precise and accurate than similar technical maps for management purposes.

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