Thesis student investigates the effect of agricultural management intensities on soil properties

Thesis student investigates the effect of agricultural management intensities on soil properties

Camila Aravena is an Agronomist by profession and has completed her thesis project for the Master’s in Soil Sciences at the Universidad Austral de Chile. In it, Camila is investigating the effect of agricultural management intensities on biological and physical properties of an Ultisol near the Máfil commune.

Millaray Mariqueo, Science in Chile. – Camila tells us that from the third year of her degree she began to have subjects in the area of ​​land, where she discovered her area of ​​interest. “I felt that there were still many pending challenges in the area, that there was a lack of public policies for the protection of soil resources, so I really liked the idea of ​​being able to participate in this great challenge.

So I wanted to give it the assessment it deserved and also give some knowledge about something that is still unknown to many people because the soil is a living system and sometimes it is not recognized as such. I liked being able to address this topic and investigate it in the Master’s in the university, in addition, the professors encourage you to research and professional development, to be constant and they transmit a lot of that passion for the area, which is why I wanted to deepen it with them”.

In the research itself, Camila investigated soil properties that she associates with organic carbon content, “I mainly evaluate biological indicators, some that have not been evaluated before in these types of soil, for example, earthworms, total protein content, enzymatic activities relating it to the physical properties of soils”.

These properties, Camila evaluates them in 4 systems that, depending on the anthropogenic intervention, classifies them from lower to higher agricultural intensity (forest, grassland, zero tillage and traditional tillage. Obtaining a conclusion on whether to adopt conservation practices such as zero tillage, it can favor the accumulation of organic carbon promoting the biological activity and structural stability of the soil.

The student recounts that she extracted the samples from the field of a farmer who had these four situations on the same land and type of soil, “based on that I saw the differences in the four systems, so I wanted to evaluate physical and biological properties, associating them with the mineralization and stabilization of organic carbon, processes that occur simultaneously, generating income and outputs.

Aravena also proposes a form of mitigation for climate change by evaluating the processes that determine the accumulation of this carbon in the soil for the different situations already mentioned, which vary mainly due to the input of organic matter and the management history they carry. In conclusion, “I evaluate the interactions that exist based on the mentioned properties, on the mineralization and stabilization of this organic carbon for four contrasting situations.”


Among the projections that Camila mentions with her research, the achievement of a higher valuation of soils in southern Chile stands out, since they have very good properties and a high capacity to store carbon, which constitutes a way of mitigating change climate. “Farmers normally cannot give it that value because they are not aware that they have good soils with high carbon content and a high capacity to sequester it. So I am very interested in the conservation part of this resource, being able to transmit it to small, medium and large farmers based on the types of soils they have, and in the future also being able to take it further in research, because I know that there is still a long way to go. to investigate to be able to decipher it in a better way”.

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Written by Editor TLN

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