SOIL erosion in Jamaica forms the subject of a bulletin (No. 17) issued by its Department of Science and Agriculture. The greater part of the cultivated land is situated on steep hillsides, gradients of one in one being frequent, so that sheet erosion is the major problem. These slopes were originally covered by dense forest and undergrowth, the clearing of which has resulted in rapid loss of surface soil. The rate of loss depends largely on the crop grown. Bananas and coffee, for example, are comparatively widely spaced and are maintained under clean cultivation so that soil exposure is very serious, though the necessity for drains in the case of bananas somewhat alleviates the situation. Sugar-cane, on the other hand, is an excellent soil conserver as it has an elaborate root system and the trash deposited after reaping forms a protective cover. Of the less important crops the cultivation of yams, sweet potatoes, corn or ginger encourages erosion, but citrus causes little loss as the trees are usually left in the grass cover. Erosion is also promoted by the otherwise valuable system of forking the soil at the end of the dry season to facilitate the penetration of the first rams, and by the improper placing of drains. Other factors which contribute to the problem are the practice of short-period tenancy, which gives the proprietor little interest in conserving the fertility of his land, and the system of renting land for the production of one type of crop only. Some fundamental changes in the current agricultural practices will be needed if further loss of valuable soil is to be prevented.
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Soil Erosion in Jamaica. Nature 143, 327 (1939). https://doi.org/10.1038/143327b0