Factors Controlling Pre-Columbian and Early Historic Maize Productivity in the American Southwest, Part 1: The Southern Colorado Plateau and Rio Grande Regions

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Maize is the New World's preeminent grain crop and it provided economic basis for human culture in many regions within the Americas. To flour maize needs water, sunlight (heat), and nutrients (e.g., nitrogen). In this paper climate and soil chemistry data are used to evaluate the potential for dryland (r on-field) agriculture in the semiarid southeastern Colorado Plateau and Rio Gra regions. Processes that impact maize agriculture such as nitrogen mineralizatio infiltration of precipitation, bare soil evaporation, and transpiration are discussed evaluated. Most of the study area, excepting high-elevation regions, recei sufficient solar radiation to grow maize. The salinities of subsurface soils in th central San Juan Basin are very high and their nitrogen concentrations are very In addition, soils of the central San Juan Basin are characterized by pH values exceed 8.0, which limit the availability of both nitrogen and phosphorous general, the San Juan Basin, including Chaco Canyon, is the least promising part the study area in terms of dryland farming. Calculations of field life, using valu organic nitrogen for the upper 50 cm of soil in the study area, indicate that most of study area could not support a 10-bushel/acre crop of maize. The concepts, methods, calculations used to quantify maize productivity in this study are applicable to m cultivation in other environmental settings across the Americas.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Maize agriculture
  • Soil chemistry
  • Southwest

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  • Larry V. Benson

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