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Getting to know Puerto Rico’s Soil Diversity – SSSA Soils Tour 2014

Agronomist, Agenol González, details the banana study at Corozal AES to Soil Tour participants.
Soil Tour participants listen as agronomist, Agenol González, explains the details of the banana investigation at the Corozal Agricultural Experiment Station. (Photo: Erin Segar)

Caribbean Area NRCS soil scientists and University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez (UPRM) Soils’ professors hosted 16 Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) members, their companions, and NRCS’ Major Land Resources Area (MLRA) Region 3 (MO-3) representative, Debbie Anderson (now MO-3 Leader) and 15 UPRM students during the week of February 18-21, for the 2014 Puerto Rico Soils Tour.

The 2014 PR Soils Tour featured 5 of the 10 recognized soil orders in Puerto Rico (Oxisols, Ultisols, Mollisols, Vertisols, and Inceptisols) – the US Soil Classification System has established 12 Soil Orders, which distinguishes our island of Puerto Rico as a very diverse area in terms of soils.

The tour began the afternoon of February 18th with a welcome and tour overview from Dr. David Sotomayor and an overview of the soils of Puerto Rico by Dr. Victor Snyder, both RUM professors. The following day, the participants visited El Yunque National Forest visitor center at Río Grande, where NRCS State Soil Scientist, Carmen L. Santiago briefly described the history of Soil Surveys in Puerto Rico, including the recent SSURGO certification process for El Yunque National Forest Soil Survey and its inclusion on the Web Soil Survey. Throughout the tour Manuel Matos, MLRA leader, and Samuel Ríos, MLRA soil scientist, described the soil pits visited, explaining their soil classification and soil factors formation processes. In the Dwarf Forest area, they described the Dwarf and Guayabota Soil Series.

On Thursday, the group toured the central part of the island, visiting the Corozal Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) where Agronomist Agenol González welcomed them and briefly introduced the different investigations taking place. NRCS soil scientists also described the Corozal Soil Series for the group. From there, they visited the Atenas pineapple farm in Barceloneta, where the farm’s agronomist explained the characteristics and agronomic management of the pineapples. The Bayamón Soil Series, the representative soil of Puerto Rico, was described and shown to the group. The Isabela Agricultural Experiment Station was the next stop, where Soil Scientists described the Coto Soil Series. The days’ tour ended on the west end of the island, with a visit to the RUM Alzamora farm, with descriptions of the Humatas and Consumo Soil Series.

PR Soils Tour 2014 participants pose at the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse. (Photo: Arthur Allen)
PR Soils Tour 2014 participants pose at the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse. (Photo: Arthur Allen)

On their final day, the group visited the Nipe Soil Series at a road cut on Route 100 near Cabo Rojo.  Then they travelled to the Cabo Rojo lighthouse and explored the area’s cliffs, beaches and salt flats with guidance from UPR SEA Grant staff. The group later visited the Lajas Valley Agricultural Reserve, where the irrigation system and drainage infrastructure was explained by UPRM professor, Dr. Pérez Alegría, and Manuel Matos and Samuel Ríos described the factors forming the Guánica and Aguirre Soil Series.  The trip ended with a visit to Carlos González’ vegetable farm in Guánica to describe the Pozo Blanco Soil Series.

The 2014 PR Soils Tour was dedicated to Dr. Fred Beinroth, retired UPRM Soils’ professor, who is recognized as a World Tropical Soils authority for his more than 30 years of leadership, academic and scientific contributions to the soil science profession.

Soils Tour Hosts Samuel Ríos, Dr. Victor Snyder, Dr. David Sotomayor, Carmen Santiago & Manuel Matos
2014 PR Soils Tour Hosts (from left to right): Samuel Ríos, NRCS soil scientist; Dr. Victor Snyder, UPRM professor; Agenol González, Corozal AES Agronomist; Dr. David Sotomayor, UPRM professor; Carmen L. Santiago, NRCS State Soil Scientist and Manuel Matos, NRCS MLRA leader. (Photo: Erin Segar)

The NRCS Caribbean Area Soils’ staff want to thank the following individuals for their contributions that made this event such a great success: the UPRM professors; Pablo Cruz and Pedro Ríos, El Yunque USDA-Forest Service; Juan Ortiz, Agenol González, Pedro Marquez and Angel Bosques from UPR-AEE; the Atenas Pineapple Farm administrator and agronomist; the UPR-Mayagüez Alzamora Farm administrator; Cabo Rojo municipality and Lilliam Ramirez, UPR Sea Grant; Puerto Rico Land Authority staff; Carlos González, Guánica vegetable farm owner; and all the SSSA members who participated. The Soils Tour was coordinated by Bob Kendall from SSSA, sponsored by the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez, and assisted by the Caribbean Area NRCS Soils Division.

For more information, contact Carmen L. Santiago, State Soil Scientist, at 787-766-5206 x.127.