Crop and Soil Variability in Traditional and Modern Mayan Maize Cultivation of Yucatan, Mexico

Graefe, Sophie

kassel university press, ISBN: 978-3-89958-033-4, 2003, 102 Pages
(Journal of Agriculture Beiheft 75)

URN: urn:nbn:de:0002-0339

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Content: The maize-bean-squash ‘milpa-system’ of the Yucatan peninsula has undoubtedly been a mode of ecological and economical sustainable land use as long as population pressure was low enough to allow prolonged fallow periods.

Commonly known as ‘slash-and-burn’ agriculture its consequences on the global atmosphere have, as elsewhere in the world, recently come under heavy criticism and political and economic measures are being taken to discourage its use ever since. Sophie Graefe’s work provides good evidence of the particularities of the Mayan version of shifting cultivation on the predominantly shallow, calcareous soils of the Yucatan peninsula in Southern Mexico. Globally the ecological consequences of this bi-polarisation of agricultural land use are still poorly understood. As “a managed mosaic” the ecologically and culturally complex milpa-land use system of Yucatan is currently at the verge of extinction showing various stages of severe degradation. This case study therefore also pays tribute to farmers who still conscientiously care for their land and live in a system that may, if practised properly, be more efficient and environmentally friendly than it is commonly perceived.

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