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University of Fort Hare (2016)

Evaluating farmers’ perceptions and the impact of bush encroachment on herbaceous vegetation and soil nutrients in Sheshegu communal rangelands of the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Tokozwayo, Sive

Titre : Evaluating farmers’ perceptions and the impact of bush encroachment on herbaceous vegetation and soil nutrients in Sheshegu communal rangelands of the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Auteur : Tokozwayo, Sive

Université de soutenance : University of Fort Hare

Grade : MASTER OF SCIENCE IN AGRICULTURE 2016

Résumé
Communal rangelands occupy 13% of the agricultural land in South Africa, and these rangelands serve as a source of feed to livestock. These areas are threatened by bush encroachment due to poor rangeland management. This study was conducted in Alice (Sheshegu communal area) and the objective was to assess farmers’ perceptions and the impact of bush encroachment on herbaceous vegetation and soil nutrients. Structured questionnaires were used to assess indigenous knowledge of communal farmers on the impact of bush encroachment on rangelands. Fourty (40) respondents from households who owned livestock were randomly selected and interviewed at Sheshegu village. About 89% of communal farmers perceived that change of their grasslands to encroached savannas was caused by unreliable rainfall, prolonged drought, and poor rangeland management. Rangeland assessment was performed at four sites (Scattered, Moderate, Mixed and Dense bushland. 100mx50m were demarcated per site, and four 100m transects were laid parallel to each other, 30m apart. The step point method was used to determine both species composition and basal cover. Biomass production was determined by harvesting forage within randomly-paced a 0.25m2 quadrats. Aristada congesta and Eragrostis obtuse were the most dominating grass species in dense, mixed and moderate bushland. Scattered bushland was dominated by Themeda triandra. Biomass production increases with increase in bush density and basal cover improved from winter to summer season. Increaser grass species increase with the increase in bush density, this indicated that the rangeland was poorly managed and palatable species were being replaced by less palatable ones. Species composition of woody plants was determined within a 200m2 belt transect in all sites. Maytenus polycantha, Aloe ferox, Erehia rigida and lucas capensis were the most dominant woody species in Mixed bushland while Acacia karroo was most dominated in Scattered, Moderate and Dense bushland. Woody density showed no significant differences (P> 0.05) between Dense, Mixed and Moderate bushland. Woody plant density in all these sites exceed 2500 plants/ha, which showed that the rangeland was encroached with woody plants. Soil nutrient content was determined for each site. Five samples of soil were collected per site to test the effect of bush encroachment on soil nutrient composition

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