Terraced Subtropical Farming: Sustainable Strategies for Soil Conservation

  • Víctor Hugo Durán ZuazoEmail author
  • Carmen Rocío Rodríguez Pleguezuelo
  • Belén Cárceles Rodríguez
  • Baltasar Gálvez Ruiz
  • Saray Gutiérrez Gordillo
  • Pedro Cermeño Sacristán
  • Simón Cuadros Tavira
  • Iván Francisco García-Tejero


Terracing is a soil conservation strategy applied worldwide to prevent erosion and runoff on sloping lands. Orchard terraces can considerably reduce soil loss due to water erosion if they are well planned, correctly constructed and properly maintained. Terraces have to be combined with additional soil conservation practices, of which the most important is the maintenance of a soil cover, especially during the rainy period. On the coastal strip of the provinces of Granada and Malaga (south-eastern Spain), irrigated subtropical fruit species have been introduced and cultivated on terraces with a considerable importance as the only European producer region. The subtropical farming in this zone also has strong socio-economic impact. In the present chapter, land-use changes were analysed in a selected representative watershed over 29 years. According to the findings, formerly, 97.5% of the watershed was devoted to traditional Mediterranean crops; however, after this period, due to abandonment, this area was reduced to 17.6% and increased in subtropical fruit crops (26.6%), shrubland (29.8%) and abandoned cropland (24.6%). The main driving force in land-use change has been intensive irrigation on terraces planted with subtropical crops, which are economically more profitable than traditional rainfed crops, almond and olive, which have been replaced or abandoned. The intensification of subtropical farming in terraces provokes environmental effects, especially those regarding soil and water resources, which need to be minimized. The results support the recommendation of using plant covers on the taluses of subtropical crop terraces in order to control soil erosion and improve the soil quality in the taluses of orchard terraces. In this sense, compared to bare soil, thyme and native spontaneous vegetation plant covers reduced the runoff with 94% and 93% and declined erosion with 71% and 79%, respectively. That is to avoid the collapse of the structure and make more feasible the subtropical fruit cultivation in the study area. Thus, it is possible to mitigate the impact of subtropical farming on terraces by adopting sustainable measures for soil and water conservation.


Aromatic and medicinal plants Orchard terraces Plant covers Subtropical crops Soil erosion 



Aromatic-medicinal plant


Bare soil




Kinematic runoff and erosion model




Land-use change








Soil organic carbon


Soil organic matter




Native spontaneous vegetation


Soil and water assessment tool




Total nitrogen


Universal soil loss equation


Water erosion prediction project



Part of this publication was sponsored by the research project, ‘Impact of deficit irrigation on productivity of subtropical fruit crops: tools for sustainable water stress management’ (PP.AVA.AVA201601.8), and cofinanced by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) within the Operational Programme Andalusia 2014–2020 ‘Andalucía is moving with Europe’.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Víctor Hugo Durán Zuazo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carmen Rocío Rodríguez Pleguezuelo
    • 1
  • Belén Cárceles Rodríguez
    • 1
  • Baltasar Gálvez Ruiz
    • 1
  • Saray Gutiérrez Gordillo
    • 2
  • Pedro Cermeño Sacristán
    • 2
  • Simón Cuadros Tavira
    • 3
  • Iván Francisco García-Tejero
    • 2
  1. 1.Centro IFAPA “Camino de Purchil”GranadaSpain
  2. 2.Centro IFAPA “Las Torres-Tomejil”SevilleSpain
  3. 3.Dpto. Ingeniería ForestalUniversidad de CórdobaCórdobaSpain

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