University of Bayreuth: Terra Preta Homepage

Tom Miles

Terra Preta Homepage, Dark earths, Red Indian black earth
University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany 2002

Terra Preta (do indio) is a black earth-like anthropogenic soil with enhanced fertility due to high levels of soil organic matter (SOM) and nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium embedded in a landscape of infertile soils (see soil profiles below). Terra Preta soils occur in small patches averaging 20 ha, but 350 ha sites have also been reported. These partly over 2000 years old man made soils occur in the Brazilian Amazon basin and other regions of South America such as Ecuador and Peru but also in Western Africa (Benin, Liberia) and in the savannas of South Africa. Terra Preta soils are very popularby the local farmers and are used especially to produce cash crops such as papaya and mango, which grow about three times as rapid as on surrounding infertile soils.