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Revista mexicana de ciencias agrícolas

versión impresa ISSN 2007-0934

Rev. Mex. Cienc. Agríc vol.7 no.5 Texcoco jun./ago. 2016



Classes maguey mezcal producing land in La Soledad Salinas, Oaxaca

Verónica Mariles-Flores1  § 

Carlos Alberto Ortiz-Solorio2 

María del Carmen Gutiérrez-Castorena2 

Patricio Sánchez-Guzmán2 

Miguel Ángel Cano-García1 

1Campo Experimental Valles Centrales de Oaxaca-INIFAP. Melchor Ocampo No. 7 Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo, Etla, Oaxaca. C. P. 68200. México. (

2Colegio de Postgraduados-Campus Montecillo. Carretera México Texcoco, km 36.5 Montecillo, Municipio de Texcoco, Estado de México. C. P. 56230.México. (;


The mezcal production is an important part in the state of Oaxaca economic and social activity. In order to meet soil types where the mezcal maguey is grown an ethnoedaphological study was conducted in 2014 in La Soledad Salinas, San Pedro Quiatoni, Oaxaca. The land classes identified and characterized by producers were compared to the scientific classification of soils using the WRB systems and soil taxonomy. With local peasant classification or six classes of land they were identified while the WRB three units with five qualifiers I and the two orders soil taxonomy and five subgroups were established. It is concluded that for detailed studies in order to generate recommendations peasant farm level soil classification generates more accurate results with less time and cost than those made with technical procedures.

Keywords: land classification; WRB classification; mezcal maguey; and soil taxonomy


La producción de mezcal es una actividad económica y social importante en el estado de Oaxaca. Con el objeto de conocer a los tipos de suelos donde se cultiva el maguey mezcalero, se realizó un estudio etnoedafológico en 2014 en La Soledad Salinas, San Pedro Quiatoni, Oaxaca. Las clases de tierras identificadas y caracterizadas por los productores se compararon con la clasificación científica de suelos utilizando a los sistemas WRB y taxonomía de suelos. Con la clasificación campesina o local se identificaron seis clases de tierras mientras que con la WRB se establecieron tres unidades con cinco calificadores grupo I y con la Taxonomía de Suelos dos órdenes y cinco Subgrupos. Se concluye que para estudios detallados, con el fin de generar recomendaciones a nivel parcelario la clasificación campesina de suelos genera resultados más precisos, con menor tiempo y costo que los realizados con procedimientos técnicos.

Palabras clave: clasificación de tierras; clasificación WRB; maguey mezcalero; y taxonomía de suelos


The genus Agave is distributed naturally in America. In Mexico the greatest diversity of species recorded, due to its geographical location and environmental conditions. This genus comprise approximately 200 species and 150 are in the country. Most diverse states are Oaxaca, Puebla, Sonora, Queretaro and Durango (García-Mendoza, 2007).

The Agave angustifolia is the species of agaves with the widest distribution in North America. It is a hot land plant is located from Costa Rica to northern Mexico, in northwestern Sonora on the Pacific Coast and Tamaulipas on the coast of the Atlantic (Gentry, 1982). In the state of Oaxaca they have been identified 8 species of agaves, farmed and wild; used in the manufacture of mezcal, stressing the maguey "sprat" A. angustifolia Haw., for its earliness, performance and ease of plant production (Espinosa et al., 2002). Because of its diversity, this agave shown in several ways, some researchers have considered variants as different species (Gentry, 1982).

The economic importance of agaves lies mainly in the production of alcoholic beverages and fibers (Iñiguez-Covarrubias, 2001; Davis et al., 2011). To obtain fiber agaves prey with long leaves, as fourcroydes A. and A. Sisal. While alcoholic beverages sugar contents prey on its stem, as A. tequilana, A. angustifolia, A. potatorum and A. salmiana (Davis et al., 2011). In the state of Oaxaca, mezcal production is an important economic activity, the number of farmers and families involved in this process, in addition to the economic flow that is generated and the cultural image that has provided Oaxaca mezcal. The raw material for the mezcal is mainly the mezcal maguey or sprat maguey (Agave angustifolia Haw.), although are also used other species or types known as tobala maguey, maguey arroqueño barrel and maguey maguey cirial, among many others (Bravo et al., 2007)

The surface with maguey mezcal is dynamic, it changes every year and is mainly due to the conditions of the sale price. In years with low prices land with maguey plantations can be planted with corn. While in years with high prices these lands become only maguey plantations. In the region of mezcal planted area it has fluctuated over time.

The area planted with agave nationwide, reported by the Department of Agrifood and Fisheries Information (SIAP) in 1997 was 75 800 ha which increased to 124 000 ha in 2013, with Jalisco state with the largest area planted 79 000 ha followed by Oaxaca with 9 200 ha. In 2013 12 000 hectares in Jalisco and Oaxaca 2 100 were harvested. Based on data from SIAP (2014), maguey mezcal in 1999 had an area of 3 500 ha up to 9200 ha in 2013. The Oaxacan Council Maguey and Mezcal A. C. (COMMAC, 1994) has estimated that required in maguey average 12 kg to produce one liter of mezcal, so that with the 132 300 tons harvested in 2013 in Oaxaca, a production of 11 025 million liters of mezcal is estimated.

In the state of Oaxaca, mezcal region, it covers an area of 1.8 million hectares and is located in seven political districts: Tlacolula, Yautepec, Ocotlán, Zimatlán, Ejutla, Miahuatlán and Sola of Vega (DOF, 1994), which are 131 municipalities in the regions of the Southern Highlands and the Valles Centrales of Oaxaca (INEGI, 2000). In 1995 the mezcal obtained the "appellation of origin", registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization (OMPI) in Geneva, Switzerland (CRM, 2014). Currently, under strict compliance of the Mexican Official Standard NOM-070 they have been recorded in the Official Journal of the Federation (DOF) as protected territories and exclusive producers of mezcal states of Durango, Guerrero, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas (DOF, 1994), Guanajuato (a municipality) (DOF, 2001), Tamaulipas (twenty municipalities). (DOF, 2003) and Michoacán (a municipality) (DOF, 2012).

Although productivity maguey mezcal is related to soil characteristics besides the weather, they have not been made tending to the types of soils where it is produced specific studies. Studies of existing soil in this region consider only the superficial layers (Bautista-Cruz et al., 2007; BautistaCruz et al., 2011) and do not mention their scientific classification; i.e. lacking of knowledge about such as soil and surface each occupy. This study was planned with the aim of identifying classes of land producing mezcal maguey based on traditional knowledge in the town of La Soledad Salinas, San Pedro Quiatoni, Oaxaca; to characterize and taxonomically classifying soils that comprise them.

Materials and methods

This study was conducted in 2014 in the town of La Soledad Salinas, located in the municipality of San Pedro Quiatoni, Oaxaca. With North latitude ranging from 16° 37´ and 16° 54´ and meridians 95° 54´ and 96° 11´ west longitude. Its average altitude is 760 meters. It is located in a mountainous area, with slopes from mild to very pronounce. The climate is BS1(h’)w’’(w)(i’)g, corresponding to at least dry, warm climates dry with summer rains, with annual rainfall of 609 mm and an average annual temperature of 23.7 °C (García, 2004).

The identification and mapping of land classes was made based on knowledge of the producers and for this methodology was used Ortiz et al. (1990) field trips were conducted with the support of farmers who were working in their fields and members of the Committee of agrarian subcommunity, who indicated which began and ended each of the land classes, and base and map he used a QuickBird satellite image of the area on which the boundaries were drawn between classes of land. Subsequently on the land map of classes, the surface of each was quantitated.

In each class of land identified soil profile, which were described based on the manual Cuánalo (1975) and soil samples were taken by horizon was performed. In the laboratory of Soil Genesis Soil Science Program, the Graduate College, the corresponding chemical and physical analyzes were performed. The scientific classification of soils was carried out with the WRB (2014) Soil Taxonomy Systems (2014), for the latter, in addition to data of soil analysis information it generated was used in the meteorological station with ID: 20184, Shrimp Yautepec, to which we applied the Newhall program to determine the temperature regime and soil moisture.

Figure 1 Distribution of land classes identified in the town of La Soledad Salinas, Oaxaca. 

Results and discussion

Classes of land in La Soledad Salinas

The class’s maguey mezcal producing lands were identified through field trips with authorities and members of the agricultural subcommunity of the town of La Soledad Salinas, the Municipality of San Pedro Quiatoni. On trips was requested to the members of the agrarian subcommunity to indicate the location of land classes where grown the mezcal maguey, and a brief description of its characteristics and properties. The characteristics most frequently mentioned were those related to moisture retention, stone size, color, and marbled (cracks). The use of qualitative by producers for classification of land and to name them has been documented by several authors (Shan, 1993; Krasilnikov and Tabor, 2003; Barrera-Bassols and Zinck, 2003; Ghana and Dawoe et al., 2012). This information allowed to obtain data to differentiate six kinds of lands and their characteristics, to finally recognize them during field trips.

The support of the members of the agrarian subcommunity was very important, because in this region, people speak their native language, Zapoteco of Region Valles Centrales of Oaxaca. The members of the subcommunity, served as translators contributed information during visits especially for producers who do not understand Spanish. The information to characterize each of the classes of land was obtained through a free, spontaneous participation and unpaid producers and allowed to consult when information began to be repetitive. First, they were asked as he was called to the kind of land they were working. All producers identified land classes in Zapotec and producers who speak Spanish, gave his name in this language, the identified classes are: Yuu gitaák (land pedrero), Yuu gebriu (land gravel), Yuu sea (red land) Yuu seed (terrero land), Yuu nkich (white ground) and Yuu Llas (black land), whose definitions are given in the following paragraphs:

Land Pedrero (Yuu gitaák), is characterized by 90% of stoniness, keeps a lot of moisture due to the number of stones. In the opinion of the producers in this kind of land the maguey is evergreen and where it grows more, especially when just touching the ground and the soil quality is maintained during the first two cycles because the land is new, and maguey cones 200 are obtained 250 kg.

Red Land (Yuu sea), is a reddish land color with gravel, has exposure to the sun throughout the day, is not sticky, has stoniness but to a lesser extent than in the terrero land and can work when the ground is wet.

White Ground (Yuu nkich), is a land of white, loose, with little rock salt is not sticky or gummy, are calcareous soils; It is not good for the production of maguey; magueyes with little juice, small and underweight occur.

Land Gravel (Yuu gebriu) are less stony land and stones are smaller than on Land Pedrero, about 60% of stones, has small stones and gravel. Keeps moisture on the hillside and has more strength to the maguey; by the presence of stones you can only work making bowls for maguey with auger. It is the land that likes to maguey because their roots can grow better. Producers recognize two classes of crushed stone lands according to their color, black colored gravel and crushed stone.

Black Land (Yuu Llas), this class is located in the plain, has no high humidity, it is very chewy and also that it has no nutrients marbling. It is flooded in the rainy season because the water does not fall on the ground and also sealed at the time of lent the plant wilts for lack of water. This land produces pineapples 100 to 150 kg.

Land Terrero (Yuu seed) is in flat parts, it is very slippery when it rains and you cannot get to work. This land holds little moisture and maguey withers in dry season. The maguey plants growing on these lands do not have much weight.

Mapping land classes. The distribution of land classes in the town of La Soledad Salinas is illustrated in Figure 2. The largest area is occupied by the Land Pedrero, which represents 71.3%, followed in the gravel land surface (15.3%). Land classes were less surface terrero, white land, black land colored gravel and crushed stone (Table 1).

Figure 2 Types of land identified in the town of La Soledad Salinas, Oaxaca. 

Table 1 Area and extension of the classes maguey mezcal producing land in La Soledad Salinas, Oaxaca. 

Clase de tierra
Zapoteco Español Superficie (ha) Extensión (%)
Yuu gitaák Tierra Pedrero 2 703 71.3
Yuu gebriu Tierra de Cascajo 581 15.3
Yuu sea Tierra Colorada 377 10
Yuu llas Tierra Negra 128 3.4
3 789 100

Once generated the class map land, surface and length of each was measured and the results are shown in Table 1. It is important to note that for classes of land terrero and white land not their surfaces were quantified because they correspond to dispersed areas within the study area. From Table 1, it is stated that pedrero class is the dominant land with an area of 2703 hectares and that occupies the lower surface is the black land with 128 ha.

Physical and chemical soil analysis. The number of horizons and therefore soil samples varied in the different types of land, Land Gravel Red had one horizon in Land Red and Land two horizons were determined. In the Land of Gravel Black, Black, White and Terrero three horizons were described.

Regarding chemical determinations, the pH ranges from 6.0 to 8.7, the lowest value corresponds to the surface horizon of the red soil (0-20 cm) and the highest to the deepest horizon land terrero class (40- 60 cm). The electrical conductivity (CE) was low in all soils. The organic carbon content was higher in the first horizon of all soils, the highest content was found on white ground with 1.5%, and lowest in the third horizon soil of black land (35-50 cm) and the land of black gravel (38-55 cm). The same trend as to the content of organic matter which was 2.6% in the first horizon on white ground was observed. The carbonate content is the property that showed the greatest difference between soil classes, the highest content is presented on white ground with more than 25% full thickness (Table 2).

Table 2 Chemical properties of the horizons of the different classes of land in La Soledad Salinas, San Pedro Quiatoni, District of Tlacolula, Oaxaca. 

Clase de Tierra Profundidad pH CE CO MO N CaCO3 Na K Ca Mg CIC P2O5
Colorada 0-20 6 0.4 0.8 1.4 0.1 0.5 0.3 0.4 11.1 0.3 18.3 2.3
20-50 7 0.3 0.3 0.5 0 0.2 0.6 0.6 14.5 0.2 22.6 2.1
Pedrero 0-10/20 7.6 0.7 0.7 1.3 0.1 2.5 0.3 0.8 11.9 1.8 17.7 2.9
10/20-42 7.1 0.5 0.5 0.8 0.1 0.6 0.3 0.7 16.4 2.2 21.5 2
Cascajo Colorado 0-30 7.3 0.8 0.8 1.6 0.1 0.1 0.3 1.4 15.8 2.8 20.9 3.5
Negra 0-15 7.3 0.5 1 1.7 0.1 0.3 1.6 1.6 16.6 3.8 29.6 4.3
15-35 8.3 0.3 0.3 0.5 0 0.5 2.5 0.8 17.3 2.7 29.8 17.8
35-50 8.5 0.6 0.2 0.4 0 0.4 4.7 0.9 19.3 3.5 24.4 18.1
Blanca 0-16 7.5 2 1.5 2.6 0.2 26.3 0.3 0.7 15.9 1.1 16.4 2.5
16-42 7.7 1 0.3 0.6 0 28.6 0.3 0.1 15.2 0.2 14.2 2.1
42-60 7.9 0.8 0.3 0.5 0 25.3 0.3 0.2 14.3 0.1 14.3 2.3
Cascajo Negro 0-15 6.8 0.6 0.7 1.3 0.1 0.1 0.5 0.9 7.4 1.2 14 3.7
15-38 8 0.7 0.3 0.5 0 0.5 0.8 1.1 9 1.2 12.3 1.4
38-55 8.3 0.3 0.2 0.4 0 0.6 1.6 1.8 13.4 2.3 28.4 2.2
Terrero 0-15 7.6 1.1 1.2 2.1 0.1 1.9 0.3 1.4 19.5 2.8 21 12.7
15-40 7.6 0.4 0.9 1.5 0.1 0.8 0.5 0.8 19.2 2 20.8 3.2
40-60 8.7 1.4 0.3 0.5 0 6.4 2.0 0.9 13.5 2 19.2 9.4

pH= potencial hidrógeno; CE= conductividad eléctrica (dS m-1); CO= carbono orgánico (%); O= materia orgánica (%); N= nitrógeno (%); CaCO3= carbonatos de calcio (%); Na= sodio (Cmol(+) Kg-1); K= potasio (Cmol(+) Kg-1); Ca= calcio (Cmol(+) Kg-1); Mg= magnesio (Cmol(+) Kg-1); CIC= capacidad de intercambio catiónico (Cmol(+) Kg-1); P2O5= fósforo (mg kg-1).

With regard to the physical properties of the different classes whose results are shown in Table 3, it may indicate that the highest values of bulk density are presented in the first horizon of pedrero land (2.0 g/cm3) and black land (1.9 g/cm3). Soil textures vary from medium to fine. In the second horizon in the pedrero land, black land and terrero a clay texture was determined. As for the PMP and CC content of soil moisture with higher values they occurred in the black land.

Table 3 Physical properties of the horizons of the different classes of land in La Soledad Salinas, San Pedro Quiatoni, District of Tlacolula, Oaxaca. 

Clase de Tierra Profundidad Dap Color en Seco Color en Húmedo A (%) L (%) R (%) CLASE TEXTURAL PMP (%) CC (%)
Colorada 0-20 1 10YR 6/2 7.5YR 4/4 43.3 30 26.6 Franco 19.1 29.4
20-50 1.1 7.5YR 5/4 7.5YR 4/4 50.7 22 27.3 Franco arcillo arenoso 18.6 26
Pedrero 0-10/20 2 10YR 4/2 7.5YR 3/2 57.3 23.1 19.7 Franco arenoso 14.7 21
10/20-42 1.9 7.5YR 6/2 7.5YR 4/6 42.5 14.9 42.6 Arcilloso 20 28.9
Cascajo Colorado 0-30 1.1 10YR 5/4 7.5YR 4/4 53.1 18.4 28.5 Franco arcillo arenoso 16.8 22.7
Negra 0-15 1.9 10YR 4/1 7.5YR 4/1 38.5 23.1 38.5 Franco arcilloso 28.6 38.6
15-35 1.5 10YR 5/1 7.5YR 4/1 37.1 19.2 43.7 Arcilloso 24.2 40
35-50 1.7 7.5YR 4/10 7.5YR 4/1 32.1 19.6 48.3 Arcilloso 31.9 52
Blanca 0-16 1.2 10YR 6/1 7.5YR 3/1 66.8 24.9 8.3 Franco arenoso 16.4 23.5
16-42 1.3 7.5YR 8/1 10YR 6/2 70 19 11.0 Franco arenoso 46.4 36.9
42-60 1.3 10YR 8/1 10YR 6/2 59 25.6 15.4 Franco arenoso 12.4 20.9
Cascajo Negro 0-15 1.6 10YR 6/1 10YR 3/4 66.7 11.6 21.6 Franco arcillo arenoso 12 18.7
15-38 2 10YR 6/1 7.5YR 3/2 55.5 15.4 29.1 Franco arcillo arenoso 12.7 20.7
38-55 1.8 7.5YR 5/1 7.5YR 4/1 40.1 12.9 47.0 Arcilloso 21.6 32.3
Terrero 0-15 1.1 10YR 4/1 7.5YR 2.5/1 49.6 31.5 18.9 Franco 17.9 24.8
15-40 1.5 10YR 5/1 7.5YR 3/1 50.5 11.3 38.2 Arcillo arenoso 20.7 28.3
40-60 1.5 2.5Y 6/2 2.5Y 5/3 60.8 12.1 27.1 Franco arcillo arenoso 16.6 26

Dap= densidad aparente (g cm3); A= arena; L= limo; R= arcilla; PMP= punto de marchitez permanente; CC= capacidad de campo.

Soil classification

System of soil taxonomy. The moisture regime and soil temperature were obtained with data from the weather station Shrimp, Yautepec, applying the Newhall simulation model, the results indicate that the regime is Isohyperthermic soil temperature and moisture regime is Ustic.

Of the seven soil profiles that were made in the town of La Soledad Salinas, it was found that Soil Taxonomy version 2014, classes of red land, scree, colorado gravel and black gravel, are composed of soil level group are classified as Lithic ustortents, the black land soils are classified as: vertic haplustepts, those of land Terrero as Aridic Haplusteps and finally white ground soils has referred to as: Aridic Calciusteps (Table 4).

Table 4 Class of soil, parent material and taxonomic classification of soils in La Soledad Salinas, San Pedro Quiatoni, Oaxaca. 

Perfil Profundidad (cm) Clase de tierra Clasificación WRB Taxonomía de suelos
2 0-42 Pedrero Leptosol Hiperesqueletico Eutrico Lithic Ustortents
1 0-60 Colorada Leptosol Háplico Eutrico-Esqueletico Lithic Ustortents
5 0-50 Tierra Blanca Calcisol Haplico Aridico-Esqueletico Aridic Calciusteps
3 0-30 Cascajo Colorado Leptosol Hiperesqueletico Eutrico Lithic Ustortents
6 0-55 Cascajo Negro Leptosol Hiperesqueletico/Cambico Eutrico Lithic Ustortents
4 0-50 Negra Cambisol Vertico Eutrico-Arcillico (Epiarcíllico) Vertic Haplustepts
7 0-60 Terrero Cambisol Haplico Calcarico-Eutrico Aridic Haplustepts

Referential system based soil (WRB)

According to the results of the description field and laboratory tests, soil classification was performed with the WRB system, for the seven profiles, and found that the red lands, scree, red gravel and black gravel have soils are classified as level Unit: Leptosols, stop the black lands and terrero are classified as: Cambisols and white land have Calcisols. In Table 4, in addition to soil classification unit level primary and secondary qualifiers are indicated.

This indicates that the land classification based on local knowledge generated the largest number of classes, indicating that traditional knowledge is as detailed as that obtained with scientific classifications of WRB and soil taxonomy, results Similar were reported by Sánchez et al. (2002). In this sense, Ortiz and Gutiérrez (2001) indicate that the related traditional knowledge with scientific facilitates communication between technicians and producers.

Furthermore, these results contrast with those reported in the soil maps of the study area (INEGI, 2010), where the existence of Phaeozem, Luvisols and Leptosols states because not Phaeozem and Luvisols were found, but match the presence of Leptosols. In addition, these results are consistent with other studies that indicate that the official soil information is of poor quality (Sánchez et al., 2002; Cruz et al., 2008).


With the knowledge of producers 6 kinds of land were identified in the town of La Soledad Salinas, Oaxaca; while the three units WRB soil were identified with five modifiers first group and the two orders soil taxonomy and five subgroups were defined.

The unit of soil classified as Leptosol by the WRB and order entysol soil taxonomy, corresponded to four different kinds of soil.

The kind of land that has a larger area in the town of The Soledad Salinas is the pedrero land, corresponding to soils Leptosols Skeletalhiper (Eutric) with the WRB and Lithic Ustortents soil taxonomy. That they demonstrate the poor quality of the soil where the maguey is grown, becoming a practice to exploit degraded soils where by environmental conditions, does not allow the development of other crops.

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Received: March 2016; Accepted: June 2016

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