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Book: Challenges and Strategies of Dryland Agriculture
Published by: Crop Science Society of America and American Society of Agronomy



  1.  p. 291-313
    CSSA Special Publication 32.
    Challenges and Strategies of Dryland Agriculture

    Srinivas C. Rao and John Ryan (ed.)

    ISBN: 978-0-89118-611-3


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Optimizing Soil Water Balance Components for Sustainable Crop Production in Dry Areas of South Africa

  1. Danie J. Beukes,
  2. Alan T. P. Bennie and
  3. Malcolm Hensley
  1. Agriculture Research Council (ARC)-Institute for Soil, Climate, and Water Pretoria, South Africa


The wide variation in its natural agricultural resources makes South Africa a country of great diversity. It is exemplified in the rainfall and production potential maps presented, and also by the wide variety of crops grown and production techniques employed. The latter range from advanced technology to traditional subsistence procedures. Of the total area, <14% is arable and <4% of high potential, with rainfall the main limiting factor. Maize (Zea mays L.) and wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) are the main cereal crops. Results presented describe extensive on-station and on-farm research to quantify water losses by evaporation, runoff, and deep drainage, and on measures to minimize these losses such as mulching, soil surface modification, and planting patterns. Success depends on correct technique/soil type matching. Increased soil water storage through fallowing, improved infiltration, and water harvesting has received much attention. Further research priorities include studies on: (i) simultaneous optimization of soil water and nutrient use, water harvesting, and mulching to reduce evaporation losses; (ii) refinement of seasonal outlook forecasting to allow for the prediction of seasonal onset and distribution of rainfall; and (iii) determination of the effects of different crop rotation systems on long-term water-use efficiency under dryland conditions under different soil and climatic conditions.

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