Crop production in KwaZulu-Natal/Climate-smart Agriculture

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There are many low-cost technologies available that can help smallholders make the most of the limited climatic resources available to them.

In KZN, the greatest climatic limitation for most smallholders is the lack of sufficient water for profitable rain-fed cropping and/or irrigation. This occurs both seasonally (dry winters) and from year to year (droughts that can occur within a summer or for several consecutive summers).

Best Management Practices[edit | edit source]

Haefele, S.M., Kato, Y. and Singh, S., 2016. Climate ready rice: augmenting drought tolerance with best management practices. Field Crops Research, 190, pp.60-69. DOI
Although this paper refers to rain-fed rice production, its central idea also applies to maize production in KZN; i.e. the impact of new technology is enhanced if basic agronomic practices are also improved.

Conservation Agriculture[edit | edit source]

Conservation Agriculture (CA) is a farming system that promotes minimum soil disturbance (i.e. no tillage), maintenance of a permanent soil cover, and diversification of plant species. It enhances biodiversity and natural biological processes above and below the ground surface, which contribute to increased water and nutrient use efficiency and to improved and sustained crop production (FAO, 2020).

It follows that the adoption of CA cropping systems can mitigate agricultural and sociological drought by improving water use efficiency (greater crop productivity using the limited amount of water available to the farmer).

The following resources were developed for CA in KwaZulu-Natal:

Introduction to Conservation Agriculture
No-Till Crop Production For KwaZulu-Natal
No-Till For KwaZulu-Natal's Small-Scale Farming Systems
No-till: Guidelines for beginners
This 54-page document is aimed at commercial crop farmers (rather than smallholders) considering conversion to no-till cropping. However, it is included here because it highlights many of the difficulties associated with conservation agriculture and no-till crop production in KwaZulu-Natal. It is available from the No-Till Club of KwaZulu-Natal (the publishers; and was authored by Aubrey Venter and Ant Muirhead in 2005.

Water harvesting and other technologies[edit | edit source]

Smallholder Decision Support System -

Farmer-managed natural regeneration[edit | edit source]

Rinaudo, T., Muller, A. & Morris, M. 2019. Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) Manual. World Vision Australia. PDF

Hassan Abdirizak, Masumi Gudka, Benjamin Kibor, Monica Kinuthia, Paul Kimeu, Jan de Leeuw, Malesu Maimbo, Uriel Safriel, Mary Njenga, Miyuki Iiyama 2013. Farmer-managed natural regeneration: How to regenerate pasture and farmland on a low budget. World Agroforestry.

World Vision International 2012 Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) project model. Integrated Ministry & World Vision International. Uxbridge, UK. PDF

Bioirrigation[edit | edit source]

Bayala, J. and Prieto, I., 2019. Water acquisition, sharing and redistribution by roots: applications to agroforestry systems. Plant and Soil, pp.1-12. DOI PDF
This review indicates that hydraulic lift by deep-rooted perennial plants (shrubs or trees) can help to reduce the effect of droughts on annual crop production in agroforestry systems and promote productivity in some regions with erratic rainfall. Precise measurement of the contribution of the various water fluxes in the groundwater-subsoil water-topsoil water-mycorrhizal-root-shoot-atmosphere continuum is fraught with difficulties, but modelling of important parameters may contribute to the design of more productive agroforestry systems for drought-prone regions.

Drought-tolerant crops[edit | edit source]

Drought avoidance by having a short growing season - mung bean, millet, leafy vegetables, buckwheat
CAM crops need less water per unit CO2 fixed
The potential of CAM crops as a globally significant bioenergy resource: moving from ‘fuel or food’ to ‘fuel and more food’
Davis 2019

Crop modelling[edit | edit source]

Estes, L.D., Beukes, H., Bradley, B.A., Debats, S.R., Oppenheimer, M., Ruane, A.C., Schulze, R. and Tadross, M., 2013. Projected climate impacts to South African maize and wheat production in 2055: a comparison of empirical and mechanistic modeling approaches. Global change biology, 19(12), pp.3762-3774. DOI PDF

Sinnathamby, S., Douglas-Mankin, K.R. and Craige, C., 2017. Field-scale calibration of crop-yield parameters in the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). Agricultural water management, 180, pp.61-69. DOI

Schulze, R.E., 2016. Agriculture and Climate Change in South Africa: On Vulnerability, Adaptation and Climate Smart Agriculture A Selection of Extracts from HANDBOOK ON ADAPTATION TO CLIMATE CHANGE FOR FARMERS, OFFICIALS AND OTHERS IN THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR OF SOUTH AFRICA Chapters A1, A2, A3, A4, K1 and Appendices. PDF

Schulze, R.E., 2016. On Observations, Climate Challenges, the South African Agriculture Sector and Considerations for an Adaptation Handbook. In: Schulze, R.E. (Ed.) Handbook for Farmers, Officials and Other Stakeholders on Adaptation to Climate Change in the Agriculture Sector within South Africa. Section A: Agriculture and Climate Change in South Africa: Setting the Scene, Chapter A1. PDF