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Water SA

On-line version ISSN 1816-7950
Print version ISSN 0378-4738


MHIZHA, Teddious et al. Use of the FAO AquaCrop model in developing sowing guidelines for rainfed maize in Zimbabwe. Water SA [online]. 2014, vol.40, n.2, pp.013-244. ISSN 1816-7950.

This paper presents a procedure in which the water-driven water productivity model AquaCrop was fine-tuned and validated for maize for the local conditions in Zimbabwe and then applied to develop sowing management options for decision support. Data from experiments of 2 seasons in Harare and from 5 other sites around Zimbabwe were used for the local calibration and validation of AquaCrop. Model parameters such as the reference harvest index (HIo); the canopy growth coefficient (CGC); early canopy decline and normalised biomass water productivity (WPb*) were adjusted during model calibration. Model performance was satisfactory after calibration with a Nash-Sutcliffe model efficiency parameter (EF = 0.81), RMSE = 15% and R2 = 0.86 upon validation. To develop sowing guidelines, historical climate series from 13 meteorological stations around Zimbabwe were used to simulate maize yield for 6 consecutive sowing dates determined according to criteria applicable in Zimbabwe. Three varieties and typical shallow and deep soil types were considered in the simulation scenarios. The simulated yield was analysed by an optimisation procedure to select the optimum sowing time that maximised long-term mean yield. Results showed that highest yields depended on the climate of the site (rainfall availability), variety (length of growing cycle) and soil depth (soil water storage capacity). The late variety gave higher mean yields for all sowing dates in the maize belt. Staggered sowing is recommended as a way of combating the effects of rainfall variability and as an answer to labour constraints.

Keywords : biomass water productivity; AquaCrop; maize sowing dates; crop modelling.

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