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Water SA

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


TSHILILO, Fhulufhelo Phillis; SAVAGE, Michael John  and  MOELETSI, Mokhele Edmond. Rainy season characteristics for the Luvuvhu River catchment, South Africa. Water SA [online]. 2021, vol.47, n.4, pp.480-487. ISSN 1816-7950.

Maize is a staple crop in South Africa and is mainly grown under rain-fed conditions. Rain-fed agricultural production is heavily reliant on rainfall during the planting season. Information on rainy season characteristics is of utmost importance as it guides farmers in preparing for the upcoming season. The study investigated rainy season characteristics for the Luvuvhu River Catchment with reference to rain-fed maize production. Historical daily rainfall data were obtained from 12 weather stations for the period 1923-2015. Instant+ statistical software was used to compute onset, false onset, cessation and length of the rainy season. The trends in rainy season characteristics were analysed using the Spearman rank correlation test. Onset of the rainy season can be expected from the first week of October to the third week of January, while cessation can be expected from the first week of February to the first week of May. The length of the rainy season ranged from 67 to 203 days. Seasonal rainfall ranged from 182 to 1 535 mm. Phafuri, Sigonde, Phunda Maria and Folovhodwe had a higher probability of false onset. No significant changes in rainy season characteristics at a 5% level of significance were observed. There was a strong correlation between onset and length of the rainy season. Based on rainfall patterns only, Phafuri, Sigonde and Folovhodwe might not be suitable for maize production under the current climate. The most favourable sites for maize production within the catchment are Entabeni, Levubu, Lwamondo, Thathe, Tshiombo and Vreemedeling. The findings of this study have implications on agricultural activities and food security as maize is a staple crop in the Luvuvhu River catchment area. Information on rainy season characteristics may therefore help in strengthening food security.

Keywords : cessation; dry spells false onset; onset; maize production.

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