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Quantification of long-term precipitation use efficiencies of different maize production practices on a semi-arid ecotope in the Free State Province



Quantification of long-term precipitation use efficiencies of different maize production practices on a semi-arid ecotope in the Free State Province



Water SA 33(1): 61-66



Precipitation use efficiency (PUE) was estimated for four production practices, i.e. conventional tillage with November planting (CTN), conventional tillage with January planting (CTJ), in-field rainwater harvesting with November planting (WHBN), and in-field rainwater harvesting with January planting (WHBJ), over 80 maize seasons for a semi-arid ecotope in the central Free State Province of South Africa. An empirical yield prediction model was used to obtain maize grain yields. PUE was expressed as the ratio of transpiration: rainfall for each growing season (PUET), while transpiration was calculated from total biomass yield, vapour pressure deficit and a transpiration efficiency coefficient for maize. The following equation, based on 10 years of measured data, was developed to estimate daily vapour deficit pressure for the 80 seasons from daily maximum temperature: Vd = 0.163 x T-max - 2.88 (R-2 = 0.73). Mean PUET values over the 80 seasons were: 0.260 for CTN, 0.320 for WHBN, 0.334 for CTJ, and 6.400 for WHBJ. These results confirmed and quantified the advantage of in-field rainwater harvesting over conventional tillage, and the advantage of January planting over November planting. PUET results were also expressed as cumulative probability functions. Significance tests showed that PUET for in-field rainwater harvesting was significantly better than PUET for conventional tillage, and that January planting was significantly better than November planting. It was concluded that the advantage of in-field rainwater harvesting over conventional tillage was mainly due to the absence of runoff and reduced evaporation in the former practice. The use of a short-growing cultivar, which flowers during the month with the most favourable climate, i.e. March, probably resulted in the advantage of January planting over November planting.

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