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Water Management Options Based On Rainfall Analysis For Rainfed Maize (Zea Mays L.) Production In Rushinga District Zimbabwe

I. W. Nyakudya, L. Stroosnijder
Published 2011 · Economics

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Maize (Zea mays L.), the dominant and staple food crop in Southern and Eastern Africa, is preferred to the drought-tolerant sorghum and pearl millet even in semi-arid areas. In semi-arid areas production of maize is constrained by droughts and poor rainfall distribution. The best way to grow crops in these areas is through irrigation, but limited areal extent, increasing water scarcity, and prohibitive development costs limit the feasibility of irrigation. Therefore, there is need for a policy shift towards other viable options. This paper presents daily rainfall analysis from Rushinga district, a semi-arid location in Northern Zimbabwe. The purpose of the rainfall analysis was to assess opportunities and limitations for rainfed maize production using 25 years of data. Data was analysed using a variety of statistical methods that include trend analysis, t-test for independent samples, rank-based frequency analysis, Spearman's correlation coefficient and Mann-Whitney's U test. The results showed no evidence of change in rainfall pattern. The mean seasonal rainfall was 631Â mm with a standard deviation (SD) of 175Â mm. December, January and February consistently remained the major rainfall months. The results depicted high inter-annual variability for both annual and seasonal rainfall totals, a high incidence of droughts >=3 out of every 10 years and >=1 wet year in 10 years. Using the planting criteria recommended in Zimbabwe, most of the plantings would occur from the third decade of November with the mode being the first decade of December. This predisposes the rainfall to high evaporation and runoff losses especially in December when the crop is still in its initial stage of growth. On average 5 to more than 20 days dry spells occupy 56% of the rainy season. Seasonal rainfall exhibited negative correlation (PÂ
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