Optimising water use efficiency for crop production

Sedibe, Moosa Mahmood (2003-03)

Thesis (MScAgric)--University of Stellenbosch, 2003.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Poor water management and poor water use efficiency (WUE) have been identified as one of the major problems experienced by vegetable growers in most of the developing countries, including South Africa. This poor management and poor utilization of water have led to a drastic decline in the quality and quantity of available water. In South Africa agriculture uses about 50% of available water. Increasing water demand for domestic, industrial and mining uses, may decrease agriculture's share to less than the current 50%, henceforth, better utilization of this resource is imperative. Selection of a good irrigation system can limit water loss considerably. Some irrigation systems have a potential to save more water than others do. Since irrigation systems affect the WUE of crops, care should be taken when selecting an irrigation system under conditions of limited water quantity. Ebb-and- Flood watering systems have been introduced for effective sub-irrigation and nutrient delivery within closed systems. Such a system was adapted in South Africa, to develop a vegetable production unit for use by families in rural communities, while saving substantial amounts of water. A need to further improve the WUE of this system was subsequently identified. Two studies were conducted at the experimental farm of the University of Stellenbosch (Department of Agronomy). The first trial was conducted under controlled conditions in a glasshouse, and the second under open field conditions. In the first trial, Beta vulgaris (Swiss chard) and Amaranthus spp. ('Imbuya') were grown in two root media; gravel and pumice. In addition, an 'Ebb-and-Flood' and a 'Constant level' system were used with nutrient solutions at two electrical (EC) conductivity levels 1.80 and 3.60 mS cm-I. The results of this (2x2x2x2) factorial experiment indicated that a combination of the 'Ebb-and-Flood' system with gravel as a root medium produced the best results at a low EC, when 'imbuya' was used. A high total WUE was found with 'imbuya', (7.35 g L-I) at EC 1.80 mS cmicompared to a relatively low WUE of 5. 90 g L-I when the 3.60 mS cm-I nutrient solution was used. In the second trial, 'Imbuya's' foliage dry mass, leaf area and WUE was evaluated under field conditions at the Stellenbosch University experimental farm, during the summer of2002. The experimental farm (33°55'S, 18°52'E) is situated in the cooler coastal wine grape-producing region of South Africa with a relatively high annual winter rainfall. This trial was conducted on an alluvial soil, with clay content of 25% and a pH of 5.9 (KC!). A closed 'Ebb-and-Flood' system was compared with two open field irrigation systems ('Drip' and 'Flood') using nutrient solutions at two electrical conductivity levels (1.80 and 3.60 mS cm-i) in all three cases. Foliage dry mass, leaf area as well as WUE was best with 'Drip' irrigation, when a nutrient solution with an electrical conductivity of 3.60 mS cm-i was used. In spite of the fact that additional ground water was available for the soil grown 'Drip' and 'Flood' treatments, the 'Ebb-and-Flood' system outperformed the 'Flood' treatment, especially when the nutrient solution with an EC of 3.6 mS cm-i was used. Insufficient root aeration in the flooded soil could have been a contributing factor. The fact that the 'Ebb-and-Flood' and 'Drip' systems gave the best results when the high EC solution was used to fertigate the plants, may indicate that the plants could have hardened due to the mild EC stress, better preparing them to adapt to the extreme heat that was experienced in the field.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Swak: bestuur van water en 'n swak: water-gebruik-doeltreffendheid (WOD) is as een van die belangrikste probleme geïdentifiseer wat deur groente produsente in die meeste ontwikkelende lande, insluitend Suid-Afrika, ervaar word. Hierdie swak bestuur en benutting van water het daartoe bygedra dat 'n drastiese afname in die kwaliteit asook in die kwantiteit van beskikbare water ervaar word. In Suid-Afrika gebruik die landbou-sektor ongeveer 50% van die beskikbare water. Toenemende water behoeftes vir huisgebruik, industrieë en die mynbou mag hierdie 50% aandeel van die landbou sektor laat krimp. Beter benutting van hierdie skaars hulpbron is dus noodsaaklik. Die keuse van goeie besproeiingsisteme mag waterverliese merkbaar beperk aangesien sekere sisteme se water-besparingspotensiaal beter as ander is. Aangesien besproeiingstelsels die WOD van gewasse beïnvloed, is spesiale sorg nodig waar 'n besproeiingstelsel onder hierdie toestande van beperkte waterbronne gekies moet word. 'Ebb-en-Vloed' sisteme kan aangewend word om water en voedingselemente van onder in 'n wortelmedium te laat opstoot en in 'n geslote sisteem te laat terugdreineer. So 'n sisteem is in Suid-Afrika ontwikkel waarmee groente vir families in landelike gebiede geproduseer kan word terwyl water bespaar word. 'n Behoefte om die WOD van hierdie produksiesisteem verder te verbeter is egter geïdentifiseer. Twee ondersoeke is by die Universiteit van Stellenbosch se proefplaas (Departement Agronomie) gedoen. Die eerste proef is onder beheerde omgewingstoestande in 'n glashuis uitgevoer en die tweede onder veld toestande. In die eerste proef is Beta vulgaris (Snybeet) en Amaranthus spp. ('Imbuya') in twee tipes wortelmedia; gruis en puimsteen verbou. 'n 'Ebb-en-Vloed' asoook 'n 'Konstante vlak' besproeiingsisteem is gebruik terwyl voedingsoplossings ook by twee peile van elektriese geleiding (EC) teen 1.80 en 3.60 mS cm-I toegedien is. Die resultate van hierdie (2x2x2x2) fakroriaal eksperiment het aangetoon dat 'n kombinasie van die 'Ebb-en-Vloed' sisteem met gruis as 'n wortelmedium die beste resultate teen 'n lae EC lewer waar 'imbuya' gebruik is. Die WOD met 'imbuya' was hoog (7.35 g L-1) by 'n EC van 1.80 mS cm-I, vergeleke met 'n relatief lae WOD van 5. 90 g L-1 waar die 3.60 mS cm-I voedingsoplossing gebruik is. In die tweede proef is 'Imbuya' se droë blaarmassa, blaar oppervlakte en WOD onder veldtoestande op die Universiteit van Stellenbsoch se proefplaas in die somer van 2002 ge-evalueer. Die proefplaas (33°55'S, 18°52'E) is in die koeler kusstreke van die wyndruif produksiegebied in die winterreëngebied van Suid-Afrika geleë. Hierdie proef is op alluviale grond met 25% klei en 'n pH van 5.9 (KCi) uitgevoer. 'n Geslote 'Ebb-en-Vloed' sisteem is met twee veld-besproeiingsisteme vergelyk ('Drup' en 'Vloed') terwyl voedingsoplossings teen twee peile van elektriese geleiding (1.80 en 3.60 mS cm-I) in al drie gevalle gebruik is. Blaar droëmassa, blaaroppervlakte asook die WGD was die beste met 'Drup' besproeiing waar die EC van die voedingsoplossing 3.60 mS cm-I was. Ten spyte van die feit dat ekstra grondwater vir die 'Drup' and 'Vloed' behandelings beskikbaar was, het die 'Ebben- Vloed' stelsel beter as die 'Vloed' behandeling gedoen veral waar die voedingsoplossing se EC 3.6 mS cm-I was. Swak wortelbelugting was waarskynlik die rede waarom vloedbesproeiing swak produksie gelewer het. Die feit dat die 'Drup' en die 'Ebb-en-Vloed' behandelings in die veldproef die beste gedoen het waar die EC hoog was, mag moontlik met die gehardheid van die plante verband hou wat aan ekstreem warm en dor toestande blootgestel was.

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