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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Is dry soil planting an adaptation strategy for maize cultivation in semi-arid Tanzania?

Lana, Marcos A.; Vasconcelos, Ana Carolina F.; Gornott, Christoph; Schaffert, Angela; Bonatti, Michelle; Volk, Johanna; Graef, Frieder; Kersebaum, Kurt Christian; Sieber, Stefan


Agriculture has the greatest potential to lift the African continent out of poverty and alleviate hunger. Among the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Tanzania has an abundance of natural resources and major agricultural potential. However, one of the most important constraints facing Tanzania's agricultural sector is the dependence on unreliable and irregular weather, including rainfall. A strategy to cope with climate uncertainty in semi-arid regions is to proceed with the sowing of the crop before the onset of the rainy season. The advantage is that when the rains start, seeds are already in the soil and can begin immediately the process of germination. The objective of this paper was to assess the effectiveness of dry-soil planting for maize as an adaptation strategy in the context of a changing climate in Dodoma, a semi-arid region in Tanzania. For this assessment, the DSSAT crop model was used in combination with climate scenarios based on representative concentration pathways. A probability of crop failure of more than 80% can be expected when sowing occurs during the planting window (of 21 days) starting on 1st November. The next planting window we assessed, starting on 23rd November (which was still before the onset of rain), presented significantly lower probabilities of crop failure, indicating that sowing before the onset of the rainy season is a suitable adaptation strategy. Results also indicated that, despite not reaching the highest maize grain yields, fields prepared for dry-soil planting still produced adequate yields. The cultivation of several fields using the dry planting method is a strategy farmers can use to cope with low rainfall conditions, since it increases the chances of harvesting at least some of the cultivated fields. We conclude that dry-soil planting is a feasible and valid technique, even in scenarios of climate change, in order to provide acceptable maize yields in semi-arid Tanzania.


DSSAT; Sub-Saharan region; Maize yield; Seed germination; Sowing date; Food security

Published in

Food Security
2018, Volume: 10, number: 4, pages: 897-910

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG13 Climate action
    SDG2 Zero hunger
    SDG1 No poverty

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science

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