Original Articles

Predicting the effects of nitrogen and planting density on maize water use in semi-arid Kenya

Published in: South African Journal of Plant and Soil
Volume 24, issue 1, 2007, pages: 51–57
DOI: 10.1080/02571862.2007.10634781
Author(s): J., B.O. OgolaDepartment of Plant Production, South Africa, T.R. WheelerDepartment of Agriculture, U.K., P.M. HarrisDepartment of Agriculture, U.K.


Models are important tools to assess the scope of management effects on crop productivity under different climatic and soil regimes. Accordingly, this study developed and used a simple model to assess the effects of nitrogen fertiliser and planting density on the water use efficiency (q) of maize in semi-arid Kenya. Field experiments were undertaken at Sonning, Berkshire, UK, in 1996 (one sowing) and 1997 (two sowings). The results from the field experiments plus soil and weather data for Machakos, Kenya (1°33'S, 37°14'E and 1560 m above sea level), were then used to predict the effects that N application and planting density may have on water use by a maize crop grown in semi-arid Kenya. The increase in q due to N application was greater under irrigated (15%- 19%) than rainfed (7%-8%) conditions. Also, high planting density increased q (by 13%) under irrigation but decreased q (by 17%) under rainfed conditions. The current study has shown the significance of crop modelling techniques in assessing the influence of N and planting density on maize production in one region of semi-arid Kenya where there is high variability of rainfall.

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