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Nelson Mandela University (2019)

Top-soil water retention in organic and conventional farming systems in South Africa’s Southern Cape

Eckert, Catherine Jessica

Titre : Top-soil water retention in organic and conventional farming systems in South Africa’s Southern Cape

Auteur : Eckert, Catherine Jessica

Université de soutenance : Nelson Mandela University

Grade : Master of Technology 2019

Résumé partiel
With the world’s growing population and limited natural resources, there is a need to produce more food using less inputs. A major limiting factor to meeting the agricultural production needs of the growing population is fresh water. Water is a critical resource in agriculture and may be more of a limiting factor than other crop growth requirements in some areas. Furthermore, water availability is being impacted by climate change and competition from other industries. Methods of improving crop water use efficiency through conservation of water and the enhancement of crop growth need to be employed to meet the growing demand sustainably. The purpose of the research was to assess the differences in soil water status between organically farmed crops with a grass mulch and conventionally farmed crops without mulch, with a view to making more efficient use of the water resource. This research was conducted at the Mandela long term organic farming systems research trial site at Nelson Mandela University, George campus in the southern Cape, South Africa. It is part of a larger research project (the Mandela Trials) in which various researchers have been involved in different aspects of this trial including agronomy, microbiology and pest and disease control. This research took place over two seasons, namely, 2016-2017 season and 2017-2018 season. The soil water content (SWC) of organic and conventional plots were measured using fixed capacitance probes that recorded continuous data, every half hour, at depths of 10, 30 and 50 cm. A handheld theta probe was also used to measure the SWC in the top 6 cm of the soil at 7 to14 day intervals. The organic treatment had a significantly higher SWC than the conventional treatment over the two seasons in which this research was conducted. In addition, soil carbon was significantly higher in the organic treatment, than the conventional

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