AquaCrop simulated response of sorghum biomass and grain yield to biochar amendment in South Sudan

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The dependency on rainfed agriculture and weak adaptability of the agricultural sector to climate change threaten food security in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Biochar has widely been touted as a relatively easy means of increasing the soil water storage capacity of soils and thereby improving or maintaining crop yields. In this study we simulated the effect of biochar amendment on sorghum aboveground biomass and grain yield at a site in South Sudan. We used the model AquaCrop parameterized using site, soil, and cropping management data from a field experiment carried out at the site in 2011 and 2012, which were both wet years. Changes in soil hydraulic properties due to biochar were based on a published meta-analysis study. In order to investigate whether the response to biochar differed in dry years, simulations were also carried out for 1990, which was the driest year during the period 1979–2014. Measured and modelled biomass and yields with and without biochar for 2011 and 2012 were compared. Simulated and measured yields depended on growing season rainfall and distribution. The simulations showed that biochar amendment had an effect on rooting zone soil water content and sorghum biomass and grain yield in 1990, but not in 2011 and 2012. In view of expected climate change, the results have important implications for sorghum production and the potential use of biochar in SSA. Given the limited response of grain yield to biochar shown in our simulations, careful selection of sorghum variety and cultivar and consideration of planting date may be a more effective means of improving yields than applying biochar.
Original languageEnglish
Article number67
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 4111 Agronomy
  • agroforestry
  • 4112 Forestry

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