, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 291-298

Water harvesting in a ‘runoff-catchment’ agroforestry system in the dry lands of Ethiopia

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Abstract

A major production constraint in arid and semiarid areas of Ethiopia is a lack of water for crop growth. Run off water can be harvested by channeling it into micro- catchments (MC) where it slowly infiltrates into the soil. The increased moisture provides more plant growth in these dry lands. An experiment using MC was conducted in eastern Ethiopia to study the growth of four multipurpose tree species intercropped with grass. Trees and grass were grown in 25 m2 and 100 m2 MC. Plant height, root collar diameter, and mortality rate of trees were determined 12 months after planting. Dry matter yield of grasses and trees were measured and nutrient analysis of plant tissues was determined. In a separate experiment the biomass of trees was determined after 2.5 years of continuous growth without grass competition. Soil moisture, organic matter, texture and bulk density of the soils were also determined. Mean tree height was 10% greater in the 100 m2 than in the 25 m2 MC. Root collar diameter and survival rate showed similar increase with 13% and 7.8% respectively. Acacia saligna and Leucaena leucocephala showed better growth in both plot sizes than the indigenous Acacia seyal and Acacia tortilis. The dry matter yield of grass (Panicum maximum) was over 12 tons/ha and 8 tons/ha in the 100 m2 and 25 m2 plots respectively. Soil moisture content was greater in MC than in control plots with no water harvesting structures with 31% and 24% during the wet and dry seasons respectively. The use of water harvesting can improve fodder production and carrying capacity of the dry lands of Ethiopia.