Water use efficiency and uptake patterns in a runoff agroforestry system in an arid environment
- Cite this article as:
- Droppelmann, K.J., Lehmann, J., Ephrath, J.E. et al. Agroforestry Systems (2000) 49: 223. doi:10.1023/A:1006352623333
Water is the most limiting factor for plant production in arid to semiarid regions. In order to overcome this limitation surface runoff water can be used to supplement seasonal rainfall. During 1996 we conducted a runoff irrigated agroforestry field trial in the Turkana district of Northern Kenya. The effects of two different Acacia saligna (Labill.) H. Wendl. tree planting densities (2500 and 833 trees per ha), tree pruning (no pruning vs. pruning) and annual intercrops (no intercrop vs. intercrop: Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench during the first season and Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp. during the second season) on water use were investigated. The annual crops were also grown as monocrops. Water consumption ranged from 585 to 840 mm during the first season (only treatments including trees). During the second season, which was shorter and the plants relied solely on stored water in the soil profile, water consumption was less than half of that during the first season. Highest water consumptions were found for non-pruned trees at high density and the lowest were found for the annual crops grown as monocrops. Tree pruning decreased water uptake compared to non-pruned trees but soil moisture depletion pattern showed complementarity in water uptake between pruned trees and annual intercrops. The highest values of water use efficiency for an individual treatment were achieved when the pruned trees at high density were intercropped with sorghum (1.59 kg m−3) and cowpea (1.21 kg m−3). Intercropping and high tree density increased water use efficiency in our runoff agroforestry trial. We ascribe the observed improvement in water use efficiency to the reduction of unproductive water loss from the bare soil.