Rainfall and crop modeling-based water stress assessment for rainfed maize cultivation in peninsular India
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Water stress due to uneven rainfall distribution causes a significant impact on the agricultural production of monsoon-dependent peninsular India. In the present study, water stress assessment for rainfed maize crop is carried out for kharif (June–October) and rabi (October–February) cropping seasons which coincide with two major Indian monsoons. Rainfall analysis (1976–2010) shows that the kharif season receives sufficient weekly rainfall (28 ± 32 mm) during 26th–39th standard meteorological weeks (SMWs) from southwest monsoon, whereas the rabi season experiences a major portion of its weekly rainfall due to northeast monsoon between the 42nd and 51st SMW (31 ± 42 mm). The later weeks experience minimal rainfall (5.5 ± 15 mm) and thus expose the late sown maize crops to a severe water stress during its maturity stage. Wet and dry spell analyses reveal a substantial increase in the rainfall intensity over the last few decades. However, the distribution of rainfall shows a striking decrease in the number of wet spells, with prolonged dry spells in both seasons. Weekly rainfall classification shows that the flowering and maturity stages of kharif maize (33rd–39th SMWs) can suffer around 30–40% of the total water stress. In the case of rabi maize, the analysis reveals that a shift in the sowing time from the existing 42nd SMW (16–22 October) to the 40th SMW (1–7 October) can avoid terminal water stress. Further, AquaCrop modeling results show that one or two minimal irrigations during the flowering and maturity stages (33rd–39th SMWs) of kharif maize positively avoid the mild water stress exposure. Similarly, rabi maize requires an additional two or three lifesaving irrigations during its flowering and maturity stages (48th–53rd SMWs) to improve productivity. Effective crop planning with appropriate sowing time, short duration crop, and high yielding drought-resistant varieties will allow for better utilization of the monsoon rain, thus reducing water stress with an increase in rainfed maize productivity.
The data used in this study were obtained from the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Government of India, and Hydrology Project (Surface Water), Water Resources Department, Government of Maharashtra, India. The authors would like to thank the reviewers for the constructive comments and suggestions to improve the quality of the paper.
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