Dryland Soils

  • Khan Towhid Osman


Dryland soils generally occur in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions with some occasional occurrence in other regions. The basis of definition of aridity or dryness is the ratio of mean annual precipitation to potential evapotranspiration, and this ratio is called the aridity index (AI). Dryland soils occur in regions of AI between 0.05 and 0.65. There are drylands in 40 percent of the world’s land area with 38 percent of the world’s population. According to an estimate, the total dryland areas of the world are 6310 million hectares (M ha) distributed mainly in Africa (2000 M ha), Asia (2000 M ha), in Oceania (680 M ha), in North America (760 M ha), South America (56 M ha) and in Europe (300 M ha). Drylands are characterized by low, irregular, and unevenly distributed rainfall and high potential evapotranspiration. Frequently there are high or low temperatures and occurrences of drought. Agriculture is difficult there mainly because of inherent soil moisture deficit and scarcity of irrigation water. All these factors make dryland regions prone to desertification hazards. In spite of all these difficulties, however, drylands contribute significantly to the production of cereals, pulses and livestock, particularly in different parts of Argentina, Australia, Canada, the former Soviet Union and the United States of America. Historically livestock rearing has been widespread in the dryland regions. Dryland soils are usually sandy, and may be saline, sodic, calcic, or gypsic in nature. These soils are of low fertility and can support low plant biomass productivity. Salinization, lack of adequate irrigation, rapid leaching and fertility depletion, sparse vegetation, over-grazing and erosion cause widespread soil degradation including desertification. As water is scarce there, human settlements are found around rivers, springs, wells, water catchments, reservoirs and oases.


Arid regions Dryland salinity Dryland crops Dryland agriculture Desert reclamation 


  1. Adimassu Z, Mekonmen K, Yirga C, Kessler A (2014) Effect of soil bunds on runoff, soil loss and crop yield in the central highland of Ethiopia. Land Degrad Dev 25(6):554–564CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alloway BJ (2008) Micronutrients and crop production: an introduction. In: Alloway BJ (ed) Micronutrient deficiencies in global crop production. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alvarez R, Steinbach H (2009) A review of the effects of tillage systems on some soil physical properties, water content, nitrate availability and crops yield in the argentine pampas. Soil Tillage Res 104:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bantilan MCS, Anand BP, Anupama GV, Deepthi H, Padmaja R (2006) Dryland agriculture: dynamics, challenges and priorities. Research bulletin no. 20. International crops research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics Andhra Pradesh, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  5. Baptista I, Ritsema CJ, Querido A, Ferreira AD, Geissen V (2015) Improving rainwater-use in Cabo Verde drylands by reducing runoff and erosion. Geoderma 237–238:283–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baumhardt R, Jones O (2002) Residue management and tillage effects on soil-water storage and grain yield of dryland wheat and sorghum for a clay loam in Texas. Soil Tillage Res 68:71–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bewick LS (2007) No-till facultative wheat production in the dryland winter wheat-fallow region of the Pacific northwest. MS thesis, Washington State University, PullmanGoogle Scholar
  8. Buerkt A, Piepho HP, Bationo A (2002) Multi-site time-trend analysis of soil fertility management on crop production in sub-Saharan West Africa. Exp Agric 38:163–183Google Scholar
  9. Creswell R, Martin FW (1998) Dryland farming: crops and techniques for arid regions. ECHO Technical Note 1–23Google Scholar
  10. D’Odorico P et al (2013) Global desertification: drivers and feedbacks. Adv Water Resour 51:326–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Pauw EF (2009) Management of dryland and desert areas. In: Verheye WH (ed) Land use, land cover and soil sciences. National Science Foundation Flanders- Belgium and Geography Department, University of Gent, BelgiumGoogle Scholar
  12. Derksen DA, Anderson RL, Blackshaw RE, Maxwell B (2002) Weed dynamics and management strategies for cropping systems in the northern Great Plains. Agron J 94:174–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dietz T, Veldhuizen E (2004) The World’s drylands: a classification. In: Dietz AJ, Ruben R, Verhagen A (eds) The impact of climate change on drylands, with a focus on West Africa, Environment and policy series 39, pp 19–26, Springer, NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  14. Fall A (2000) Makueni District profile: Livestock management, 1989–1998. Drylands research working paper 7. Drylands Research, Crewkerne, UKGoogle Scholar
  15. FAO (2000) Land Resource Potential and Constraints at Regional and Country Levels. World Soil Resources Reports 90. Land and Water Development Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, RomeGoogle Scholar
  16. FAO (2004) Carbon sequestration in dryland soils. World Soil Resources Reports 102. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, RomeGoogle Scholar
  17. FAO (2006) World reference base for soil resources 2006. A framework for international classification, correlation and communication. FAO–UNESCO–ISRIC. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  18. FAO (2008) Drylands, people and land use. In Water and Cereals in Drylands. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Earthscan, RomeGoogle Scholar
  19. Ffolliott PF, Brooks KN, Fogel MM (2002) Managing watersheds for sustaining agriculture and natural resource benefits into the future. Quart J Int Agri 41(1/2):23–40Google Scholar
  20. Gichuki FN (2000) Drylands Research Working Paper 4. Makueni District Profile: Soil Management and Conservation 1989–1998. Drylands research, Crewkerne, Somerset, UKGoogle Scholar
  21. Gregory PJ, Ingram JSI, Anderson R, Betts RA, Brovkin V, Chase TN, Grace PR, Gray AJ, Hamilton N, Hardy TB, Howden SM, Jenkins A, Meybeck M, Olsson M, Ortiz-Montasterio I, Palm CA, Payn TW, Rummukainen M, Schulze RE, Thiem M, Valentin C, Wikinson MJ (2002) Environmental consequences of alternative practices for intensifying crop production. Agri Ecosyst Environ 88(3):279–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hemmat A, Eskandari I (2004) Tillage system effects upon productivity of a dryland winter wheat-chickpea rotation in the northwest region of Iran. Soil Tillage Res 78:69–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hemmat A, Eskandari I (2006) Dryland winter wheat response to conservation tillage in a continuous cropping system in northwestern Iran. Soil Tillage Res 8(6):99–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hemmat A, Ahmadi I, Masoumi A (2007) Water infiltration and clod size distribution as influenced by ploughshare type, soil water content and ploughing depth. Biosyst Eng 97:257–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hilhorst T, Muchena F (2000) Nutrients on the move: soil fertility dynamics in African farming systems. International Institute for Environment and Development, LondonGoogle Scholar
  26. Hori Y, Stuhlberger C, Simonett O (2011) Desertification – a visual synthesis. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); Zoï Environment Network (Zoï).
  27. Humphreys E, Peden D, Twomlow S, Rockström J, Oweis T, Huber-Lee A, Harrington L (2008) Improving rainwater productivity: topic 1 synthesis paper. CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food, ColomboGoogle Scholar
  28. IIASA/FAO (2003) Distribution of drylands in the world. Cited from FAO (2008) Drylands, people and land use. In Water and Cereals in Drylands. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Earthscan, RomeGoogle Scholar
  29. Ilbeyi A, Ustun H, Oweis T, Pala M, Benli B (2006) Wheat water productivity in a cool high land environment: effect of early sowing with supplemental irrigation. Agric Water Manag 82:399–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ito O, Kondo M (2000) Crop and resource management for improved productivity in Dryland Farming Systems. In: Watanabe K, Komamine A (eds) Proceedings of the 12th Toyota conference: challenge of plant and agricultural sciences to the crisis of biosphere on the Earth in the 21st century. Landes Bioscience, TexasGoogle Scholar
  31. Lenssen AW, Johnson GD, Carlson GR (2007a) Cropping sequence and tillage system influences annual crop production and water use in semiarid Montana. Field Crop Res 100(1):32–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lenssen AW, Waddell JT, Johnson GD, Carlson GR (2007b) Diversified cropping systems in Semiarid Montana: nitrogen use during drought. Soil Tillage Res 94(2):362–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Liu FM, Wu YQ, Xiao HL, Gao QZ (2005) Rainwater-harvesting agriculture and water-use efficiency in semi-arid regions in Gansu province, China. Outlook Agricul 4(3):159–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Miller PR, McConkey B, Clayton GW, Brandt SA, Staricka JA, Johnston AM, Lafond GP, Schatz BG, Baltensperger DD, Neill KE (2002) Pulse crop adaptation in the Northern Great Plains. Agron J 94(2):261–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Molden D, Oweis TY (2007) Pathways for Increasing Water Productivity. In: Molden, D. (ed), Water for Food, Water for Life. London and International Water Management Colombo, p. 279–310Google Scholar
  36. Morris M, Kelly V, Kopicki R, Byerlee D (2007) Fertilizer use in African agriculture: lessons learned and good practice guidelines. Agriculture and Rural Development Division. World Bank, Washington, DCCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mosaddeghi M, Mahboubi A, Safadoust A (2009) Short-term effects of tillage and manure on some soil physical properties and maize root growth in a sandy loam soil in western Iran. Soil Tillage Res 104:173–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Msangi JP (2004) Drought hazard and desertification management in the drylands of Southern Africa. Environ Monit Assess 99(1–3):75–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nefzaoui A (2011) Cactus crop is need of the day for dryland farming in India. International workshop on “cactus crop to improve the rural livelihoods and to adapt to climate change in the arid and semi-arid regions” during 25–26 November 2011 at Na tional Bureau of Plant and Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi, India (organized by ICARDA, FAO, ICAR)Google Scholar
  40. Oweis T, Hachum A (2012) Supplemental irrigation, a highly efficient water-use practice. ICARDA, Aleppo, pp 2–28Google Scholar
  41. Oweis T, Zhang H, Pala M (2000) Water use efficiency of rainfed and irrigated bread wheat in a Mediterranean environment. Agron J 92:231–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Parr JE, Stewart BA, Hornick SB, Singh RP (1990) Improving the sustainability of Dryland Farming Systems: a global perspective. Adv Soil Sci 13:1–8Google Scholar
  43. Peterson GA, Westfall DG (2004) Managing precipitation use in sustainable dryland agroecosystems. Ann Appl Biol 144:127–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Regehr DL, Norwood CA (2008) Benefits of Triazine herbicides in Ecofallow. In: The Triazine herbicides: 50 years revolutionizing agriculture. Elsevier, San DiegoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Reid RS, Thornton PK, McCrabb GJ, Kruska RL, Atieno F, Jones PG (2004) Is it possible to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in pastoral ecosystems of the tropics? Dev Sustain 6:91–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rockstrom J, Barron J, Fox P (2002) Rainwater management for increased productivity among small-holder farmers in drought prone environments. Phys Chem Earth 27(11–22):949–959CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rosegrant M, Cai X, Cline S, Nakagawa N (2002) The role of rainfed agriculture in the future of global food production. EPTD discussion paper 90, IFPRI, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  48. Ryan J, Spencer D (2001) Future challenges and opportunities for agricultural land in the semi-arid tropics. ICRISAT, PatancheruGoogle Scholar
  49. Sadegh-Zadeh F, Seh-Bardan BJ, Samsuri AW, Mohammadi A, Chorom M, Yazdani GA (2009) Saline soil reclamation by means of layered mulch. Arid Land Res Manag 23:127–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sadegh-Zadeh F, Wahid SA, Seh-Bardan BJ, Seh-Bardan EJ, Bah A (2011) Alternative management practices for water conservation in dryland farming: a case study in Bijar, Iran. In: Jha MK (ed) Water conservation. InTech, CroatiaGoogle Scholar
  51. Safriel U, Adeel Z, Niemeijer D, Puigdefabregas J et al (2005) Dryland systems. In: Hassan R, Scholes R, Ash N (eds) Ecosystems and human well-being: current state and trends, vol volume 1. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  52. Sahrawat KL, Wani SP, Rego TJ, Pardhasaradhi G, Murthy KVS (2007) Widespread deficiencies of sulfur, boron and zinc in dryland soils of the Indian semi-arid tropics. Curr Sci 93(10):1428Google Scholar
  53. Sainju UM, Lenssen AW, Caesar-Ton That T, Evans RG (2009) Dryland crop yields and soil organic matter as influenced by long-term tillage and cropping sequence. Agron J 101(2)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Saxton K, Chandler D, Stetler L, Lamb B, Claiborn C, Lee BH (2000) Wind erosion and fugitive dust fluxes on agricultural lands in the Pacific Northwest. Trans Am Soc Agric Eng 43(3):623–630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schillinger WF, Young DL (2004) Cropping systems research in the world’s dries rainfed wheat region. Agron J 96(4):1182–1187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shirani H, Hajabbasi M, Afyuni M, Hemmat A (2002) Effects of farmyard manure andtillage systems on soil physical properties and corn yield in central Iran. Soil Tillage Res 68:101–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Soil Survey Staff (2015) Illustrated Guide to Soil Taxonomy, Version 1.1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Soil Survey Center, Lincoln, NebraskaGoogle Scholar
  58. Srinivasarao C, Vittal KPR (2007) Emerging nutrient deficiencies in different soil types under rainfed production systems of India. Indian J Ferti 3:37–46Google Scholar
  59. Srinivasarao C, Vittal KPR, Venkateswarlu B, Wani SP, Sahrawat KL, Marimuthu S, Kundu S (2009) Carbon stocks in different soil types under diverse rainfed production systems in tropical India. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 40:2338–2356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stroosnijder L, Moore D, Alharbi A, Argaman E, Biazin B, van den Elsen E (2012) Improving water use efficiency in drylands. Current Opin Environ Sustain 4:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Su Z, Zhang J, Wu W, Cai D, Lv J, Jiang G, Huang J, Gao J, Hartmann R, Gabriels D (2007) Effects of conservation tillage practices on winter wheat water-use efficiency and crop yield on the Loess Plateau, China. Agric Water Manag 87:307–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Thornton PK, Kruska RL, Henninger N, Krisjanson PM, Reid RS et al (2002) Mapping poverty and livestock in the developing world. ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), NairobiGoogle Scholar
  63. Twomlow S, Rohrbach D, Dimes J, Rusike J, Mupangwa W, Ncube B, Hove L, Moyo M, Mashingaidze N, Mahposa P (2008) Microdosing as a pathway to Africa’s Green Revolution: evidence from broad-scale on-farm trials. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 88(1):3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. UNCCD (2000) An introduction to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
  65. UNEP (1997) World atlas of desertification, 2nd edn. United Nations Environmental Program, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  66. United Nations (2011) Global drylands: a UN system-wide response. United Nations Environment Management Group, UN, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  67. White R, Tunstall D, Henninger N (2002) An ecosystem approach to drylands: building support for new development policies. Information policy brief no 1. World resources institute, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  68. Zougmore R, Mando A, Ringersma J, Stroosnijder L (2003) Effect of combined water and nutrient management on runoff and sorghum yield in semiarid Burkina Faso. Soil Use Manag 19:257–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Khan Towhid Osman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Soil ScienceUniversity of ChittagongChittagongBangladesh

Personalised recommendations