Agroclimatic response mapping for sugarcane production in southern Africa.
As is the case in many other regions in the world, sugarcane production in southern Africa is affected by a wide range of climatic conditions, which can vary considerably from location to location and from year to year. As a result, the season length and growth cycles of sugarcane in southern Africa differ greatly. Such conditions include the hot and dry regions of northern KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland and Mpumalanga, where sugarcane is mostly irrigated, to the humid sub-tropical coastal belt extending from the far north coast of KwaZulu-Natal to areas in the Eastern Cape, as well as the cool frost prone midlands regions of KwaZulu-Natal. Owing to the wide range of climatic conditions in which sugarcane is grown in southern Africa, there are many different external factors that affect sugarcane production, including a range of pests and diseases, frost occurrences and variations in soil water. The objective of this research was to (1) identify a number of important variables that affect cane production in southern Africa, (2) employ suitable models to reflect these variables, and (3) simulate and map the extent and severity of these variables at a high spatial resolution over southern Africa. Such variables include the Eldana saccharina and Chilo sacchariphagus stalk borers, sugarcane rust fungus, heat units with selected base temperatures, frost, soil water content, soil compaction, irrigation water demand, conducive and non-conducive growing conditions, flowering proficiencies for sugarcane, sugarcane yields and yield increments per unit of irrigation. The distribution patterns of the above-mentioned variables relied greatly upon the various models employed to represent them, as well as the accuracy of the temperature and rainfall databases to which the various models were applied. Although not definitive, the models used to reflect the variables which had been identified were considered to be generally satisfactory. The resolution at which the variables which had been identified in this study were mapped, was also found to be adequate.
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