Main content area

Drought stress characterization of post-rainy season (rabi) sorghum in India

Kholová, Jana, McLean, Greg, Vadez, Vincent, Craufurd, Peter, Hammer, Graeme L.
Field crops research 2013 v.141 pp. 38-46
crop models, cultivars, flowering, households, meteorological data, irrigation, production technology, grain sorghum, drought, water stress, crop yield, livelihood, soil water, biomass production, case studies, wet season, crops, India
During the post-rainy (rabi) season in India around 3 million tonnes of sorghum grain is produced from 5.7 million ha of cropping. This underpins the livelihood of about 5 million households. Severe drought is common as the crop grown in these areas relies largely on soil moisture stored during the preceding rainy season. Improvement of rabi sorghum cultivars through breeding has been slow but could be accelerated if drought scenarios in the production regions were better understood. The sorghum crop model within the APSIM (Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator) platform was used to simulate crop growth and yield and the pattern of crop water status through each season using available historical weather data. The current model reproduced credibly the observed yield variation across the production region (R2=0.73). The simulated trajectories of drought stress through each crop season were clustered into five different drought stress patterns. A majority of trajectories indicated terminal drought (43%) with various timings of onset during the crop cycle. The most severe droughts (25% of seasons) were when stress began before flowering and resulted in failure of grain production in most cases, although biomass production was not affected so severely. The frequencies of drought stress types were analyzed for selected locations throughout the rabi tract and showed different zones had different predominating stress patterns. This knowledge can help better focus the search for adaptive traits and management practices to specific stress situations and thus accelerate improvement of rabi sorghum via targeted specific adaptation. The case study presented here is applicable to other sorghum growing environments.