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A framework for selecting crops for irrigation using mining contaminated water: An example from the Olifants basin of South Africa

Musvoto, C., de Lange, W.J.
Journal of environmental management 2019 v.231 pp. 49-58
alternative crops, basins, climatic factors, farms, field experimentation, irrigated farming, irrigation, metals, mining, risk, screening, toxicity, viability, water pollution, South Africa
Irrigated agriculture is adapting to viability challenges due to water contamination from mining in various ways. We explore the option of using crops that are able to tolerate the impacts of such water contamination as a short term adaptation strategy. We present a framework which enables the selection of crops suitable for irrigated production using mining contaminated water. The framework identifies key factors that should inform crop selection; and these include crop adaptation to climatic conditions, contaminants present in water, crop tolerance to contaminants, crop use and accumulation of toxic metals. A proposed process for screening and selecting a crop is described. Although considered a partial analysis due to incomplete and non-standardised information on crop tolerance levels, the framework narrows down choices which can be assessed in more detail or with field trials. The framework shows that interventions beyond the farm level are necessary to support the use of contaminant tolerant crops as a strategy for adapting to water contamination from mining. However, key questions regarding the risks associated with alternative crops and difficulties in selecting suitable crops remain.