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Effects of climate variability and climate change on crop production in southern Mali

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>08/2013
<mark>Journal</mark>European Journal of Agronomy
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)115-125
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In West Africa predictions of future changes in climate and especially rainfall are highly uncertain, and up to now no long-term analyses are available of the effects of climate on crop production. This study analyses long-term trends in climate variability at N'Tarla and Sikasso in southern Mali using a weather dataset from 1965 to 2005. Climatic variables and crop productivity were analysed using data from an experiment conducted from 1965 to 1993 at N'Tarla and from a crop yield database from ten cotton growing districts of southern Mali. Minimum daily air temperature increased on average by 0.05. °C per year during the period from 1965 to 2005 while maximum daily air temperature remained constant. Seasonal rainfall showed large inter-annual variability with no significant change over the 1965-2005 period. However, the total number of dry days within the growing season increased significantly at N'Tarla, indicating a change in rainfall distribution. Yields of cotton, sorghum and groundnut at the N'Tarla experiment varied (30%) without any clear trend over the years. There was a negative effect of maximum temperature, number of dry days and total seasonal rainfall on cotton yield. The variation in cotton yields was related to the rainfall distribution within the rainfall season, with dry spells and seasonal dry days being key determinants of crop yield. In the driest districts, maize yields were positively correlated with rainfall. Our study shows that cotton production in southern Mali is affected by climate change, in particular through changes in the rainfall distribution.