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Keywords:

  • agricultural droughts;
  • statistical analysis;
  • soil moisture index;
  • drought prediction;
  • drought severity;
  • water deficit;
  • grain yield;
  • agro-climatic;
  • economics

ABSTRACT: Past historical evidence indicates that droughts have had great impacts on human life. Drought (or scarcity of water) is assessed based on two key factors, namely, the estimated water demand, and the expected water supply. The formulation of these key factors for a region largely depends on the agro-climatic and economic conditions. Consideration of one such key factor is the relationship between the crop yield and water deficit in the assessment and prediction of agricultural droughts. The varying nature of this relationship from crop to crop adds to the complexity of agricultural drought analysis. To overcome this difficulty in analyzing agricultural droughts of a region, it is adequate to consider and place emphasis on a single crop (i.e., an index crop) grown homogeneously over the major area of the region. From one year to another year, the pattern of water requirement during the growing season of an index crop is rather stationary, and the water supply in arid and semi-arid area is mainly from seasonal random precipitation. In a region, grain yield of the index crop and, in turn, assessment of the severity of drought can reasonably be predicted as a function of the time of crop sowing and the distribution of rainfall, provided that temporal and spatial effects of other contributing factors (crop variety, soil fertility status, crop disease, pest control, cultivation practices etc.) on grain yield are considered to be uniformly distributed (i.e., stable).

A predictive method of assessing agricultural droughts in an arid area of western India is presented. The major crop (Pearl Millet) of this region is grown from. July through September. The formulation of the proposed predictive method inherently implies that the grain yield of the main crop is a reliable indicator of agricultural drought. In the development of this predictive relationship (i.e., a regression type model) a number of potential yet simple variables affecting the grain yield in the region were investigated. The soil moisture index, although generally considered significant compared to the simple variables, has been found to account for insignificant variation in the grain yield. Results of our investigations suggest that it would be advisable to exclude the soil moisture index variable from the model. The proposed regression model can be used in the prediction of grain yield of the main crop several months ahead of crop harvesting operations and, in turn, the assessment of agricultural drought severity as mild, moderate, or severe. Such an assessment is expected to be helpful to planners for arranging appropriate measures to effectively combat agricultural drought situations.