Plant-water relations in an Andean landscape: Modeling the effect of irrigation on upland crop production
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In the inter-Andean valleys of northern Ecuador, irrigation systems have long been used to minimize drought risk and secure the production of food crops during dry periods. However, not all Andean communities have access to irrigation water. Increasing population pressure has forced many peasant farmers to move higher up the volcanic slopes and cultivate more marginal land under rainfed conditions. In the SANREM CRSP research site of Cotacachi, local community members and officials of the local water authorities (juntas de agua) have been seeking to expand existing irrigation systems to a wider area. University of GeorgiaÕs researchers Franz Zehetner and Bill Miller analyzed the potential benefits to crop production that such expansion could bring about in different zones of the Cotacachi area that currently do not have access to irrigation water. The scientists used crop growth modeling to quantify the improvement of wet-season and dry-season maize production that would occur if irrigation water was available.