Assessing Wheat Management Options in the Tiaret Region of Algeria with the DSSAT Model

Wafa Rezzoug, Benoit Gabrielle


Crop simulation models are important research tools to design cropping systems and aid in agricultural decision making. In environments with severe water limitations, this is especially useful since strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of drought on crop yields involve a range of management practices with potential interactions among them. The use of a crop model makes it possible to explore many combinations and to identify the best options, avoiding the need for costly field experiments.

In Algeria, water availability is the prime factor limiting wheat yields, and is expected to worsen in the near future due to climate change. Here, we used the CERES-Wheat model (within the DSSAT package) to explore various management strategies for wheat production in the Tiaret region of north-western Algeria. The model was previously tested against grain yield data from a 3-yr field trial. Simulations were run using 20 years of historical weather data  to establish probabilities for different combinations of management factors involving variables planting densities, fertiliser nitrogen rates, sowing dates and cultivars. The interannual variability of climate (and essentially seasonal rainfall) accounted for 95% of the overall variance of simulated yields. Regarding crop management, sowing date was the most influential agronomic factor, followed by cultivar and fertiliser N rate. There was little response of wheat yields to N inputs above 60 kg N ha-1, and no significant effect of plant density. As a consequence, under the current climate, the optimal management involved sowing during the last week of December, a plant density of 300 plants m-2, a 60 kg N ha-1 fertilizer rate and the use of the cultivar Vitron. Thus, the simulation model appeared capable of differentiating between a range of management options and identifying the best combination to optimize wheat yield under high weather variability. It will be used in a near future to seek strategies to mitigate the impact of projected future climate changes in Algeria.

الكلمات المفتاحية

Wheat, Algeria, DSSAT, Crop Model, Yield simulation, Crop Management

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