The effect of weather on crop yields: A case study of the maize crop in Masindi District Western Uganda.
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Weather and crop yield is a crucial consideration for food security in Uganda. This study considered a relationship between weather and maize yield as an aid to emphasize the significance and need for weather information and monitoring for enhancing food security and sustainable livelihoods in Masindi District. The study used questionnaires and observations from the field, climate data (mean monthly rainfall and mean monthly maximum and minimum temperatures) from the Uganda Meteorology Authority as well as maize crop yields over season 1 (March to May) and season 2 (August to November) in the study region to establish the relationship between maize yield and climate parameters. Results concerning perceptions of the Masindi farmers obtained from structured questionnaires indicate rainfall and temperature are crucial for crop growth in the two cropping seasons. These observations were in agreement with climate (mean monthly rainfall and mean monthly maximum and minimum temperatures) data for Masindi station from 1961 to 2012 inclusive. Analysis of the climate data showed that cropping seasons are punctuated by rainfall peaks in April and October, lower mean seasonal maximum temperatures and higher mean seasonal minimum temperatures over the growing seasons. The study also found that the major food crops planted in Masindi District included cassava and maize. However, since cassava is an annual crop, maize was the crop chosen to investigate the relationship between maize yield and climate parameters. The coefficients of determination R2 = 0.55 and R2 = 0.47 for season 1 and 2 respectively indicate that the weather elements (rainfall and maximum and minimum temperature) affect crop yields in the region. Hence maize yields in Masindi District are vulnerable to weather and climate variability which have a great impact as crops are rain fed. The implications of findings of this study for the respective stakeholders such as government and local authorities is to improve the early warning weather and climate information systems for Masindi farmers. Further study should consider the development of crop weather models that can be used to forecast seasonal yield or expected yield for any given phenological stage of the crop. This can aid government and local authorities in the placement of contingency plans for Masindi District communities’ food security.