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Investigating possible impact of climate change on sugarcane production in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development in 2010 undertook to investigate the vulnerability of KwaZulu-Natal to climate change which identified various sectors of the economy in the region that are impacted by climate change. The aim of the current study was to investigate the possible impact of climate change on sugarcane production in KwaZulu-Natal. The main objective of the study was to identify and synthesize current knowledge, scientific literature and data relating to specific aspects of climate change in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In order to achieve the objectives of the study, a questionnaire was developed to ascertain sugarcane farmers’ awareness about climate change. Based on questionnaire data, the study reveals that sugarcane farmers are aware of the effect of climate change on sugarcane production. Cane growers are also aware of their activities that contribute to climate change. Climatological data for the region were collected and analyzed through the Decision Support System Agro-tech Transfer (DSSAT) daily crop model to assess possible climate change impacts on sugarcane production. Daily rainfall, solar radiation, wind-speed, air temperature (minimum and maximum) and dew point temperature data for various sugarcane mill supply areas were collected from the South African Sugar Research Institute. RClimDex (1.0) software was used to determine if climate change did occur for the period 1966 to 2016. The climate data sets were positive to climate change with respect to daily maximum air temperature, daily minimum air temperature, daily rainfall, daily dew point temperature and daily solar radiation. The impact of climate change on sugarcane production in KwaZulu-Natal has been recognized as the main cause for yield reduction. No major decline in sugarcane production has been noted in KwaZulu-Natal for those farmers practicing irrigation and improved management. The study also demonstrates an increase in the amount of trash on sugarcane in the latter years of the study period. In general, the approach presented in this study encompassed and assessed the effect of climate change on sugarcane production with inclusion farmers perception can be considered as a strategic issue on existing climate change concern in KwaZulu-Natal province. Further research about what measures have been implemented by other countries in addressing climate change is recommended.


Master of Science in Agrometeorology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2016.


Sugarcane - climate factors., Theses - Agrometeorology.