Rainfed Farming Systems in the West Asia–North Africa (WANA) Region
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In dry, rainfed lands of the world crop yield potential is usually limited by both low rainfall and degraded soil, as well as social and economic constraints. Though the Mediterranean region is the site of the origin of modern agriculture, the Mediterranean climate, with its characteristic relatively cool, moist growing season followed by a hot, dry period, imposes severe limitations on agriculture. The rainfed cropping systems that have evolved in response to climate are also influenced by regional and global socio-economic forces, which contribute to increased land-use pressure. This chapter gives an overview of rainfed farming in the WANA lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea, the climatic environment that governs and the soil resources that sustain it. Emphasis is given to specific cropping systems, soil fertility and crop nutrition, water-use efficiency, cereal-based rotations in relation to cropping sustainability and to soil quality. While most of the studies cited are from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) based in the northern rainfed zone of Syria, the findings are generally applicable to the medium-range rainfall zone (300–500 mm/year) throughout the Mediterranean region. These studies also reflect the contributions of various national agricultural research systems and organisations that have cooperated with ICARDA especially in Morocco, Turkey and Pakistan. The chapter highlights some of the major changes that have impinged upon the region’s rainfed farming systems in the past few decades, with implications for the future of rainfed cropping sustainability in the Mediterranean region.