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A word from … Jerry Mthombothi

April 2022

Waterlogging is a condition in which the soil profile gets saturated with water either temporarily or permanently. It can reduce the agricultural and economic value of land, causing yield reductions or at times total crop failure. Waterlogging is also a drainage problem.

Many farmers in South Africa have suffered total crop failure because of the high rainfall we received during the past few months. It has caused the flooding of arable lands, the washing away of crops and has resulted in waterlogged soils. Soil erosion has occurred and as a result gully erosion has taken place on farms and some farmers were left with nothing to harvest.

Waterlogging is a big problem to maize producing farmers as it affects the growth and development of the maize plant. The maximum grain filling rate decreases. It lowers oxygen levels in the root zone which reduces plant growth. It also increases the reduction potential of the soil, changes the chemical equilibrium of many elements which then enters the soil water solution in their ionic form. This results in soil acidity which is a big problem. Waterlogging can impact cereal plant growth indirectly by affecting the availability of nitrogen in the soil.

Strategies to deal with waterlogging: 

  • Plant cover crops as they are an excellent way to use excess water.
  • A long-term strategy is to use a no-till method of planting that will improve the soil structure to help with drainage. There will be no soil compaction. 
  • Add organic material which will help with drainage. Aside from adding fertility, organic material is also great for breaking up heavy dense soils.
  • Subsoiling is lifting the soil without mixing it or turning it over. It may seem contrary to going no-till. It will leave soil structure intact and create air space in the soil which will greatly improve drainage.
  • Building a few raised beds can help you quickly create areas with good drainage. 

Publication: April 2022

Section: Pula/Imvula