In the Sahel, poor soil quality and rainfall levels have a great influence on pasture production and hence on secondary output. In areas where rainfall is the limiting factor for primary production, recovery of primary and secondary production after the dry season depends on soil type. On sandy soils a large fraction of rainfall infiltrates and becomes available for plant growth, stimulating fast herbage growth, while on clayey and loamy soils low infiltration rates generate runoff, leading to slower herbage growth rates. The very different moisture retention characteristic of sands and clays is another possible cause for the observed differences in growth rates. In this paper we investigate the herbage growth rate from the onset of the rainy season. We hypothesise that, in areas where rainfall is the limiting factor for primary production, the vegetation growth rate on clayey soils is lower than that on sandy soils. We will test this hypothesis using long-term rainfall, soil types and satellite derived normalised difference vegetation index data. This research shows that the growth rates on sandy soil are significantly greater than that on clayey soils during the early part of the rainy season. We also show that these differences can be detected at large scales using satellite imagery. We also conclude that, at this scale, movement strategies of pastoralists would be intrinsically linked to not only rainfall patterns and distribution, but also to the underlying soil types in the region as this affects the quality and quantity of fodder available.
- herbage growth
- normalised difference vegetation index
- remote sensing
- semi-arid grazing systems
- soil hydrology