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<a href=Ecological Engineering 116 (2018) 1–6 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Ecological Engineering journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ecoleng Short communication A land use suitability model for rainfed farming by Multi-criteria Decision- making Analysis (MCDA) and Geographic Information System (GIS) Hossein Kazemi , Halil Akinci T Department of Agronomy, Faculty of Plant Production, Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (GUASNR), PO Box 49138-15739, Gorgan, Iran Department of Geomatics Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Artvin Coruh University, 08100 Artvin, Turkey ARTICLE INFO Keywords: Environmental variables Iran Land suitability Rainfed farming ABSTRACT This study was carried out to analyze the land use suitability of Golestan Province, located in the northeast of Iran, for rainfed farming performance using Geographic Information System (GIS) and Multi-criteria Decision- making Analysis (MCDA) in 2016. First, thematic maps of several environmental variables including soil, climate and topographic variables were obtained. After preparing the raster layers, the environmental requirements of rainfed farming were identi fi ed from a comprehensive literature review and asking local experts ’ opinions; then they were classi fi ed according to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) requirements. In the next step, AHP (Analytic Hierarchy Process)-acquired weights were assigned to the criteria. Then, digital layers were overlaid using Weighted Overlay Analysis (WOA) in ArcGIS. According to the results of land suitability analysis, development of rainfed farming is possible for up to 56 percent of the current land of Golestan Province (about 396,550.5 ha) in the southern and central areas as a long belt from east to west. The results showed that some climatic variables such as temperature, annual rainfall, and sunshine hours were not limiting factors for rainfed farming in this region. However, other environmental variables such as salinity, organic matter, soil erosion, soil texture classes, and the autumn, spring, May and June rainfalls were identi fi ed as limiting factors for rainfed farming performance in the northern and northeastern regions of Golestan Province. We also found that slope was a limiting cause in the southern part of this province. Generally, the use of speci fi c management practices such as increasing soil organic matter, saline reduction of lands, conservation tillage, and supplementary irri- gation canimprove the quality class of low capability lands to higher suitability classes and increase the quality of environmental resources. 1. Introduction Around the world, rainfall and temperature are the two main factors that in fl uence crop productivity in arid and semi-arid areas. In Iran, dryland farming areas are mostly limited by low and variable rainfall ( Nassiri et al., 2006 ). It is predicted that the plant growth period in Iran would decrease signi fi cantly and cereal production would decrease by 5 – 40% under rainfed agriculture by 2080 ( Rosenzweig and Parry, 1994 ). Therefore, agricultural land use planning is required to support sustainable agricultural production in Iran. In 1996 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) de fi ned land- use planning as the systematic assessment of land and water potential, land-use alternatives, and socio-economic conditions in order to adopt the best land-use options ( FAO, 1996 ). A prerequisite of land use planning is land suitability assessment ( Akinci et al., 2013 ). For this assessment, the most suitable land use type is determined through land Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: hkazemi@gau.ac.ir (H. Kazemi), hakinci@artvin.edu.tr (H. Akinci). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoleng.2018.02.021 suitability analyses that consider land properties and user needs ( Akbulak, 2010; Amiri and Shari ff , 2012 ). A land-use suitability ana- lysis for a particular use is a complex process that may include bio- physical, socio-economic, and technical aspects ( Silva et al., 2014 ). Basically, the determination of suitable land uses in each region for the optimum use of basic resources while preventing their destruction, can be an e ff ective step towards sustainable development ( Makhdoum, 2011 ) because, land use without the identi fi cation of di ff erences in ecological and environmental potentials leads to adverse results such as erosion, deserti fi cation, pollution and environmental degradation. The principal purpose of agriculture land suitability is to predict the po- tential and limitation of land for crop production ( Pan and Pan, 2012 ). There are two important aspects: fi rst, the potential suitability of the land for a speci fi c use, and, second, management practices that in- tegrate various factors such as agro-ecological aptitude, environmental impact, hydro-climate conditions, and socio-economic constraints Received 28 September 2017; Received in revised form 12 February 2018; Accepted 24 February 2018 0925-8574/ © 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. " id="pdf-obj-0-5" src="pdf-obj-0-5.jpg">

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Ecological Engineering

<a href=Ecological Engineering 116 (2018) 1–6 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Ecological Engineering journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ecoleng Short communication A land use suitability model for rainfed farming by Multi-criteria Decision- making Analysis (MCDA) and Geographic Information System (GIS) Hossein Kazemi , Halil Akinci T Department of Agronomy, Faculty of Plant Production, Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (GUASNR), PO Box 49138-15739, Gorgan, Iran Department of Geomatics Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Artvin Coruh University, 08100 Artvin, Turkey ARTICLE INFO Keywords: Environmental variables Iran Land suitability Rainfed farming ABSTRACT This study was carried out to analyze the land use suitability of Golestan Province, located in the northeast of Iran, for rainfed farming performance using Geographic Information System (GIS) and Multi-criteria Decision- making Analysis (MCDA) in 2016. First, thematic maps of several environmental variables including soil, climate and topographic variables were obtained. After preparing the raster layers, the environmental requirements of rainfed farming were identi fi ed from a comprehensive literature review and asking local experts ’ opinions; then they were classi fi ed according to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) requirements. In the next step, AHP (Analytic Hierarchy Process)-acquired weights were assigned to the criteria. Then, digital layers were overlaid using Weighted Overlay Analysis (WOA) in ArcGIS. According to the results of land suitability analysis, development of rainfed farming is possible for up to 56 percent of the current land of Golestan Province (about 396,550.5 ha) in the southern and central areas as a long belt from east to west. The results showed that some climatic variables such as temperature, annual rainfall, and sunshine hours were not limiting factors for rainfed farming in this region. However, other environmental variables such as salinity, organic matter, soil erosion, soil texture classes, and the autumn, spring, May and June rainfalls were identi fi ed as limiting factors for rainfed farming performance in the northern and northeastern regions of Golestan Province. We also found that slope was a limiting cause in the southern part of this province. Generally, the use of speci fi c management practices such as increasing soil organic matter, saline reduction of lands, conservation tillage, and supplementary irri- gation canimprove the quality class of low capability lands to higher suitability classes and increase the quality of environmental resources. 1. Introduction Around the world, rainfall and temperature are the two main factors that in fl uence crop productivity in arid and semi-arid areas. In Iran, dryland farming areas are mostly limited by low and variable rainfall ( Nassiri et al., 2006 ). It is predicted that the plant growth period in Iran would decrease signi fi cantly and cereal production would decrease by 5 – 40% under rainfed agriculture by 2080 ( Rosenzweig and Parry, 1994 ). Therefore, agricultural land use planning is required to support sustainable agricultural production in Iran. In 1996 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) de fi ned land- use planning as the systematic assessment of land and water potential, land-use alternatives, and socio-economic conditions in order to adopt the best land-use options ( FAO, 1996 ). A prerequisite of land use planning is land suitability assessment ( Akinci et al., 2013 ). For this assessment, the most suitable land use type is determined through land Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: hkazemi@gau.ac.ir (H. Kazemi), hakinci@artvin.edu.tr (H. Akinci). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoleng.2018.02.021 suitability analyses that consider land properties and user needs ( Akbulak, 2010; Amiri and Shari ff , 2012 ). A land-use suitability ana- lysis for a particular use is a complex process that may include bio- physical, socio-economic, and technical aspects ( Silva et al., 2014 ). Basically, the determination of suitable land uses in each region for the optimum use of basic resources while preventing their destruction, can be an e ff ective step towards sustainable development ( Makhdoum, 2011 ) because, land use without the identi fi cation of di ff erences in ecological and environmental potentials leads to adverse results such as erosion, deserti fi cation, pollution and environmental degradation. The principal purpose of agriculture land suitability is to predict the po- tential and limitation of land for crop production ( Pan and Pan, 2012 ). There are two important aspects: fi rst, the potential suitability of the land for a speci fi c use, and, second, management practices that in- tegrate various factors such as agro-ecological aptitude, environmental impact, hydro-climate conditions, and socio-economic constraints Received 28 September 2017; Received in revised form 12 February 2018; Accepted 24 February 2018 0925-8574/ © 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. " id="pdf-obj-0-16" src="pdf-obj-0-16.jpg">

Short communication

A land use suitability model for rainfed farming by Multi-criteria Decision- making Analysis (MCDA) and Geographic Information System (GIS)

Hossein Kazemi a , , Halil Akinci b

T
T

a Department of Agronomy, Faculty of Plant Production, Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (GUASNR), PO Box 49138-15739, Gorgan, Iran b Department of Geomatics Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Artvin Coruh University, 08100 Artvin, Turkey

ARTICLE INFO

Keywords:

Environmental variables

Iran

Land suitability

Rainfed farming

ABSTRACT

This study was carried out to analyze the land use suitability of Golestan Province, located in the northeast of Iran, for rainfed farming performance using Geographic Information System (GIS) and Multi-criteria Decision- making Analysis (MCDA) in 2016. First, thematic maps of several environmental variables including soil, climate and topographic variables were obtained. After preparing the raster layers, the environmental requirements of rainfed farming were identied from a comprehensive literature review and asking local expertsopinions; then they were classied according to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) requirements. In the next step, AHP (Analytic Hierarchy Process)-acquired weights were assigned to the criteria. Then, digital layers were overlaid using Weighted Overlay Analysis (WOA) in ArcGIS. According to the results of land suitability analysis, development of rainfed farming is possible for up to 56 percent of the current land of Golestan Province (about 396,550.5 ha) in the southern and central areas as a long belt from east to west. The results showed that some climatic variables such as temperature, annual rainfall, and sunshine hours were not limiting factors for rainfed farming in this region. However, other environmental variables such as salinity, organic matter, soil erosion, soil texture classes, and the autumn, spring, May and June rainfalls were identied as limiting factors for rainfed farming performance in the northern and northeastern regions of Golestan Province. We also found that slope was a limiting cause in the southern part of this province. Generally, the use of specic management practices such as increasing soil organic matter, saline reduction of lands, conservation tillage, and supplementary irri- gation canimprove the quality class of low capability lands to higher suitability classes and increase the quality of environmental resources.

1. Introduction

Around the world, rainfall and temperature are the two main factors that inuence crop productivity in arid and semi-arid areas. In Iran, dryland farming areas are mostly limited by low and variable rainfall (Nassiri et al., 2006). It is predicted that the plant growth period in Iran would decrease signicantly and cereal production would decrease by 540% under rainfed agriculture by 2080 (Rosenzweig and Parry, 1994). Therefore, agricultural land use planning is required to support sustainable agricultural production in Iran. In 1996 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) dened land- use planning as the systematic assessment of land and water potential, land-use alternatives, and socio-economic conditions in order to adopt the best land-use options (FAO, 1996). A prerequisite of land use planning is land suitability assessment (Akinci et al., 2013). For this assessment, the most suitable land use type is determined through land

Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: hkazemi@gau.ac.ir (H. Kazemi), hakinci@artvin.edu.tr (H. Akinci).

suitability analyses that consider land properties and user needs (Akbulak, 2010; Amiri and Shari, 2012). A land-use suitability ana- lysis for a particular use is a complex process that may include bio- physical, socio-economic, and technical aspects (Silva et al., 2014). Basically, the determination of suitable land uses in each region for the optimum use of basic resources while preventing their destruction, can be an eective step towards sustainable development (Makhdoum, 2011) because, land use without the identication of dierences in ecological and environmental potentials leads to adverse results such as erosion, desertication, pollution and environmental degradation. The principal purpose of agriculture land suitability is to predict the po- tential and limitation of land for crop production (Pan and Pan, 2012). There are two important aspects: rst, the potential suitability of the land for a specic use, and, second, management practices that in- tegrate various factors such as agro-ecological aptitude, environmental impact, hydro-climate conditions, and socio-economic constraints

Received 28 September 2017; Received in revised form 12 February 2018; Accepted 24 February 2018

0925-8574/ © 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

H. Kazemi, H. Akinci

Ecological Engineering 116 (2018) 1–6

(Zabihiet al., 2015). Agricultural land suitability analysis requires an ecient decision support system to analyze and interpret the related ecological, en- vironmental and spatial information. GIS and spatial analysis tools and techniques are combined with Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) methods for delivering a better spatial decision by integrating multiple criteria from various spatial data sources. GIS-based MCDA (GIS- MCDA) is a class of spatial decision support systems (SDSS), also de- ned as an interactive, computer-based system, designed to help deci- sion makers achieve higher eectiveness while solving a spatial deci- sion problem (Malczewski, 2006; Yalew et al., 2016). GIS-based MCDA is commonly used in agricultural land suitability analyses. For example, a web-based framework (AgriSuit) that in- tegrates various global data from dierent sources for multi-criteria based agricultural land suitability assessment based on the Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform was developed and presented by Yalew et al. (2016). In another study, a GIS-based method was used by Liu et al. (2006) to assess land suitability in the Qinling Mountains, Shaanxi Province of China through simultaneous consideration of physical fea- tures and current land use. Based on the principals of hierarchy analysis and fuzzy mathematics, and the technique of GIS, a comprehensive evaluation of tobacco ecology suitability was carried out by Chenet al. (2010) in the Henan, China, tobacco planting regions. In Iran, Kazemi et al. (2016) and Maleki et al. (2017) developed a land evaluation model for faba bean and saron cultivation, respectively, using GIS and MCDA in Golestan Province. One of the most important areas for crop production in Iran is Golestan Province. According to statistical information, the cropping areas of this province were 699,135 ha in 2013, and about 364,300 and 334,834 ha were allocated to irrigated and dryland farming systems, respectively. Based on that, the cultivated areas of cereal were 507,510 ha, and of that, about 228,525 ha were under irrigation crop- ping and 278,985 ha were cultivated under rainfed farming, especially wheat and barley (Jihad-e-Agricultural Organization of Golestan Province, 2013). In consideration of an extensive rainfed farming area in Golestan Province, there are variations in the crop yields of rainfed farming in some years and some areas of this province because the agroecological potential of this region was not identied in terms of rainfed farming performance according to the characteristics and en- vironmental variables. The objective of the present study is a land suitability analysis for rainfed farming in GIS by the evaluation of en- vironmental variables using MCDA in the agricultural lands of Golestan Province. Accordingly, farmers can improve their production in this district. In addition, this research provides information at a local level that can use by farmers to select cropping patterns in accordance with suitability analysis.

2. Material and methods

2.1. Study area

This study concentrated on the main rainfed areas of crops pro- duction in GolestanProvince, in the northeast of Iran (Fig. 1). The total study area covers approximately 20,033 km 2 . The area coordinates ranges from 36° 44and 38° 5N latitudes and 53° 51and 56° 14E longitudes. The eastern extension of the Alborz Mountains Range sur- rounds the coastal plains of the Caspian Sea as a long, high wall, thus, all over the province, the land slope decreases from the southern and eastern mountains towards sea. According to DeMartonnes advanced climate classication system, the province contains ve dierent cli- mates: semi-arid on the coast, center and northeast; Mediterranean in the center; humid in the sub-south; semi humid in the south; and arid- desert in the north (Kazemi et al.2015). Wheat, barley, soybean, rice, cotton, canola, and legumes are the major crops grown in this province.

  • 2.2. Data collection and analysis

To determine the land in the study area that is suitable for rainfed farming, some soil parameters, climatic data, topographic data, and land use/land cover data were used. The parameters used within the scope of the study are explained in detail in the following subdivisions. The land use/land cover data and the political boundary map of the study area were obtainedfrom the GolestanProvince government. The land use/land cover data of the province was used to extract layers of the nonplanting regions, including bare lands, industrial and re- sidential areas, water bodies, and impervious lands. Therefore, the nal layer included agricultural land use. This layer is presented in Fig. 1. The properties of soil samples including organic matter, pH, EC, and texture classes and also erosion risk map were obtained from the agricultural and natural resources research center of Golestan Province. Soil samples were randomly taken from 700 locations in May 2010. Samples were taken at depths of 030 cm and air-dried to remove stones and coarse crop residues. In this research, the spatial distribution of soil characteristics on the agricultural lands of the province were evaluated using dierent geostatistical and interpolation methods. Also, the erosion map was scanned and converted to a ESRI Shapele format by georeferencing and editing tools in ArcGIS software. The meteorological data were from the state meteorological orga- nization, including the temperature, rainfall, and sunshine hours of 19952016 in 75 meteorological stations of Golestan Province (Fig. 1). In this study, three interpolation methods including ordinary Kriging, inverse distance weighted, and radial basis functions were involved in providing the raster-based spatial distribution of climatic parameters. In this study, annual, spring, autumn, November, December, May and June rainfalls; maximum, minimum, and mean annual temperatures; optimum temperatures for germination, heading and grain lling stages; and sunshine hours were considered as climatic factors aecting rainfed land suitability. Some layers of the climatic parameters for the study area are presented in Fig. 2. The digital elevation model (DEM) dataset with a 90 × 90 m re- solution of the study area was obtainedfrom the agricultural and nat- ural resources research center of Golestan Province. Also, some topo- graphic layers such as slope and elevation were generated from the DEM by surface analysis functions in ArcGIS 10.3 software.

  • 2.3. Multi-criteria Decision-making Analysis (MCDA)

The AHP, which was developed by Saaty (1980), is a multi-criteria decision-making approach where factors are arranged in hierarchical structure. As stated by Tuzmen and Sipahi (2011), AHP is very suitable to solve problems where the decision criteria can be organized in a hierarchical way into sub-criteria. In this study, we have dealt with the problem in a hierarchical structure consisting of the objective, criteria and alternativetriple. The objective was a rainfed land use suitability analysis in Golestan Province, and the criteria included climatic, soil, and topographic properties. As requirement of the AHP, the criteria used in this study are independent of the alternatives. According to the Saaty and Özdemir (2005), many decision problems cannot be struc- tured hierarchically because they involve the interaction and depen- dence of higher level elements in a hierarchy on lower level elements. In our study, there is no interaction and dependence between the higher level and lower level elements in the hierarchy. On the other hand, in accordance with the nature of the problem, the interdependence be- tween some sub-criteria have been ignored. For example, inter- dependence between rainfall and temperature can be important to ac- curate analysis and simulation of the joint distribution of rainfall and temperature (Cong and Brady, 2012) but not for agricultural land suitability assessment. Because, rainfall and temperature are important climatic parameters for agricultural production and are critical de- terminants for crop yield, especially in the context of rainfed farming. Similarly, parameters like erosion and slope are independent variables

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H. Kazemi, H. Akinci Ecological Engineering 116 (2018) 1–6 Fig. 1. Locations of Golestan Province(green area)

Fig. 1. Locations of Golestan Province(green area) in Iran, meteorological stations and studied agricultural lands in Golestan Province.

H. Kazemi, H. Akinci Ecological Engineering 116 (2018) 1–6 Fig. 1. Locations of Golestan Province(green area)

Fig. 2. Two layers of the study area in Golestan province, Iran a: autumn rainfall, b: spring rainfall.

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Ecological Engineering 116 (2018) 1–6

because the relationship between erosion and slope depends on the vegetation cover. Even if the slope degree is high, the erosion level will be low if there is vegetation in the eld. Therefore, it is preferred to use the AHP method in this study because the problem to be solved in the study is handled with hierarchical structure instead of network struc- ture, and there are no dependencies between the criteria used in the study. Solving a problem using AHP is carried out using the weights or priorities of the criteria subjected to pairwise comparison (Akinci et al., 2013). Weights or priorities are determined by normalizing the pair- wise comparison matrix in Expert Choice software (ver. 2001). In this research, 25 local experts in Golestan Province have used their ex- perience to generate weights for rainfed land suitability. The factors were ranked according to Saaty (1980) underlying scale with values one to nine by discussion with local specialists. The parameter that is used to check the accuracy of the comparisons is called the Consistency Ratio (CR). This ratio is a measure of low variation allowed and must be < 10% (Saaty, 1980; Duc, 2006).

  • 2.4. Model description: Rainfed land use suitability

In order to determine rainfed land suitability, a model was con- structed to match the environmental requirements of rainfed farming with the land characteristics of Golestan Province. First, the environ- mental requirements for rainfed farming were identied from a com- prehensive literature review and asking local expertsopinions, and then they were classied according to FAO. In ArcGIS software, all the spatial data were converted into raster layers with90 m resolution and georeferred to the UTM (WGS-84) coordinate system. In the next step, AHP-acquired weights were assigned to the criteria. Then, parameter weights and sub-parameter scores were appointed to the related layers in the ArcGIS, and raster maps of 21 parameters were overlaid using Weighted Overlay Analysis (WOA) in raster calculator tools. Finally, a rainfed land suitability map was generated and divided into ve classes of equal ranges according to the land suitability classication of FAO (1976) including highly suitable (S1), moderately suitable (S2), mar- ginally suitable (S3), currently unsuitable (NS1), and permanently un- suitable (NS2).

3. Results and discussion

  • 3.1. AHP results

The results of AHP analysis demonstrate that climate conditions play a major role in rainfed farming expansion. According to expertsopinions, a higher weight was assigned to rainfall than to other climatic sub-criteria. Also, among the rainfall criteria, May rainfall (0.273) and annual rainfall (0.056) had the highest and lowest weight, respectively. In this regard, Srinivasarao, et al. (2013) reported that amount and distribution of rainfall during critical growth stages was more im- portant to agronomic yield than total and seasonal rainfall. It should be noted that among the soil criteria, EC (0.387) and organic matter (0.241) play major roles in the delineation of suitable areas for rainfed farming. Based on the results, nal weights of 0.144 and 0.099 were assigned to temperature and sunshine hours respectively in relation to rainfed farming. Among the temperature criteria, optimum temperature for the germination stage (0.301) and mean temperature (0.061) had the highest and lowest weight, respectively.

  • 3.2. Land suitability

Suitable regions for rainfed farming were identied based on major environmental factors, and an optimum suitability map was obtained by overlaying 21 raster layers. Fig. 3 presents the nal map of land suitability in Golestan Province. It was determined that, while 13.88% of the study area is permanently unsuitable for agricultural production, 18.23% is currently unsuitable, 12.68% is marginally suitable, 20.96%

is moderately suitable, and 34.25% is highly suitable (Table 1). This map will be of value for future rainfed farming planning decisions and could lead to reduction in rainfed farming expansion into high-risk zones. The classes of rainfed land suitability are explained in detail in the following subdivisions.

  • 3.2.1. Highly suitable zone (S1)

The highly suitable zone involved all the southern areas of Golestan Province(Fig. 3). These areas had suitable properties such as low slope and elevation; sucient rates of annual, seasonal and monthly rainfalls; and optimum temperatures in the phenological stages of crops under rainfed farming. Also, this class had low EC and high organic matter. According to the recorded data, sunshine hours in this area are not restrictive for cereal autumn crops. Also, results showed that there was no soil erosion risk in thiszone. The rainfed land suitability model performance indicated that 34.25 percent of the surveyed area was located in zone S1 (246,008.54 ha). This area can have a high potential production (80100 percent) for rainfed farming (Ghafari, et al., 2000).

  • 3.2.2. Moderately suitable (S2) zone

Moderately suitable regions were identied as sites that are mod- erate advantageous for the performance of rainfed farming. These areas covered an area of 150,542 ha, which represented 20.96% of the total evaluated area (Table 1). Basically, moderately suitable zone is dened by annual rainfall of 250300 mm, elevation levels between 1000and 2000 m, slope 48%, soil pH range of5.56.5 and 88.5, EC 4-8dS m 1 , and organic matter range of 23%. It was found that the moderately suitable class (S2) was located from west to east and in southeast Go- lestan Province (Fig. 3). Our results, based on long-term climate data, showed that rainfed farming of cereal crops are not faced by limiting temperatures during the growing season.

  • 3.2.3. Marginally suitable (S3) zone

This class was identied as the boundary between suitable zones and unsuitable zones (Fig. 3). This marginal class consisted of a 91,089.71 ha area that covered about 12.68% of the studied area (Table 3). These regions were characterized by slope 812 percent, elevation 3002000 m, annual rainfall 250200 mm, autumn rainfall 8060 mm, spring rainfall 10080 mm, EC8-12 dS m 1 , and moderate soil erosion risk. In these areas, the cultivation of rainfed wheat will face high risk such as drought and salinity, but some cereal crops such as barley and hull-less barley are recommended because of the high resistance of these crops to dry conditions and a low quality of en- vironmental resources. In general, agronomical management plays an important role in increasing or reducing the quality and quantity of this class to other classes. By applying management methods such as soil salinity improvement and the increasing of soil fertility in this area, barley production can play an outstanding role in improving this class to a higher class.

  • 3.2.4. Currently unsuitable (NS1) and permanently unsuitable (NS2) zones

The north and northwest areas, as well as parts of the northeast of Golestan Province, were identied as a currently unsuitable (NS1) class (Fig. 3). In these areas, dryland farming is not possible with the current state of the environmental resources. Crop production in the dryland farming areas of the northern regions is constrained by low and variable rainfall. The results showed that some climatic variables such as annual rainfall < 200 mm, autumn rainfall < 60 mm, and spring rainfall < 80 mm were limiting factors in these regions. From a climatic view- point, rainfall and temperature are two main factors that inuence crop productivity in arid and semi-arid areas, and these two variables are the principal weather variables that determine the variability of crop yield in Iran. The variability in these variables under rainfed farming was studied by Nassiri et al. (2006), Wang et al. (2015), and Kheiri et al. (2017). Nassiri et al. (2006) predicted the impact of climate change on

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H. Kazemi, H. Akinci Ecological Engineering 116 (2018) 1–6 Fig. 3. Land suitability map for rainfed

Fig. 3. Land suitability map for rainfed farming in Golestan Province, Iran.

Table 1

The distribution of land suitability degree for rainfed farming in Golestan Province, Iran.

Suitability degree

Area (ha)

Zone area/total agricultural lands area (%)

Highly suitable (S1)

246008.54

34.25

Moderately suitable (S2)

150542.00

20.96

Marginally suitable (S3)

91089.71

12.68

Currently unsuitable (NS1)

130956.94

18.23

Permanently unsuitable

99724.55

13.88

(NS2)

rainfed wheat production in Iran. Their results showed that average yield reductions will be 18 and 24% for 2025 and 2050, respectively. These yield reductions are related to a rainfall decit (8.317.7%) and a shortening of the wheat growth period (836 day). In other research in Golestan Province, it was determined that the lack of suitable rain, soil salinity, some soil physics properties, and poor soil fertility were the most serious problems inuencing yield and quality of wheat (Kazemi et al. 2015). In the permanently unsuitable (NS2) zone, variables such as slope; salinity; organic matter; soil erosion; soil texture classes; and the au- tumn, spring, May, and June rainfalls were identied as limiting factors for rainfed farming performance in the northern and northeastern re- gions of Golestan Province. From a geomorphological viewpoint, slope in Golestan Province varies, decreasing from the south to the north. Slope plays a signicant role in the land degradation phenomenon that aects the Golestan Province. The results revealed that in the east and southeast parts of Golestan, soil erosion acts as a limiting factor for the cultivation of rainfed crops. Generally, erosion is a problem that pro- duces an important impact on the landscape, especially in agricultural areas (Silva et al., 2014). According to Akinci et al. (2013) and Akinci et al. (2017), the main limiting features for agricultural production in

the Artvin City in Turkey were the high degree of erosion, inadequate soil depth, and high slope. From a soil properties viewpoint, low organic matter content is a major challenge in the north and northeast of Golestan Province. Basically, amain challenge for farmers and researchers in Iran is to sustain a sustainable farming system for the long term, which requires the continued addition of organic matter. Various studies around the world have shown that cropping systems, fertilization, the addition of farmyard manure, integrated nutrient management practices, and per- ennial grass-legume pastures are eective in increasing soil quality, particularly organic matter (Van-Eekeren et al., 2008, Bellet al., 2012, Nasrollahi et al., 2017).

4. Conclusion

This study provided useful information that can be used as a deci- sion support tool in quantifying the implication of management policies in Golestan Province and other similar regions. According to the results of our land suitability analysis model, the development of rainfed farming is possible up to 56 percent of the current land of Golestan Province in the southern and central areas as a long belt from east to west. However, about 33 percent of the lands in northern and north- eastern areas of the province had environmental restrictions such as organic matter, salinity, soil texture, the autumn, spring, May and June rainfalls that made the rainfed farming of autumn cereals impossible. The use of specic management practices such as increasing soil or- ganic matter by farmyard manure, mulching, green manure and cover crops cultivation, saline reduce of lands, applying methods of con- servation tillage and supplementary irrigation can improve the quality class of low capability lands to higher suitability classes and increase the quality of environmental resources. Therefore, determination of overall land suitability for a particular agricultural land use requires consideration of many criteria. Thus, we recommend similar studies

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using other parameters such as soil macro and micro elements, drainage situation and soil hydrological groups.

Acknowledgment

This study has been supported by the grant approval of the Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (GUASNR),Iran and the authors would like to appreciate it.

References

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