Water stress has been considered to be the primary constraint to yield in water-limited arid and semi-arid
environments. This paper describes the characterisation of the rainfall season using relative transpiration (Trel) of
a maize crop at 13 climate stations in Zimbabwe. A soil water balance model was used to simulate relative crop
transpiration for a maize crop over the duration of each rainfall season to assess its quality (severity of intraseasonal dry spells). The Trel and length of growing period (LGP) were subjected to frequency analyses and the
results were interpolated (kriging) to form a GIS library of expected events in normal, wet and dry years. The normal LGP (50% PE) varied across the stations, with a range of 75 days, exposing opportunities for objective management of variety selection to match crop growth cycles to expected LGP. The time series of Trel showed the time variation of quality of the season with periods of high Trel identifying the high quality parts of the rainfall season suitable for crop production. Soil depth influenced quality of the season, with deeper soils improving quality. A simple tool that can be used to indicate whether or not to grow maize varieties of particular length of growth cycle in a specified region for typical wet, normal or dry rainfall seasons was developed.