Soil cores were taken to estimate root length prior to transplanting and after 60 days growth of a dry season sorghum crop in an agroforestry experiment in a semi-arid region of north-east Nigeria. The experiment compared sorghum grown alone and with two tree species (Acacia nilotica subsp adstringens and Prosopis juliflora) and one management treatment (pruning of tree crowns). Data on soil water content were collected from 6 days before and 20, 60 and 110 days after sorghum transplanting. The main findings were: (i) Per unit root length, A. nilotica had a more negative effect on sorghum above and below ground than P. juliflora. This appeared to be correlated with greater rates of water extraction from layers of soil shared with crop roots; (ii) Crown pruning substantially reduced the competitive effect of P. juliflora on crop yield but did not affect the impact of A. nilotica on intercropped sorghum. Since the impact of pruning on tree-crop competition varies with species, tree species selection and management will be a key factor in determining the feasibility of dryland agroforestry systems.