Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
More than 346 000 hectares of land have so far been put under cropping with experts advising farmers to speed up the process as there are projections of early cessation of the rains.
Rains are expected to end around March. Farmers have also been advised to grow short season varieties of maize cotton and sorghum and late season crops such as cowpeas, sugarbeans and sunflower.
Agritex Director Mr Stancilae Tapererewa yesterday said by December 17, farmers had planted 290 277ha of maize, 18 920ha cotton, 16392 pearl millet and 14 916ha sorghum.
Agritex, chief agronomist, Mrs Rutendo Nhongonhema advised farmers to plant and re-plant with speed, apply top dressing fertiliser in small amounts and also to scout for pests especially the fall armyworm.
“The northern parts of the country experienced a late start for the season, while in the southern parts of the country though had an early start, this was, however followed by a long dry spell.
“As a result of this, farmers in the northern provinces, are just starting to plant now, while those in the southern parts of the country are re-planting because there was poor germination.
“We are encouraging farmers to go for shorter season varieties of crops such as sorghum, maize and even cotton. They have to wrap up planting now and speed it up to catch with the times. Farmers are also encouraged to grow crops which are late season crops like sugarbeans sunflower and cowpeas,” she said.
Mrs Nhongonhema said mulching was critical for Pfumvudza crops to conserve moisture.
“Robust scouting for pest especially fall armyworm is a must for all farmers as caterpillar build up is at its peak, from mid- December up to end of January. These coupled with the late start of the season also means the crop is tender is susceptible to attack,” she said.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union director, Paul Zakariya, however said the irrigated maize, soya bean and tobacco crops are in good condition.
“For the dry land cropping the crop planted with rains received in November could not germinate and emerge well and some farmers are re-planting now which is an unfortunate situation. The situation was common in the traditionally drier areas like UMP, Zambezi Valley, and Matabeleland region.
“With the rains received in December, planting is in full swing for the dry land cropping and we hope that the country will receive more rains to sustain crop growth,” he said.
Mr Zakariya said the first rains were also associated with hail storm with damages with reports coming tobacco growing areas like Marondera were the irrigated tobacco crop was destroyed.
“Farmers are encouraged to adopt climate smart agricultural practices like investing in irrigation systems, adopting low cost technologies like conservation agriculture, selecting planting early maturing varieties for the rain-fed crop and investing insurance products,” he said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Dr Shadreck Makombe said he was happy rains had come but also complained that there was waterlogging in some areas.
“We are happy that rains have started falling but there is now waterlogging because the rains have become excessive and incessant. Farmers cannot work in their fields again. Machinery cannot be operated in water-logged soils.
“Farmers are applying top dressing fertiliser. For now, the condition of crops is a mixed bag, we will see it going forward.
“We are encouraging farmers to go for short season varieties because by March there will be no rains. As for the livestock pastures are good and condition of livestock is improving.
“We are encouraging farmers to take care of their livestock as diseases are many during the rainy season,” he said.