Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Some 587 930 hectares have so far, been put under summer crops as farmers continue planting despite receiving below rains now formally defined as below normal by Agritex for this time of the year.
The latest weekly update shows that farmers have planted 377 517 hectares of maize with 95 136ha planted under Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme, 29 264ha under Command Agriculture and 256 666ha self-financed of financed by private contractors.
The update indicates that 64 367 ha of sorghum were planted compared to 75 334ha in the same period last year along with 35 940 hectares of pearl millet, 13 090ha of soya beans and 37 660ha of cotton.
Under Pfumvudza/ Intwasa, farmers planted 11 665 hectares of cotton while 25 995ha were funded by other contractors.
Tobacco growers have planted 57 796ha compared to 59 245ha by the same time last year while 1 560ha was put under sunflower.
Experts have advised farmers to speed up planting as there are projections that the rains will end early, 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 to boost their odds of a reasonable harvest.
Agritex director, Mr Stancilae Tapererwa said all Mashonaland provinces, Manicaland and the bulk of Matabeleland North had received below normal rains when compared with the long-term average to date.
“Midlands, Masvingo and most Matabeleland South provinces are in the normal category of their long-term average rainfall to date.
“Since the start of season the highest cumulative rainfall amounts have been recorded at Gweru with 375 mm, Kwekwe 280mm, West Nicholson 264mm, Harare Kutsaga 261mm and Nkayi 252mm.
“Low amounts have been recorded in Mashonaland Central where Chimhanda has recorded 46mm to date, Rushinga 45mm, Mt Darwin only 37mm, and Dotito 34mm,” he said.
Mr Tapererwa said evaporative rates were generally low owing to the cloudy conditions that prevailed during the week December 15 to 22.
“Isolated showers are expected in Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Bulawayo, Midlands and Masvingo throughout the week.
“For Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Manicaland provinces isolated showers expected from today (29 December) onwards,” he said.
Accumulated rainfall of 100mm or more is expected along the main highlands of the country.
Meanwhile, farmers are replanting and planting while those in areas that have received rains are already applying top dressing fertilisers.