Farmers planted different crops on over 3,4 million hectares in the 2020/2021 agricultural season, driven by a good rainfall forecast, early distribution of inputs and capacitation of extension workers.
This represents a 23 percent increase in the area under crops, from the 2,8 million hectares planted by farmers last season.
Presenting the 2020/2021 First Round Crop Assessment Report at Rattary Arnold Research Institute last week, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Permanent Secretary Dr John Basera, said the 2021 season was supported by a number of agricultural input support schemes, including the Presidential Input Scheme popularly known as Pfumvudza/Intwasa which catered for maize, sorghum, pearl millet, soya beans, sunflower, cowpeas and sugar beans.
Other farmers benefited from the Presidential Cotton Scheme, sesame programme, while stock owners received tick grease and pasture and legume seed programme under the Livestock Inputs Programme.
“Some farmers also benefited from the National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme (NEAPS) through CBZ Agro Yield, while private contractors also supported cotton and sesame growing,” said Dr Basera.
He said planting of most crops started with the onset of rains and some farmers who had planted mid-October in response to a false start of the season had to replant after the crops were affected by moisture stress.
Planting of edible beans, cowpeas and sweet potatoes is in progress owing to continuous rains being received across the country, hence the bulk of these crops are in the early vegetative stage.
Farmers planted 3 476 438 hectares of crops compared to 2 822 012 hectares last season.
Most crops registered an increase in hectarage except for finger millet, rice and cassava.
Maize hectarage increased from 1,5 million last season to 1,9 million this season, while sorghum increased from 305 865 ha to 350 468ha.
Pearl millet increased to 209 754ha from last year’s 166 429ha, while tobacco rose from 117 049ha to 125 177ha.
Cotton hectarage also increased from 170 622ha to 239 619ha, while groundnuts increased from 208 229ha to 249 190ha.
Area planted under sweet potatoes rose from 20 537 to 41 436ha this season.
Dr Basera said the fall armyworm attack on maize and other cereal crops remained a major challenge during the season. The pest affected all provinces and control was hampered by high costs of chemicals.
Dr Basera said the fall armyworm infestation levels were less than the previous season due to improved rainfall distribution as well as management practices.
There were incidences of grasshopper infestations in Chiredzi, Mwenezi, Gokwe South and Lupane.
“Weed pressure was high across all sectors and management was a major challenge due to incessant rainfall and poor use of herbicides,” said Dr Basera.