BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
FARMERS have raised alarm over excessive rains which have been pounding the country for the past weeks, resulting in flooding and leaching affecting the crops.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Shadreck Makombe told NewsDay Business that the rains had become counterproductive as farmers continued to make losses by applying fertilisers, which continuously get washed away by rain.
“Too much rain comes with a cost to farmers. Where farmers were supposed to apply top dressing once, they are forced to apply twice or more as fertiliser gets washed away or soaked by rain. Rain has become counterproductive,” Makombe said.
“Nutrients are being washed away in areas where there is waterlogging and this is affecting crops. Generally, all crops are being affected. Application of fertiliser is being done more than twice and few farmers can afford that.”
Zimbabwe’s economy is predominantly agro-based and authorities have predicted agriculture growth of 11,3% this year from a contraction of 0,2% in 2020.
Based on a rebound in agriculture, economic growth is expected to spring back in 2021 from a consecutive two-year slump to record 7,4%.
While the summer cropping season started well, the incessant rains are now a threat to a bumper season.
The rains are beginning to affect mostly maize, tobacco, beans, among other summer crops.
The country requires 2,3 million tonnes of maize and 450 000 tonnes for livestock consumption annually.
Through the 2021 National Budget, government’s total support to agriculture amounts to $46,3 billion.
Makombe said tobacco was being affected at a stage some of it was ripening and ready for harvest, adding that in some areas, sugar bean flowers were being blown away by too much wind.
He said conducting crop assessment at the moment might not provide the actual expected yield output.
“Areas where there was no leaching and flooding two weeks ago may be affected latter, so undertaking crop assessment may not actually produce the exact results,” Makombe said.
Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe president George Seremwe said too much rain could compromise the tobacco crop yield.
“The rains are affecting yield. (The crop is) ripening fast, compromising space for curing. It’s not good. Quality will be compromised due to fertilizer management,” he said.
Agricultural economist Midway Bhunu said it was imperative that farmers were kept informed about rainfall patterns.
“Excess rains cause leaching of nutrients meant to feed the crops and this increases the costs of inputs per cycle, some crops are prone to waterlogging and this affects their growth cycle in excessive rain seasons. Another challenge is pest control. Armyworm and migratory locusts are common in seasons like this one,” Bhunu said.
“However, we do not have much control over the rains so farmers need to be alert on the amount of rainfall expected in their areas. The relevant departments should do all they can to keep farmers abreast of the weather.”
He added that application of fertilizer, especially top dressing should be done as a split application to minimise leaching.