‘Permanent Pfumvudza plots will reduce pests’

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

‘Permanent Pfumvudza plots will reduce pests’ 
Crop rotation will help pest and disease control in Pfumvudza plots

Tariro Stacey Gatsi

ON the backdrop of the growing list of climate change-inspired challenges requiring farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices, Government has encouraged farmers to have permanent Pfumvudza/Intwasa plots to reduce disease and pest infestations but practise effective crop rotations.

This follows a 100 percent increase in Pfumvudza/Intwasa plots from 5, 5 million last season to 12 million this year.

Pfumvudza was introduced by the Second Republic to address problems of low productivity and ensure that smallholder farmers can grow enough food for their households and have surplus.

In a statement, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary Professor Obert Jiri recently advocated the adoption of permanent Pfumvudza/Intwasa planting techniques that promote resilience to climatic shocks leading to food security.

“We advocate for the permanency of current Pfumvudza/Intwasa plots to ensure benefits of the conservation intervention facilitate easy tracking and opening up of investment opportunities. This allows the incremental benefit of soil and water conservation on the plot,” Prof Jiri said.

He said permanent plots also allowed for crop rotation among the cereal, legume and oilseed crops that each household must have, leading to reduced disease and pest infestations.

Pfumvudza/Intwasa is proving to be a powerful weapon in the fight against pests and diseases in agriculture while enhancing overall plant health by reducing pest populations.

“Crop rotation also promotes weed management. Weeds often act as hosts for pests and diseases, providing them with shelter and alternative food sources. Hence by rotating crops, farmers disrupt the weed life cycle and limit their spread,” said Prof Jiri.

The practice of crop rotation, mulching and minimum tillage boosts yields and increases resilience to climate change negative impacts.

He said the idea of zero-tillage was easily closing the gap for people without cattle, while conserving land and helping grow the national herd as it meant that cattle were no longer used much as draught power.

The practice seeks to conserve moisture and reduce soil losses through erosion. There is very little disturbance to the soil as only holing out is done.

“A key component to the concept is the covering of the plot with leaves or any dead plant material as mulch to avoid excessive moisture loss,” said Prof Jiri.

Prof Jiri said there had been a huge uptake of the programme and farmers had really adopted the concept. The country is targeting 500 000 beneficiaries in towns and three million in rural areas. About 400 000 hectares of Pfumvudza/Intwasa will lead to food security.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development chief agronomist Ms Rutendo Nhongonhema said a farmer needed to grow varieties that are both drought and disease tolerant, high yielding and with a high fertiliser use efficiency for the Pfumvudza/Intwasa concept to come to fruition.

“For household food security, emphasis should be placed on permanent plots for Pfumvudza/Intwasa with land preparations done on time with holes covered with mulch for effective moisture conservation.

“Pfumvudza/Intwasa thrives on the maintenance of organic mulch cover on the soil surface and involves the use of crop rotations and interactions that include legume crops,” said Ms Nhongonhema.

She said by embracing this holistic approach, farmers were not only increasing their resilience to pest and disease pressures but also contributing to more sustainable and productive agricultural systems in the face of evolving environmental challenges.