Rains expected, moisture stress hit crops 

Source: Rains expected, moisture stress hit crops | The Herald

Rains expected, moisture stress hit cropsfile picture

Elita Chikwati

Senior Agriculture Reporter

Rains are expected in southern Zimbabwe from today up to Wednesday, the Meteorological Services Department said yesterday.

Farmers are concerned that the prolonged dry spell after the wet spell of season-opening showers is beginning to take a toll on their crops.

The Meteorological Department said although the volume of rain could be low, enough could fall to at least sustain some crops.

Farmers who planted with the early rains are worried about the condition of their crops, which are now showing signs of wilting due to persistent high temperatures and no rain.

The bulk of dryland crops planted early have begun showing signs of moisture stress while in some areas the early crop is now a write-off and farmers will have to replant. Generally replanting only requires extra seed since most of the fertiliser is still in the soil.

The Met Department before the season started gave a forecast of normal-to-above-normal rains during October, November and December.

But the forecast was for volumes, not distribution, and even good years in recent seasons have seen later than average starts and earlier finishes to the rains, and dry spells have always been a problem for non-irrigation farmers.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe said the situation was bad for farmers without irrigation facilities.

“If we do not get rains in the next few days, the early crops will be a write-off,” he said

But the condition of livestock was good owing to those same rains that opened the season in most parts of the country, which resuscitated pastures.

“There is an improvement in the grazing condition with the rains received in parts of the country. Water is readily available for livestock,” he said.

Among the smallholders, the dry spell is likely to be less damaging as most did not take any chances. Zimbabwe Farmers Union secretary general Mr Paul Zakariya said the number of farmers who had planted with early rains was small.

“About 2 percent to 3 percent of the land prepared had been planted. Some farmers had planted with basal fertiliser and that’s a loss.

“The high temperatures have affected the germinated crop. Those with irrigation are watering their crops. The situation is worse for those without irrigation as they do not will have enough moisture to sustain germination and support plant growth,” he said.

Mr Zakariya urged farmers to wait for effective rains so they can plant with less risk.

He urged farmers to intensify land preparations and mobilise inputs, adding that authorities supporting farmers with inputs should use this window of dry weather to distribute inputs to farmers.

On livestock, Mr Zakariya said the livestock condition was good compared to the same period last year, with water and pastures available in most parts of the country, although  some areas were beginning to experience shocks.

Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Association Trust, Mrs Depinah Nkomo said: “Planting has been affected. Some crops failed to germinate properly and there is need for gap filling.

“I had planted five hectares with basal fertiliser and will have to replant. This has increased production costs.”

Met Department agro-meteorologist Mr Benjamin Kwenda said apart from this week, some rains were expected from December 12, and could be high in volumes in some places.

“We are still on course on the normal to above normal rainfall that was forecasted for October to December. At the end of December, we will do an analysis and we will be able to tell whether it will be normal to above normal,” said Mr Kwenda.