Late rains worry Mat farmers

BULAWAYO - Farmers in Matabeleland region have been gripped by fears of a poor harvest after the rains came late, agricultural officials have said.

Bulawayo experienced the first patchy rains in mid-November followed by a prolonged dry spell before a substantial downpour over the past fortnight.

Matabeleland Provincial Agricultural Extension Officer Dumisani Mbikwa told the Daily News yesterday that farmers in the region were jittery because they do not know what to expect this season.

“Farmers are anxious about expected harvests. The anxiety comes from the fact that the region started receiving rains in earnest a fortnight ago,” said Mbikwa.

“Some crops that were planted earlier had wilted and in some places there was poor crop germination, forcing farmers to replant.”

Mbikwa said farmers were currently not sure how long the wet spell would last or whether the crops would mature.

“Under normal circumstances, the November crop provides higher yields compared to December and January crops. The December and January crops are often affected by dry spells,” he added.

The seasonal forecast had earlier predicted higher chances of a normal to below normal rainy season.

Mbikwa also predicted an uncertain harvest compared to last season’s very good harvest.

“At this time last year, farmers had planted 20 000 hectares of maize and this year they are still 4 000 hectares short at 16 000 hectares under crop.”

Davison Masendeke, the Provincial Agronomist encouraged farmers to put more effort on moisture conservation techniques such as minimum soil disturbance, mulching and Stover.

“Farmers were very disturbed by the delay in the season. Most farmers’ plants did not germinate well. If farmers are going to fill the gap, they need to soak the seed they are going to use 24 hours prior to planting it,” Masendeke said.

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