Expect normal but late rains: Met

HARARE - Zimbabwe is set to receive normal rains in the 2017/18 season, but they will be falling late, the Meteorological Services Department (Met) has predicted.

The rainfall patterns are divided into two sub-seasons — October to December 2017 and January to March 2018.

“Using statistical, other climate prediction schemes and expert interpretation, the climate scientists determined likelihoods of above normal, and below normal rainfall for each area, that is, October-November-December (OND) and January-February-March,” said Met’s Zimbabwe National Outlook Forum in a report.

“Region one; Harare, much of Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, north-eastern parts of Midlands, most of Manicaland have an increased chance of above normal rainfall,” the report said.

“Region two, which includes the greater part of Matabeleland North, parts of Midlands and parts of Mashonaland West have an increased chance of normal to below normal rainfall. Region three, Masvingo, the bulk of Midlands, the extreme southern parts of Manicaland and the bulk of Matabeleland have an increased chance of normal to below normal rainfall.”

“October rains are generally erratic for rain-fed agriculture, more meaningful rains should begin in November. It would be prudent to put in place measures for early cloud seeding programme in light of expected slow start of the season particularly in regions two and three,” it read.

“Flash flood and cyclones are likely as the season progresses,” the report warned.

“The seasonal rainfall predictions will be updates on a monthly basis beginning end of October. In addition there will be daily weather and 10-day weather bulletins that will take into account any changes. It is commendable that agricultural inputs have already been distributed to most regions.”

Agricultural economist and consultant Peter Gambara said farmers should plant early to improve their yields.

“A big lesson is that maize planting should start early for several reasons. Firstly, long season maize varieties that were distributed last season have yield potentials of up to 16 tonnes per hectare. Many farmers contracted last season can dream of getting anywhere near such yields if they start planting as early as October. Secondly, it was difficult for most farmers who planted long season maize varieties to harvest on time and then plant winter wheat as maize moisture content was still high,” Gambara said in an opinion published in one local weekly newspaper.

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