Crop condition fair, say experts

11 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
Crop condition fair, say experts

Theseus Shambare

A COMPREHENSIVE report on findings of the first round Crop, Livestock and Fisheries Assessment, which was concluded yesterday, will be tabled before Cabinet soon, with early indications that crops are generally in “fair” condition countrywide.

However, farmers are worried by the current prolonged dry spell.

Agricultural extension officers conducted a data collection exercise on randomly sampled farms in 1 600 wards over 26 days.

They used internet-connected mobile tablets to transmit the information to the command centre in Harare.

The assessment, which is designed to provide early information on the season’s progress in relation to national agricultural and food security targets, was on crop health and livestock conditions, as well as fish-pond and dam productivity.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development acting chief director for Agricultural Advisory and Rural Development Services (AARDS) Mr Leonard Munamati said: “Yes, the assessment was completed. We will release the report of our findings as soon as the due process is complete and submitted to the Cabinet.”

Isolated showers being received in various parts of the country over the past few days, he said, should keep farmers hopeful for the second half of the summer cropping season.

“The crop condition is fair to good following some isolated showers being received in various parts of the country over the past few days. The bulk of the crop (about 85 percent) is at the vegetative stage, with the remaining 15 percent at early flowering to physiological maturity,” said Mr Munamati.

For farmers to get best yields, he said, they must mulch their Pfumvudza plots to conserve moisture.

“Farmers should control weeds either physically through weeding or through the use of herbicides, and must read and understand instructions or seek guidance from the nearest extension officer before use of any herbicide. Weeds compete with crops for nutrients and moisture.”

He encouraged farmers to frequently scout for pests and diseases, at least two to three times per week.

Mashonaland West province, which is considered the country’s breadbasket, is still promising better yields.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, AARDS acting provincial director Ms Evelyn Ndoro said: “It might not be as very good a season as we are used to, but farmers are doing their best and the crop is promising to produce better. We are just praying that we get some good rains soon. It is that time when farmers are encouraged to practise conservation agriculture hinged on utilising the little rainwater to the maximum for better results.”

Masvingo AARDS provincial director Mr Caleb Mahoya said crops “are generally in good condition”.

“The crops now need rainfall for the farmers to apply top-dressing as shown by yellowing of crops in the fields. The dry spell being experienced by the crops encourages outbreaks of pests such as the fall armyworm across the province.”

In Midlands, AARDS director Ms Medlinah Magwenzi said some districts in the province received good rains but there was concern over low rainfall in other parts.

“The maize crop is generally fair across the province and good in Chirumanzu district, where good rains were received. Traditional grains are looking good across the province. However, farmers slightly had a challenge with the African armyworm, which was mostly on pastures,” said Ms Magwenzi.

She said pest control had so far yielded positive results.

“The livestock condition is good across the province from the received rains. The water is readily available and there is good browsing for goats. Grazing is adequate across the province and hopefully we will get more rains to sustain what is on the ground. Dairy farmers did a good crop for silage in the form of maize, lucerne and velvet beans, and they are already ensiling.”

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) spokesperson Mrs Chelesani Moyo-Tsarwe said low rainfall could impact negatively on yields.

“The tobacco situation is relatively stable, although the late season and the reliance on small-scale farmers, who contribute over 70 percent of the crop, mean that this year’s harvest may have less mass compared to the previous season. Most farmers are currently at the topping stage, but the concern lies with rainfall,” she said.

“If we experience a loss of rain at this critical point, yields will be significantly impacted. Additionally, continued harsh rains pose a risk of wind and hailstorm damage, affecting the overall yield.”

Climate-proofing measures, she said, can provide a solution.

“The Government, through TIMB, has initiated a trial for a centralised tobacco production and curing system. If successful, this project will be expanded nationwide, enhancing yield, quality and ultimately improving the livelihoods of farmers,” she said.

Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources Department director Mr Milton Makumbe said the water in dams and warm conditions are conducive for stocking.

“The current conditions are optimum for dam stocking and we have intensified our operations countrywide. For the past week, we have stocked over 20 000 fingerlings in Mutasa district and at least 40 000 in Matabeleland South province,” he said.

The 2023/2024 summer cropping season has been affected by the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is associated with normal to below-normal rainfall.

* X: @TheseusShambare

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