The Sunday Mail
FARMERS have shifted to heat tolerant and early maturing seed varieties to alleviate the impact of the brutal heat wave sweeping across the country.
The heat wave, caused by El Nino, has seen temperatures soaring to 43 degrees Celcius, interfering with the 2015/2016 cropping season.
El Nino is an irregular and complex series of climatic changes that affect the region and beyond every few years.
It is characterised by unusually warm and nutrient-poor water off northern Peru and Ecuador, typically in late December.
Last week, Seed Co Limited managing director Mr Denias Zaranyika told The Sunday Mail Extra that the company has come up with drought resistant seed varieties.
“The current heat wave has resulted in a shift of farmers buying early maturing maize hybrids than the medium and late maturing hybrids,” said Mr Zaranyika.
“To mitigate the impact of the heat wave, Seed Co has bred heat and drought tolerant early maturing maize hybrids varieties that normally escape the bad weather conditions.
“Seed Co has also bred the white (SC Sila) and red (SC smile) heat and drought tolerant sorghum varieties meant for the marginal areas, natural region 4 and 5.”
The heat wave is expected to subside beginning this week, with rains anticipated to fall from tomorrow.
The Meteorological Services Department has indicated that the country is likely to receive normal to below normal rainfall during the 2015-16 farming season.
Rains are expected to fall between December 2015 and February 2016, which requires farmers to adopt short season varieties.
Region 1, which comprises Harare, most parts of Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central and north-eastern parts of Manicaland; is set to receive below normal rainfall from October to December and normal to below normal rainfall from November to January 2016.
The region is expected to receive normal to above normal rains from December to March 2016.
The bulk of Matabeleland North, parts of Midlands and parts of Mashonaland West – which fall under region 2 – are forecast to receive below normal rains from this month to February 2016.
It is also anticipated that from January to March next year; Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo are likely to receive below normal rains.
The bad weather patterns were also predicted by the Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET).
In its August 2015 report, FEWSNET predicted an El Nino from October to December and below to average rainfall forecast for parts of the southern African region.
Mr Zaranyika encouraged farmers in areas that are yet to receive meaningful rains to either dry plant their maize hybrids or wait for the rains of 25mm and above to fall before planting.
Farmers are also encouraged to rip in the rows or cultivate to conserve moisture.
“For those who planted earlier, farmers are encouraged to consider gap filling or replanting if the germinated crop is hit by the dry spell.
“The optimum population for most varieties is 45 000 to 50 000 plants per hectare.
“Farmers must not forget the other practices – fertility issues, weed control, planting depth (5cm) when dry planting and 3 to 4cm when planting with rains. Farmers must also note that their hybrid choice is very important,” said Mr Zaranyika.