MUCH of the country has been dry since mid-February, causing the rain-fed crop to suffer substantial moisture stress.
In parts of Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Masvingo, Midlands and southern Manicaland, some crops, especially maize, are approaching permanent wilting stage but some areas are still looking good.
The wet season started a little late, but when the rains started falling, we were encouraged that meteorologists’ forecast of a normal to above normal season would materialise.
Encouraged by the heavy rains, farmers had planted about 2,5 million of hectares under crop by the beginning of February; 1,25 million hectares under maize.
The rains were so heavy and nicely spread across the country that inflows into dams were high.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority reported that the national dam level stood at 77,3 percent as at December 30, higher than the 59,7 percent average expected at that time of the year.
By February 9, the national dam level had shot up to 91,8 percent. At that time, dams like Tugwi-Mukosi, Masembura, Insukamini and Muchekeranwa were full or spilling.
It must be made clear that the season is not lost yet, but some farmers in the drier regions of the country are justifiably beginning to feel uncomfortable as the mid-season dry spell appears to hold with day-time temperatures very high.
Because of the dryness, farmers cannot use systemic herbicides to control weeds.
Even smallholders who control weeds manually cannot do so. They, too, cannot apply fertiliser.
In some areas, the fall armyworm which thrives in dry conditions, is causing damage.
In the Midlands, 50 percent of the crop is salvageable if rains fall this week, provincial crop and livestock officer, Mrs Medlinah Magwenzi told our sister paper Sunday News.
Twenty percent of it is in fair condition.
She was worried about the remainder which she said was advancing towards permanent wilting.
Crops on sandy loams of Somabhula, Lower Gweru and Chiwundura are suffering.
That is the same situation with sandy areas such as Zvishavane, Mvuma, Shurugwi, Kwekwe and Gokwe.
Crops on clayey soils in Matobo, Guinea Fowl and Connemara in the Midlands have a chance of surviving provided rains fall this week, said Mrs Magwenzi.
The situation must be the same for crops on sandy loams and sandy soils in other parts of the country in the west, south and south-east.
That makes us anxious but we encourage farmers not to lose hope.
Those who have irrigation capacity must enhance their work amid the dry spell. They should intensify their irrigation cycles.
Those who rely on the rains, just have to pray and hope that the heavens will open up to save their crops.
We, too, remain hopeful that rains will return this week to salvage a season that started so promisingly.
We are encouraged that, even if the dryness does not let up and there isn’t much to pick at the end of this season, authorities will ensure that the people will not die of hunger.
Speaking in Tsholotsho on Saturday, Zanu-PF Vice-President, Cde Kembo Mohadi assured the people that they will not suffer even if the dry spell continues, resulting in a poor harvest.
The Government, he said, will make food available to those who will need it.
Our people will need that high profile assurance at this time.
“Farmers do not need to panic,” said Mrs Magwenzi.
“When one sows, it’s obvious that there is a harvest though it might not match due to several circumstances.
Dry land farmers have faith and trust God for the rains. . . As we wait for the rains, let’s plan for winter wheat.
We want to plant it on time.
1 May, 2022, starting to plant so as to compensate for the summer crop that might not yield as expected.”
Yes, farmers must be concerned, but they must not panic; they must have faith that God, as Mrs Magwenzi said, will bring the rains in due time, saving the season for His people.
Article Source: The Chronicle