Farm­ers reel­ing from heat­wave

Lesotho Times - - News - ’Man­toetse Maama

FARM­ERS have warned that this sea­son’s har­vests will fall dramatically if the cur­rent heat­wave, which has seen crops shrivel due to the swel­ter­ing heat, con­tin­ues.

Sum­mer crop­ping, which was flour­ish­ing in the past months was now in jeop­ardy due to the per­sis­tently high tem­per­a­tures which have been bak­ing the coun­try­side since the be­gin­ning of Fe­bru­ary. Among the sum­mer crops be­ing cul­ti­vated in the low­lands are maize, beans, sorghum and pota­toes.

A farmer from ha Fako on the out­skirts of Maseru, Bakoena Thipane, said he is wor­ried his har­vest will not come good be­cause of the sear­ing tem­per­a­tures.

“I had cul­ti­vated maize on a two hectare field and nor­mally the har­vest is very good,” Mr Thipane said.

“I de­cided to plough early to avoid com­pli­ca­tions dur­ing the har­vest­ing time. Since we had had the rains in the past months, the crops were grow­ing very well.

“how­ever, the since the be­gin­ning of Fe­bru­ary, we have been experiencing too much heat.”

he said the crops’ leaves had al­ready wilted be­cause of the rapid evap­o­ra­tion and soar­ing tem­per­a­tures, adding that if there is no rain soon, this sea­son’s crops might be a write off.

An­other farmer, Khahliso Le­falatsa, said they had al­ready re­vised their har­vest pro­jec­tions down­wards be­cause of the high tem­per­a­tures and low pre­cip­i­ta­tion.

“We can only hope and pray that the rains will come soon be­cause we de­pend on farm­ing for our sus­te­nance,” Mr Le­falatsa said.

’Mant­si­uoa Mosola, a farmer from ha Makhoathi, said she is wor­ried that her beans and pota­toes har­vest will be un­der­cut by the in­ces­sant heat­wave.

“In Jan­uary my crops were very good and some cus­tomers were even mak­ing pre-or­ders for the pota­toes but, un­for­tu­nately, due to this drought I don’t think they will yield much,” said Ms Mosola.“as for the beans, I don’t think they can reach ma­tu­rity with this heat.”

Se­nior Crop Pro­duc­tion Of­fi­cer in the Agri­cul­ture and Food Se­cu­rity min­istry, Sekho­nyana Ma­hase, said the re­cently har­vested win­ter crop­ping wheat was be­low par due to the heat­wave.

“The har­vested wheat is highly con­tam­i­nated with weeds. Ob­vi­ously the ger­mi­na­tion was not good due to the cur­rent drought,” Mr Ma­hase said.

“On a one hectare field, a farmer can pro­duce two tonnes of wheat but due to the drought some peo­ple only man­aged to get three 50 kilo­gramme bags be­cause of the con­tam­i­na­tion by weeds.

“Dur­ing sum­mer crop­ping, the crops were promis­ing un­til the end of Jan­uary. Since the be­gin­ning of Fe­bru­ary, we never had rains and this a very crit­i­cal mo­ment in the crop devel­op­ment stage.

“The maize crops will be in the tus­sling stage and, due to pre­vail­ing drought, the pol­li­na­tion process is not tak­ing place ham­per­ing grain for­ma­tion lead­ing to low yields.”

he said since some of the crops have not yet flow­ered, if the rains came in time they would still re­cov- er. how­ever, Mr Ma­hase said even in the event they had re­cov­ered, they might not reach phys­i­o­log­i­cal ma­tu­rity due to on­set of early frost.

he said the same also ap­plies with sorghum, which goes through sim­i­lar stages of devel­op­ment as the maize crops although sit­u­a­tions might dif­fer with the types of soils as some have huge par­ti­cles that lose mois­ture faster than oth­ers.

The Le­sotho Metro­log­i­cal Ser­vic- es an­nounced that tem­per­a­tures in the low­lands were ex­pected to rise above 30 de­grees Cel­sius from the be­gin­ning of this week.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gist, Retšepile Neko, said their out­look had shown that heat­waves would pre­dom­i­nate in early Fe­bru­ary.

“We had rains un­til the end of Jan­uary and, dur­ing the first three days of Fe­bru­ary, the tem­per­a­tures were very low. This week, we an- nounced that peo­ple should ex­pect heat­waves from 9 to 12 Fe­bru­ary with tem­per­a­tures ex­pected to rise above 32 de­grees Cel­sius in the low­lands,” Mr Neko said.

“how­ever, to­day (Thurs­day) we are ex­pect­ing some rain­fall. On Thurs­day we are ex­pect­ing 40 per­cent rains and Fri­day there will be 60 per­cent. Gen­er­ally, the weather fore­cast has re­vealed that there will be more rains in a long term.”

The sum­mer crop­ping in Ha-makhoathi which was flour­ish­ing in the past months has wilted due to high tem­per­a­tures since the be­gin­ning of Fe­bru­ary.

Khahliso le­falatsa has ad­justed down­wards his yields for this sea­son be­cause of the heat­wave.

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