Farm­ing sea­son in full swing

Sunday Express - - NEWS -

FaRM­ERS in most parts of the coun­try have be­gun plant­ing crops in earnest fol­low­ing the good rains that started last week, mark­ing the on­set of the sum­mer agri­cul­ture sea­son.

in the south­ern african re­gion, the sum­mer rain­fall sea­son gen­er­ally starts in Oc­to­ber end­ing in March of the fol­low­ing year. Dur­ing this pe­riod, farm­ers in­ten­sify agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, with the growing of maizethe sta­ple food in most coun­tries in the re­gion, dom­i­nat­ing.

Proper plan­ning and pre­pared­ness for the sum­mer crop­ping sea­son is cru­cial in a re­gion where food pro­duc­tion is largely rain-fed. The re­gion has in the re­cent years suf­fered pro­longed dry spells, with a dev­as­tat­ing El-nino -in­duced drought ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the 2015/16 crop­ping sea­son.

a sea­sonal fore­cast by the Le­sotho Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ser­vices pro­jected a de­layed on­set of rains.

For the first part of the sum­mer rains, Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber 2017, the Met Ser­vices pro­jected av­er­age (nor­mal) rains in most parts of the coun­try with a like­li­hood of above nor­mal falls in the north­ern and east­ern parts and be­low nor­mal rain­fall in the south­ern and west­ern ar­eas of the coun­try.

The en­tire coun­try is ex­pected to re­ceive av­er­age rain­fall, with a pos­si­bil­ity of above av­er­age or above nor­mal rains be­tween Jan­uary and March 2018.

This pro­jec­tion fol­lows a con­sen­sus on what weather con­di­tions the re­gion should ex­pect by the South­ern africa Re­gional Cli­mate Out­look Fo­rum (SaRCOF) held in Botswana in au­gust 2017. This fo­rum brings to­gether sci­en­tific ev­i­dence by the re­gional Met Ser­vices on con­di­tions to be ex­pected dur­ing this cru­cial agri­cul­ture sea­son. in some cases, the re­gional Met Ser­vices col­lab­o­rate with or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the na­tional Oceanic and at­mo­spheric ad­min­is­tra­tion (nOaa) to strengthen their pro­jec­tion.

Se­nior Me­te­o­rol­o­gist at the Le­sotho Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ser­vices, Charles Tše­ole told the Sun­day Ex­press that the cur­rent pre­cip­i­ta­tion be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced in Le­sotho was caused by a com­bi­na­tion of a warm west­erly air from the Congo Basin and a cold front.

“When­ever we are tran­si­tion­ing into an­other sea­son, as is the case from spring into sum­mer, we do ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent weather con­di­tions. The wet weather and strong winds ex­pe­ri­enced in most parts of the coun­try in the first week of Oc­to­ber were caused by that tran­si­tion and the com­bi­na­tion of con­di­tions i have just men­tioned,” Mr Tše­ole said.

He ex­plained the tran­si­tion trig­gered an in­ter­ac­tion of both the Congo air­mass and a cold front in the sub-con­ti­nent, which saw coun­tries in­clud­ing South africa and Le­sotho re­ceiv­ing some good rains.

The south­ern dis­tricts of Le­sotho, which nor­mally re­ceive low rain­fall and are pro­jected to re­ceive less rains be­tween Oc­to­ber and De­cem­ber 2017, had the most rain from 3 to 4 Oc­to­ber.

Farm­ers in dis­tricts in­clud­ing Quthing, Qacha’s nek, Mo­hale’s Hoek and Mafeteng had rea­son to cel­e­brate af­ter a largely dry win­ter sea­son.

Fol­low­ing the rains that fell in most parts of the coun­try, Quthing re­ceived the high­est rain­fall at 55mm, fol­lowed by Mo­hale’s Hoek (49mm) and Mafeteng (35mm).

Other ar­eas that recorded good rains are Oxbow (32mm), Moshoeshoe air­port area (31mm), Botha Bothe ( 30mm) and Berea (25mm).

On whether these rains can be sci­en­tif­i­cally an­a­lysed to point to a start of the sum­mer rain­fall sea­son, ear­lier than was pro­jected, Mr Tše­ole ex­plained that al­though cli­ma­to­log­i­cally the sum­mer rain­fall sea­son starts in Oc­to­ber, weather mod­els have shown a shift in the trend, in­di­cat­ing a de­layed on­set of the rains from the year 2000.

“Re­search find­ings at­tribute this to cli­matic changes. Based on these changes, the rains we are see­ing can be con­cluded as sig­ni­fy­ing the start of the rain­fall sea­son only if we are not go­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence a pro­longed dry spell of more than 21 days. if such a dry spell oc­curs then we would ex­plain the rains re­ceived so far as a false start of the sum­mer agri­cul­ture sea­son,” he said.

To en­sure farm­ers make an in­formed plan of ac­tiv­i­ties, Mr Tše­ole said the Met Ser­vices will work closely with the Min­istry of agri­cul­ture and Food Se­cu­rity.

“We will con­tinue to pro­vide reg­u­lar weather up­dates to sup­port food pro­duc­tion ef­forts.”

Other spe­cialised weather fore­casts will also be de­vel­oped to cater for other sec­tors such as avi­a­tion, wa­ter, en­ergy and con­struc­tion.

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