Man­i­ca­land to record big­gest grain yield

The Manica Post - - Front Page - Sa­muel Kadun­gure Se­nior Re­porter

MAN­I­CA­LAND is set to record its big­gest grain yield in decades as the prov­ince is ex­pect­ing to har­vest at least 270 000 tonnes of maize and 60 000t of an as­sort­ment of small grains. The 2016/17 sea­son ranks as the mother of all agri­cul­tural sea­sons, as the yields will cer­tainly make sig­nif­i­cant changes to food deficits cre­ated by re­cent con­sec­u­tive sea­sons of poor crop­ping. Sta­tis­tics re­leased by the act­ing Man­i­ca­land Agri­tex Pro­vin­cial Of­fi­cer, Mrs Phillipa Rwambiwa in­di­cate that a to­tal of 265 000 hectares of maize were planted, of which 14.580ha were un­der the Com­mand Agri­cul­ture pro­gramme and 250 420ha were planted by small­holder A1, old re­set­tle­ment and com­mu­nal farm­ers, most of whom re­ceived as­sis­tance un­der the Pres­i­den­tial In­puts Scheme.

MAN­I­CA­LAND is set to record its big­gest grain yield in decades as the prov­ince is ex­pect­ing to har­vest at least 270 000 tonnes of maize and 60 000t of an as­sort­ment of small grains.

The 2016/ 17 sea­son ranks as the mother of all agri­cul­tural sea­sons, as the yields will cer­tainly make sig­nif­i­cant changes to food deficits cre­ated by re­cent con­sec­u­tive sea­sons of poor crop­ping.

Sta­tis­tics re­leased by the act­ing Man­i­ca­land Agri­tex Pro­vin­cial Of­fi­cer, Mrs Phillipa Rwambiwa in­di­cate that a to­tal of 265 000 hectares of maize were planted, of which 14.580ha were un­der the Com­mand Agri­cul­ture pro­gramme and 250 420ha were planted by small­holder A1, old re­set­tle­ment and com­mu­nal farm­ers, most of whom re­ceived as­sis­tance un­der the Pres­i­den­tial In­puts Scheme. Agronomists are us­ing a con­ser­va­tive av­er­age yield of 1.5t/ha for the small­holder farm­ers and 2.8t/ha for com­mer­cial and com­mand agri­cul­ture yield.

An av­er­age yield of 41 000t is ex­pected un­der the Com­mand Agri­cul­ture pro­gramme, leav­ing small­hold­ers farm­ers be­ing the ma­jor con­trib­u­tors to the pro­vin­cial grain pool, with a pro­jected av­er­age yield of 229 000t.

Sorghum con­sti­tuted 59 000ha and 36 300t are ex­pected at an av­er­age yield of 0.6t/ ha, while 39 000ha were put un­der pearl mil­let and 19 500t are ex­pected at an av­er­age of 0.5t/ ha.

Sta­tis­tics for fin­ger mil­let were not read­ily avail­able.

“The sea­son was very good. Ac­tu­ally, there is no past sea­son that is near this one. The sea­son was quite good with the high­est rain­fall through­out. Man­i­ca­land re­ceived an av­er­age of 1 015mm of rain­fall, which is 636mm more than last year. We did not have many cases of dry spells. Our five-day pe­ri­ods were wet and were able to sup­ply ad­e­quate mois­ture to the crops. Also, a good num­ber of farm­ers re­ceived ad­e­quate in­puts, though in some cases top-dress­ing fer­tiliser came a bit late,” said Mrs Rwambiwa. Since the turn of the mil­len­nium (2000), Man­i­ca­land has not re­ceived such good rains, as the crop suf­fered im­mensely ow­ing to a com­bi­na­tion of late, er­ratic rains, se­vere mid-sea­son dry spell and er­ratic ap­pli­ca­tion of fer­tilis­ers.

“The de­creased rain­fall and ris­ing tem­per­a­tures had thrown many farm­ers in Man­i­ca­land into con­fu­sion, as the rain un­pre­dictabil­ity, in­duced by the El-Nino phe­nom­e­non, made it dif­fi­cult for them to plan prop­erly.

“We are happy with the 2016/17 yield and no crop­ping sea­son is as close to this just-ended one,” said Mrs Rwambiwa. She said only 200ha were de­stroyed by the fall army­worm, a pets no­to­ri­ous for its pro­fuse rav­aging of maize crops if left to mul­ti­ply.

Mrs Rwambiwa said fall army­worm was un­com­mon in Zim­babwe, and its emer­gence came as a sur­prise, with un­sus­pect­ing farm­ers mis­tak­ing them for stalk bor­ers.

The chronic pest at­tacked a va­ri­ety of well-fer­tilised crops such as maize, pearl mil­let, sorghum and pas­tures and farm­ers should wary about th­ese cater­pil­lars next sea­son.

Mr Rwambiwa said har­vest­ing was not in full throt­tle due to lack of shelling and har­vest­ing ma­chines and high mois­ture con­tent, re­sult­ing in low de­liv­er­ies to the grain util­ity.

To date, only 541t have been de­liv- ered at GMB de­pots across the prov­ince.

Most farm­ers have not started har­vest­ing since they are not able to sell to the Grain Mar­ket­ing Board (GMB) due to high mois­ture con­tent.

Mrs Rwambiwa said GMB was in­sist­ing on 12.5 per­cent and farm­ers were reg­u­larly test­ing, but the lev­els were still high, thereby hin­der­ing har­vest­ing.

The maize crop is now un­der threat from veld fires, ter­mites, theft, stray an­i­mals and mould­ing.

Mrs Rwambiwa ad­mit­ted that farm­ers were now in a fix as the dry­ing wait­ing pe­riod con­tin­ues drag­ging and be­com­ing un­eco­nom­i­cal for those with large hec­tarage.

“The mois­ture con­tent is still high, there­fore farm­ers can­not har­vest and sell to GMB. GMB is not ac­cept­ing even maize with 13 per­cent mois­ture. What is shock­ing is that the same grain is not mould­ing in the farm­ers’ sheds,” said Mrs Rwambiwa.

“The other chal­lenge is that those with large hec­tarage re­quire com­bine har­vesters, and those that are there con­stantly break down and need main­te­nance. Empty bags are also an is­sue be­cause GMB is in­sist­ing on its own bags, which farm­ers do not have. Those that have shelled are us­ing their own bags, lead­ing to dou­ble han­dling as they will be forced to use the bags from GMB.

“Also dur­ing the dry­ing wait­ing pe­riod, farm­ers are ex­pected to main­tain and pro­tect the un-har­vested grain from in­sect and pests, veld fires, theft and stray an­i­mals, oth­er­wise they risk ac­cru­ing huge losses,” said Mrs Rwambiwa. Mrs Rwambiwa said farm­ers should be­gin prepa­ra­tions for the 2017/18 sea­son.

She em­pha­sised that farm­ers should do soil test­ing to be prop­erly ad­vised on nu­tri­ent re­quire­ment for the next ro­ta­tion crop, drainage re­pairs and land prepa­ra­tion.

Reg­is­tra­tion for Com­mand Agri­cul­ture has started.

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