Low maize hectarage in Matabeleland
THE total area cropped under maize in Matabeleland region will this season significantly decrease owing to the erratic rainfall received countrywide, an official said.
Matabeleland North Department of Crop and Livestock Production provincial agronomist Mr Davison Masendeke said there was a marked decrease in the area planted under maize this season compared to the 2017/ 18 season.
“Prospects of getting sufficient rains are becoming leaner and leaner by the day. As a province we have planted very little compared to last year. We have planted far much less than what we should have planted by this time of the year. The reason being that the rainfall started late, although last season it also started late it was earlier than this season,” he said.
Due to the prevailing erratic rainfall being experienced in the country, the province’s anticipated maize yield is also expected to drastically drop compared to last season’s harvest.
“Most districts received rainfall in mid-December but it wasn’t enough as it was followed by a long dry spell. In essence the rainfall has been very erratic in terms of time and space and it has been poor in terms of distribution whereby you would find that one area will be having rain and another one close by will be dry,” said Mr Masendeke.
He also lamented the poor conditions of livestock due to insufficient grazing areas and shortage of reliable water sources further adding that farmers should refrain from using domestic animals as draught power as most of them are in a poor state.
“Those that rely on animals for draught power should refrain from doing so as most of them are in bad shape due to lack of pastures and adequate water for consumption. Instead farmers should practice dry planting,” said Mr Masendeke.
He encouraged farmers to embrace the cropping of small grains due to their drought tolerant nature compared to maize.
“We are also encouraging farmers to move away from cropping maize as it is susceptible to prolonged dry spells but instead grow small grains. They should put down improved and early maturing small grain varieties especially those of sorghum and pearl millet,” said Mr Masendeke.
Matabeleland South Department of Crop and Livestock Department provincial officer Mrs Simangaliphi Ngwabi reiterated Mr Masendeke’s sentiments attributing the decrease in the area planted under maize to low precipitation but further hinted that the increase in the price of inputs such as seed and fertilisers also played a part.
“The area planted under maize this season has drastically decreased largely due to the low rainfall we have received and the prevailing economic hardships being faced by the generality of Zimbabwe, which has seen most farmers failing to buy seed and fertilisers because their prices are beyond the reach of many. We can only encourage farmers to consider cropping small grains because if these germinate and the rains aren’t that good they can withstand the dry spell, with farmers standing a chance of a reasonable harvest,” said Mrs Ngwabi.