Rains have brought re­lief, but. . .

The Manica Post - - Comment & Feedback -

CLOUDY con­di­tions, char­ac­terised by heavy rains and scat­tered hail­storms af­ter a month of in­tense dry pe­riod have brought some ben­e­fi­cial soil mois­ture that will likely re­ju­ve­nate crops and pas­tures while in­creas­ing wa­ter lev­els in reser­voirs for ir­ri­ga­tion, gar­den­ing, live­stock, do­mes­tic pur­poses and win­ter crop­ping.

The Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ser­vices De­part­ment of Zim­babwe( MS D) on Tues­day was spot on, pre­dict­ing heavy rains cou­pled with vi­o­lent storms.

Heavy rains on Wed­nes­day pounded Man­i­ca­land — a largely agri­cul­tural province which last re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant rains early De­cem­ber.

Since then, max­i­mum tem­per­a­ture hov­ered at around 38 de­grees Cel­sius while the min­i­mum tem­per­a­ture was around 25 de­grees. Man­i­ca­land so far has planted 110 000 hectares un­der maize — but the crop was on the verge of im­mense suf­fer­ing ow­ing to a com­bi­na­tion of late, er­ratic rains, se­vere mid-sea­son dry spell, over­worked in­fer­tile soils and er­ratic ap­pli­ca­tion of fer­tilis­ers.

The maize crop had looked mis­er­able as it wilted in the scorch­ing heat.

Ir­ri­gated to­bacco was also af­fected as wa­ter lev­els in farm dams de­creased, dis­rupt­ing ir­ri­ga­tion cy­cles.

The crop sit­u­a­tion in the province is dire, but the rains can still be ben­e­fi­cial in eco­log­i­cal Re­gion One and Two as well as im­prove graz­ing pas­tures, wa­ter lev­els in reser­voirs and land prepa­ra­tion for win­ter crop­ping.

Mean­ing­ful har­vests can still be sal­vaged in th­ese re­gion­sif­farm­ers,in­clud­ingth­ose­with­outir­ri­ga­tion, heed ex­pert agro­nomic ad­vice on crop va­ri­eties and crop man­age­ment.

Th­ese re­gions have re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant rains and the crop and live­stock are still in fair state.

The rains have also ame­lio­rated hope in grossly af­fect­e­dre­gion­swhere­farm­er­shadresigned­towatch­inghelp­less­lytheir­crop­swilt­ing,al­thoughthein­ten­sity of the rains varies, with geo­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion.

What is more ap­peal­ing is that some ar­eas ly­ing in the rain shadow and low ly­ing ones re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant pre­cip­i­ta­tion.

The crops and pas­tures have been re­ju­ve­nated and ex­pec­ta­tions are that farm­ing op­er­a­tions are in full swing.

Farm­ers should not waste time, but ex­pend their en­er­gies on field work.

The sea­son will be short, mak­ing it ideal for the plant­ing of short sea­son va­ri­eties.

Farm­ersshould­con­cen­tra­teon­hecter­age­whichthey can­man­age­and­fee­dop­ti­mal­ly­toen­sure­bet­teryields.

It would be an ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity to plant long sea­son va­ri­eties and big por­tions that one can­not feed and man­age prop­erly.

Tho­sein­drought-pronere­gion­sshould­plant­man­age­able­por­tion­sof­s­mall­grain­swith­bet­ter­chance­sof sur­viv­ing in harsh dry con­di­tions as well as di­ver­sify their sources of liveli­hood to in­clude an as­sort­ment of live­stock op­tions.

In­creasedrain­fallinthe­p­rovincewil­l­beawel­come de­vel­op­ment,par­tic­u­lar­lyinthe­south­ern­partswhere low rain­fall re­sulted in de­lays in plant­ing, crop mois­ture stress, de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of graz­ing pas­tures and reser­voir­wa­ter­levels.Therain­scanal­so­help­toim­prove graz­ing pas­tures and boost wa­ter lev­els in dams, for gar­den­ing, do­mes­tic pur­poses and en­hance land prepa­ra­tion for win­ter crop­ping.

Farm­ers should, how­ever worry about the vi­o­lent na­ture of the rains.

Vi­o­lent storms might wreck the ir­ri­gated to­bacco as some farm­ers are reap­ing. To cush­ion them­selves from po­ten­tial losses, to­bacco grow­ers should in­sure their crop.

Th­e­si­t­u­a­tion­is­di­rein­com­mu­nalar­easacrossMan­i­ca­lan­dand­may­wors­eniftherains­be­cometru­ant–a sit­u­a­tion likely to re­sult in the province fail­ing to har­vest enough to feed its pop­u­la­tion.

In th­ese re­gions, rain has been spo­radic and in­dis­crim­i­nate and many farm­ers missed out on plant­ing com­pletely.

“Rain­fall fed crops sit­u­a­tion is gen­er­ally very poor due to the long dry spell since the sec­ond week of De­cem­ber 2018. Emerged crops are strug­gling es­pe­cially in sandy and grav­elly soils. Ef­fec­tive rains this week will def­i­nitely cor­rect the sit­u­a­tion,” said Mr Won­der Chabikwa.

Rain, in good mea­sure, is needed now. Our­na­tion­a­lyield­is­a­func­tionof­many­fac­tor­sput to­gether. The late on­set of the rains, rain­fall dis­tri­bu­tion, avail­abil­ity and affordability of in­puts and crop man­age­ment all con­trib­ute to what may be the re­sult ofthe­sea­son.Itis,how­ever,toosoon­tomakeanyrea­son­able pre­dic­tion of the yields.

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