Planting in full throttle in Zimbabwe

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The 263 274 beneficiaries of the Pfumvudza programme are all smiles as the rains have pounded Manicaland since last week.

The Climate-Proofed Presidential Inputs Programme (Pfumvudza) has been oversubscribed — with Manicaland having surpassed its initial target of 250 000 households.

Women constitute the bulk of beneficiaries of the programme as 206 483 of the 365 805 small-holder farmers that were trained are female.

A total of 263 274 households have so far established their Pfumvudza plots.

On Wednesday, Provincial Agritex officer, Mrs Phillipa Rwambiwa said Manicaland is targeting to plant 220 000 hectares of maize and 100 000ha of traditional grains.

Mrs Rwambiwa said planting is in full throttle against a backdrop of a favourable weather forecast pointing to normal to higher than average rainfall in this cropping season and greater chances of a La Nina, a weather pattern that is normally associated with wetter conditions.

This has rejuvenated waning hopes among farmers, the majority of whom dwell in rural areas and depend heavily on rain-fed agriculture for food and income.

Small-holder farmers, who lack irrigation muscle, must, however, plant short season varieties as long season varieties suffer miserably in the scorching heat that may likely characterise the second half of the season.

“Farmers have started planting with the current rains. From last week, we witnessed an increase in planting. Input distribution is still going on and we are now targeting peri-urban households,” said Mrs Rwambiwa.

She said the Government is also distributing groundnut seed in Buhera, Mutasa, Marange, Makoni South and West.

These areas are traditionally known for high temperatures as well as sandy and sandy loam soils.

So far, the rainfall distribution in Manicaland ranges from fair to good. Even low lying areas and those in the rain shadow have started receiving minimal amounts, while those lying in the wind-ward side have received above good rains.

“Not all areas have received rains, but farmers should start planting when they receive 25mm and above (for three days, which is sufficient for germination).

“We expect planted areas to increase and those farmers who depend on rainfall should plant short season to medium maturing varieties, depending on the region,” said Mrs Rwambiwa.

She also said farmers should look out for fall armyworm and take control measures early.

Mr Clemence Mucharedzeyi, an agronomist with SeedCo, said farmers need to plant with basal fertiliser.

“Do not delay planting as the season has started. Farmers need to ensure that their fields are clean for at least the first five weeks of crop establishment. At the second week of crop emergence, farmers should do a thorough scouting for fall armyworm and spray even before noticing them.

“There is also need to make sure the field contours are intact so that we reduce soil erosion,” said Mr Mucharedzeyi.

In the past few years, weeks preceding heavy rains have seen massive caterpillar outbreaks, and these destroy crops and pastures.

If farmers detect little green and brown caterpillars in their fields, they should know that their crop is under attack from the fall armyworm.

Farmers should therefore watch out for these pests and spray them using carbrayl.

Last year, the pests swept across the province, thereby contributing to the poor harvests that were eventually exacerbated by drought. – Manica Post