Planting now in full swing across Zimbabwe

As dry spells make it harder to rely on rain for irrigation, farmers are reviving an age-old tradition that retains moisture in the soil
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MANY farmers have started planting and those who have benefited from the significant localised rains falling since the middle of the month have been advised not to delay planting.

Rainfall improved last week with provinces such as Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Harare Metropolitan that had not yet received significant rains, doing so from Thursday.

The rains have seen an increase in planting across the country since there is now moisture in the soil while many farmers, especially those taking part under the Climate-proofed Presidential Input Scheme (Pfumvudza) had already taken advantage of the early rains to plant.

According to agricultural experts farmers can plant maize when they receive 25mm of rain and above. Some farmers now have rain gauges to decide when it is safe to plant while others rely on advice from Agritex extension officers.

Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Agritex chief agronomist, Mrs Rutendo Nhongonhema urged farmers to take advantage of the current soil moisture to intensify planting as delays would result in lower yields.

“Due to climate change and variability incidences, it is important for farmers to make use of information on weather provided. Planting can only be done when rainfall received is 25mm to 30mm to effect germination and emergence,” she said.

Mrs Nhongonhema urged farmers growing soyabean this season to move as soon as enough rain has fallen as it is not encouraged to plant after December 30.

For urban residents, Mrs Nhongonhema urged them to prepare Pfumvudza plots as they will also benefit from the Presidential Inputs Scheme. Mrs Nhongonhema said it was critical for farmers to prepare conservation works that will protect soil, water and crop.

“Contour ridges provide a good drainage system and conserve water which is limited. Farmers should work with local Agtritex officers to address issues of conservation methods,” she said.

“In-field conservation measures include pot-holing, tied ridges, mulching. Mulching is key under Pfumvudza. At household level, a farmer can use roof water harvesting using tanks. Maintenance and rehabilitation of dams, irrigation canals and water channels, de-siltation and construction of smallholder weir dams are some of the measures to conserve water. In the event of excessive rainfall that causes water logging, storm drains, infiltration pits, and ridges can save the crop.”

Zimbabwe Farmers Union president Mr Shadreck Makombe urged farmers to intensify planting but also advised them to seek advice when in doubt.

“The rains are upon us and farmers should intensify planting though this cannot be generalised as the type of soils will also determine if the farmer should plant or not. Farmers should also use their knowledge and experience when deciding on planting.

“We are having challenges with fertiliser availability and we hope Government will implement the same mode used during wheat production where everything including water, electricity and inputs were timely availed,” he said.

Zimbabwe Women Farmers Association Trust president Mrs Depinah Nkomo confirmed that planting was underway.

“Most farmers under Pfumvudza have an early crop as they planted with the first rains. The early planted crop in some areas was beginning to suffer from heat and dry conditions but was rescued by the recent rains,” she said.

The Meteorological Services Department said some areas have recorded significant rains during the past days.

As at Friday, Kadoma received 69m, Buhera 46mm, Chivhu 45mm, Gokwe 40mm, Goromonzi 37mm and Rusape 31mm.

Thunderstorms were expected over most parts of the country yesterday.

Zimbabwe has set a target of 3,6 million tonnes of maize for the forthcoming summer cropping season, which weather experts say should have good rains. The department gave a forecast of normal to above normal rains for the current season.