By Adeva Machiso Gwenzi
The 2019/2020 summer cropping season has been characterised by drastic changes in weather patterns, with anticipated drought spells at the beginning of the season to significant rainfall downpours earlier this year.
These uncertainties in the weather patterns gets one to wonder whether this could be the “climate change” that is always talked about.
“In terms of rainfall performance, the 2019/20 season started badly with the period October, November and December recording below normal rains across the country. The poor rainfall activity at the beginning of the season affected crop plantings with some farmers deciding not to utilise all of their targeted hectarage.” Said ZFU Crop specialist, Mr Muchena.
“The rains received in the first and second week of January brought some relief to the farming sector. Though the crop and livestock condition has significantly improved, it is important to note that we have high chances of not meeting the national requirements for strategic crops like maize (2.1million tonnes) and soya bean (220 000 tonnes).The Crop and Livestock assessment currently under away will provide us with a definite picture on the performance of the season.” He added.
Late January, Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union’s provincial managers assessed the crop situation in their provinces to try and establish how much the crops were affected by the changes in weather patterns.
Below are their findings
After the second week of January, the greater part of Manicaland received quite a significant amount of rainfall causing crops that were almost wilted to recover.
This weather turn-around was very encouraging such that farmers continued their farming operations, applying top dressing, pest and disease control herbicides, as well as weeding.
The early maize of November and first half of December is at the tasseling stage.
However, in other parts of the province such as lower Chipinge’s Rimai, parts of Checheche and Chisumbanje, farmers had to replant as their crops had been completely destroyed by the dry spell.
In some parts of the province, the crops are at vegetative stage and in good condition due to the rainfall showers received recently.
The province is experiencing challenges with Fall armyworm which has hit Chiredzi and Chivi districts.
In January all the districts received significant rainfall save for Beitbridge South where very light showers were received in areas like Chikwalakwala, Zezane and Swereki.
Bulilima district received above normal rainfall causing floods which destroyed homesteads, crops and livestock.
Farmers planted late due to the delay of the onset of the rains and the majority of crops are below knee height level.
Some farmers however, were forced to replant due to prolonged dry spells that caused permanent wilting.
Most farmers are however sticking to planting of maize regardless of the recurrent drought while very few farmers have planted small grains.
Matabeleland North Province
Rainfall levels across the province have been below normal for a long time.
The high temperatures being experienced have resulted in crops wilting in almost every part of the province.
Maize has been the worst affected crop and small grains are also starting to show signs of wilting, however, there is some crop recovery because of the rains which were received during the past week. Nevertheless, there is little hope of getting maximum yield because of the dry spell.
In some parts of umguza,Bubi , Bulawayo and Tsholotsho the crop is in a poor state and different pests have started to invade the fields, worsening the situation.
The general condition after receiving rainfall is fair to good on all crops. It is estimated that 40% is in good condition and 60% is fair.
For maize 60% is at early vegetative and 40% is at emergence stages. Weed control and top dressing are the main activities going on.
The 2019/20 season is yet another reminder that climate change is real and farmers have to find ways to adapt.
There is an urgent need to promote climate smart agriculture in our production systems. Farmers urgently require resourceful climate information services, efficient irrigation systems, drought tolerant genetics, appropriate insurance packages and a diversified production system