54000ha winter wheat planted so far Mr Leonard Munamati

Precious Manomano Herald Reporter

Winter wheat planting has progressed well with 54 000 hectares under irrigation, almost half of this year’s targeted hectarage to boost the country’s self-reliance.

Statistics from Agriculture and Rural Development Advisory Service (ARDAS) have indicated that of the 120 000 hectares, 53 725ha have been planted so far compared to 36 934ha that was planted in the same period last year.

A total of 109 908ha have so far been contracted by various companies. CBZ Agro Yield has so far contracted 5 063ha from its target of 8 500ha.

NMB has so far contracted 2 865ha, AFC Land Bank has contracted 8 210ha from a target of 16 000ha.

Food Crops Contractors Association (FCCA) has contracted 22 454ha from a target of 25 000ha.ARDA irrigation schemes have contracted 15 622ha more than its target of 15 000ha.

ARDA Estate has contracted 2 509ha more than its target of 2 000ha. ARDA Joint Ventures has contracted 35 075ha from a target of 43 000ha.

Manicaland has so far planted 5 932ha from a target of 13 000ha.Mashonaland Central has planted 12 595ha from a target of 28 000ha.Mashonaland East has planted 10 939ha from a target of 21 000ha. Mashonaland West has planted 16 845ha from a target of 34 000ha, Midlands have planted 3 850ha from a target of 12 000ha.

Masvingo, Matabeleland South and North have planted less than 2 000ha. ARDAS acting chief director, Mr Leonard Munamati urged farmers to expedite winter wheat farming to ensure better yields.

He urged farmers to carry on planting although the planting window is May 31.

“Farmers are recommended to plant in the month of May to avoid frost and pests during critical growth stages. We urge farmers to continue planting bigger hectarage. This season farmers are urged to increase the hectarage to maintain and upscale the bumper harvests as a way to maintain food security,” he said.

Zinwa has indicated that the country has sufficient water to irrigate winter wheat and farmers were advised to sign water abstraction agreements with Zinwa. It implements seasonal billing and assesses adequacy of water for irrigating. No monthly interest on overdue bills until farmers on stop order agreements have been paid.

Agriculture taskforce is coordinating to ensure adequate electricity provision. Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) chief executive, Mr Tinotenda Mhiko said the wheat-based food security strategy aims to establish 60 000 hectares that are targeted to produce at least 300 000 tonnes of wheat that will go into the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR).

“The 2024 ARDA winter wheat program has been structured to support the National Food Security recovery intervention strategy following the 2023/24 summer season’s El Niño induced drought.

“There is both comparative and competitive advantage in growing winter wheat against that of maize and sorghum. It is against this background that we have buttressed our plan on establishing a cereal crop that gives the best possible output during this period. We aim to conclude plantings within the recommended planting window so as to maximise yields,’’ he said.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) president, Dr Shadreck Makombe said farmers are on the ground planting wheat adding that there is a need to expedite planting emphasising that early planting has an advantage that it may not be affected by the early rains.

“Right now, farmers are in various stages. Some have started planting others are still planting while the majority are still doing land preparations. Early planting will ensure that the crop will not be affected by the early rains.”

“The optimum planting dates for wheat are from the last week of April (in lowveld areas) to the end of May. However, the highest yields are obtained when establishment is done within the first two weeks of May.

“Planting on time enables farmers to avoid frost conditions during critical growth stages of wheat like flowering, to avoid high disease and pest pressure during the months of August and September when the crop is in post anthesis stage (grain filling). Early planting also allows the tillering stage to coincide with low temperatures during the month of June. Low temperatures and even frost at this stage, promotes tillering.

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