Farmers advised to protect crops from rain, cold spell

01 Jul, 2022 - 00:07 0 Views
Farmers advised to protect crops from rain, cold spell Agriculture expert Mr Ivan Craig said the current weather was good for the wheat crop and was also benefiting some farmers with irrigated crops.

The Herald

 Elita Chikwati and Grace Mahora 

THE current cold and wet conditions will continue until tomorrow with agriculture experts advising farmers to protect crops from the low temperatures.

The Meteorological Services Department yesterday said small pellets of hail were probable in a few areas, and this should not be mistaken for snow. 

According to the department, the wet spell reduces the occurrence of ground frost but may affect crops that are still drying in the fields.

“In the past week, the Matopos and Kezi areas experienced severe frost with ground temperatures of  minus 3 deg Celsius but these are not yet record breaking.

“The cold affects sectors such as health as well as tourism, sports and recreation (as demand decreases). 

“The cloudy, cold and windy conditions that have been experienced in the southern parts of the country since yesterday, are expected to spread and cover much of the country by today. This should result in light rain in many parts of the country, with these cloudy, cold and wet conditions set to persist till Saturday,” said the Met Department.

Departmental agro-meteorologist, Mr Benjamin Kwenda, said the current weather conditions could affect crops. 

“Farmers waiting for their maize to dry in the field will be affected as the crop will absorb moisture and this will result in post-harvest losses. The maize if not covered well can absorb moisture and start germinating”, he said.

Mr Kwenda said wet conditions also meant demand for irrigation becomes low.

“During this week, irrigation scheduling becomes less because the moisture can sustain the crop for a longer period as compared to what it could have done had it been a bit warmer.

“Fruit ripening in bulk tends to ripen at a slower rate but wet conditions will also result in diseases when it gets humid again but as for now there is suppression of diseases both pest and diseases because they do not really thrive in cold weather, especially the type of diseases we are accustomed to in this country,” he said. 

Agriculture expert Mr Ivan Craig said the current weather was good for the wheat crop and was also benefiting some farmers with irrigated crops.

He however, said the wet conditions could compromise the quality of summer crops such as groundnuts and maize. 

“The wheat crop will benefit from the current wet conditions. Farmers will also reduce irrigation intervals thereby reducing power and water charges. 

“We do not expect such temperatures in July as most of the early planted wheat will be flowering and such weather may cause the flowers to abort.

“Farmers with maize and soya beans still in the fields and standing will also not suffer huge losses. The situation can be difficult for farmers with groundnuts that have been uprooted but not yet shelled as the wet conditions may cause fungal infections negatively affecting the quality and quantity of the produce.

“Groundnuts that have not been affected may also sprout as a result of the wet conditions,” he said.

Mr Craig said farmers could protect horticultural crops through erection of windbreaks and thatch fencing.

Farmers could also apply mulching, or burn grass or cow dung during the night.

“Burning dung is the best method. Dung burns slowly and the smoke forms a blanket over the crops protecting them from frost.

“Farmers can also water the garden around 4 am to prevent frost damage to crop such as tomatoes and brassicas,” he said.

Goromonzi farmer, Mrs Natalie Zhemu, said they normally place bottles with water in the vegetable beds to prevent frost damage on crops.

“Farmers should also know the type of crops to grow in winter. Tomatoes are the most affected by frost and I normally reduce the area under tomatoes during winter,” she said.

Norton farmer, Mr Fungai Chitima, said the cold weather did not only affect livestock and crops but also affected farmers. 

“Farmers should also keep warm so they do not fall ill. This weather affects livestock farmers who take their animals for grazing and watering. This means there will be reduced time for grazing and this can affect the animals.

“For my poultry, I have closed some gaps on the fowl run and if the need arises, I will have to increase lights in the fowl run so that there is warmth,” he said.

The MSD said the skies are expected to start clearing on Sunday leading to warmer afternoons at the end of the forecast period.

The evenings and mornings are expected to be cold, with ground frost being anticipated on Monday morning in most frost-prone areas.

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