Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Government plans to carry out the first round of nationwide crop and livestock assessments to ascertain the severity of the prolonged dry spell. Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Cde Davis Marapira yesterday confirmed that Government would carry out a nationwide crop assessment to map out appropriate intervention measures.
“The crop and livestock assessment is expected to reveal the area planted under different crops, the state of the crops and the hectarage affected by the dry spell. It will also reveal the state of livestock, availability of pastures and water,” said Cde Marapira.
“Farmers should continue to look after their crops and seek assistance from Agritex officials on the ground when carrying out agronomic practices such as fertiliser application,” he said.
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Cde Marapira expressed concern over the dry weather conditions that have affected most crops across the country. Erratic rains and high temperatures being experienced countrywide have resulted in severe moisture stress and wilting of crops.
This has also affected pastures.
Farmers in some areas are already counting losses as their crops are now a write-off. The worst affected crops are maize, dryland tobacco, which is now showing false ripening and some small grains that are wilting.
Agritex has confirmed that farmers are worried over the erratic rains and high temperatures. In Mashonaland Central, the most affected area is Rushinga, where 10 percent of the planted maize has reached permanent wilting stage.
Tobacco is also showing signs of false ripening due to the high temperatures, while cotton is doing well. In Masvingo, hot temperatures have affected crops, with maize in Chivi, Zaka and Gutu reaching permanent wilting point.
Small grains are also showing signs of moisture stress in these areas. Some farmers had planned to plant in January but have not been able to do so because of the dry weather conditions.
In Mwenezi and Chiredzi, farmers are being urged to mobilise supplementary feeding for their livestock as the dry weather conditions are also affecting animals.
There are fears that some farmers may feed their livestock wilted maize stocks.
The Division of Livestock and Veterinary Services urged farmers not to feed their cattle with the crop residues especially if they had applied top dressing fertiliser.
A crop that has been top dressed and wilts without having utilised the ammonium nitrate is poisonous to livestock due to nitrates.
The distribution and intensity of the rains this season has been very poor across the SADC region.
Meanwhile, the Meteorological Services Department reported that the cloud system currently affecting the country had resulted in thunderstorms concentrated in provinces like Midlands, Mashonaland West, Harare metropolitan and northern parts of Masvingo.
The falls varied in amounts with Harare’s Crowborough recording 102mm, Serima 76mm, Banket 70mm, Mhondoro 65mm.
The weather is expected to be cloudy and warm with occasional rain and outbreaks of thunder.
Localised heavier falls are expected along the watershed and over high ground in Matabeleland North, Bulawayo, and all Mashonaland provinces, Harare, North of Midlands and North of Manicaland.
In Matabeleland South, south of Midlands, Masvingo and south of Manicaland, the weather is expected to be generally sunny and warm although some localised cloudiness is expected.