As uncertainty continues over the 2019/2020 cropping season, farmers in Matabeleland North have been encouraged to focus on short-season varieties in the event significant rains are received.
This is, however, happening at a time when the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) had predicted normal to above normal rains during the first half of the 2019/2020 cropping season, stretching from October to December 2019, something that did not happen.
According to MSD normal to below normal rains are expected in the last half of the cropping season – January to March 2020, meaning there is a likelihood of drought, considering the insignificant rains received in the first half of the season.
This week, Matabeleland North agronomist, Davison Masendeke, who acknowledged there was not enough time left before the end of the rainy season, encouraged farmers in the province not to lose hope.
“We now have too a short time remaining in the cropping season to think we will have adequate rains that will mature all crops,” said Masendeke.
“We, therefore, encourage farmers to focus on short-season varieties such as millet, sorghum, sugar beans and many others that take between two to three months to mature. However, those with surviving maize should apply top dressing fertiliser in the event it rains.”
He added: “They must all fight the Fall Armyworm. I think these are the things that can help the farmers for now.”
Chief Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (AGRITEX) officer for Matabeleland North, Dumisani Nyoni, also encouraged farmers not to throw in the towel yet.
“In the event it rains, we encourage farmers to grow crops such as sorghum, millet, short-season beans, sweet potatoes and sunflower so that they at least have something to eat at home,” he said.
“We would also like to encourage them to look at some fields that will remain unploughed. We encourage farmers to grow animal fodder there. Seed companies still have seed for animal feed.