With the 2022-2023 cropping season about to get into full swing, farmers in Matabeleland have been urged to adopt conservation farming methods in order to improve their crop yields at a time when rainfall patterns are no longer predictable.
The Meteorological Services Department (MSD) has already predicted normal to above-normal rains in the imminent cropping season.
Matabeleland North provincial director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dumisani Nyoni said the rain received in the past few days was meant for tilling the land ahead of the onset of the cropping season.
“Looking at the work of agricultural services extension officers in districts, we are now at a stage where the rainy season can begin since we have experienced thunderstorms and drizzling here in Bulawayo,” said Nyoni.
“The rainy season usually begins between 19 to 24 November. That is the time when we expect rain for the cropping season. The tilling that we now recommend is the digging up of holes for conservation farming so that we do not till the whole field. Research conducted over the past years has shown that tilling the land every year is destructive. Conservation farming preserves the soil in good condition. It also helps in preserving moisture after mulching.”
As part of preparations, Nyoni said, farmers should buy seed.
“Firstly, every farmer should be very clear of what they want to do within the 2022-2023 cropping season,” he said.
“They should be clear on the crops they want to grow as well as the hectares to be covered for them to be able to secure enough seed and fertilisers. Farmers can also decide whether they can borrow money from banks such as AFC.”
Nyoni said, “This year, normal to above normal rains are expected. What does this mean to a farmer? It means firstly considering your geographical location and rainfall patterns. We can receive the amount of rainfall that we are used to but within a shorter period. Rainfall has of late been forceful and accompanied by the wind with water easily flowing before sinking into the ground. This explains why we say conservation farming helps in conserving soil moisture.”
Considering that rainfall tends to disappear between January and February or even end in February, Nyoni encouraged farmers in Matabeleland to consider short-season varieties of crops of 120 to 115 days.
He said farmers can also consider crops such as millet, sorghum and sunflower, traditional beans (omaqutha) and cotton in areas such as Lusulu.
“Farmers are complaining that a 10kg bag of seed maize is going for US$30,” he said.
“That is very true. However, in most cases, we usually look at the price of the seed only, without considering the output. If a farmer has adequately prepared and bought that seed for US$30 can harvest three to 10 times that money.”