The changing climate has caused serious losses to farmers who planted too early only to have a mid-season drought. Historically the average planting date in Zimbabwe has been 22 December. Experts say this date is actually too late and leads to lower potential yields.
The optimum planting day in Zimbabwe according to Conservation Agriculture practitioners is 25 November. Even with the confusing climate shifts there is usually sufficient rain by this date and if farmers are utilizing a thick mulch cover (dry grass, leaves, crop residue) the moisture will remain in the soil and allow farmers to plant successfully.
The use of mulch will also ensure that farmers are protected against the soil drying out in the event of a mid-season drought.
The Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union President, Wonder Chabikwa said in a recent interview, “We encourage farmers especially those with no access to irrigation facilities to delay planting until November. Every farmer must take advantage of the current rains to prepare their land.”
Moderate precipitation has already fallen in many parts of the country. Midlands Province has recording the highest so far with 40mm of rain. But the early rains should not tempt farmers to plant early.
Experts advise that they should rather prepare the land – apply mulch, dig planting stations, apply lime and compost – and wait for the optimum planting date at the end of the month to allow the growing crops to take full advantage of the heat available.
Advisers at a free training held every Tuesday morning at Foundations for Farming explain that by planting on 25 November crops benefit most from the unique movement of the Southern Hemisphere sunshine and rainfall.
Zimbabwe’s current national average yield of maize is 300kg per hectare. Trials conducted using mulch, conservation agriculture and compost have shown that by simply planting at the correct time (end of November) and applying a thick (10cm) mulch cover of dry grass and crop residues, the average yields of 2000kg per hectare are achievable.Post published in: Agriculture