Agriculture experts have cautioned against planting with the current rains saying farmers must instead take advantage of the wet conditions to speed up land preparations before the onset of the rainfall season.
The onset of the rainfall season is when an area receives an amount of 20 millimetres or more of rainfall in about three days and there is no dry spell for the next 10 days.
The country has been experiencing some rain with other areas receiving as high as 27 mm. According to the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) rainfall updates, thunderstorms occurred in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands, Masvingo, Manicaland, Mashonaland East and Harare Metropolitan provinces on Monday this week.
“The rainfalls were not much in most areas. Significant falls were recorded at Harare-Logan Park (27mm), Gweru (19mm), Bulawayo (17mm), Kutsaga (8mm). Goetz (8mm) and Buhera (9mm). The rest of the rainfall figures were below 5mm.
“The rains were accompanied with strong winds, hail, thunder and lightning,” said the MSD.
The department said as the season sets in, October usually has erratic rain but may have localised heavier downpours and it was incumbent on farmers to know their soils and practice smart agriculture.
Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement chief agronomist, Mrs Rutendo Nhongonhema on Tuesday urged farmers to take advantage of the rains to finish land preparations, preparing planting basins for Pfumvudza as the ground is now softer.
“We do not encourage farmers to plant with these rains. Normally the rains that come early October are not planting rains.
“This is the time to finish off land preparations especially for those who do conventional ploughing in anticipation of the planting rains.
“Normally our season comes end of October for farmers with irrigated maize. Around second week of October and end of October, we encourage them to start planting. We encourage those who rely on rain fed agriculture to start planting by first week of November,” said Mrs Nhongonhema.
She said the onset of rainfall differed from area to area and farmers could keep records and with the help of extension officers would be able to tell the periods of the onset for the particular areas.
“Farmers can also apply pre-planting herbicide application as most of these chemicals need a bit of water to be incorporated or absorbed by the plant,” Mrs Nhongonhema said.
Agriseeds sales and marketing manager, Mr Ivan Craig said the current rains were beneficial to pastures that had deteriorated due to the dry conditions.
“The rains will improve pastures and help reshoot. Animals will have water to drink and will no longer walk long distances to water.
“the rains will also help wheat which was still at irrigation stage but if it is less than 22 mm, these rains will not substitute the normal irrigation cycle,” he said.
He said rains will soften the ground so that those farmers who failed to carry out winter plough will be in a position to carry out a proper land preparation.
“Farmers should not panic. The rains are a bit early. Under normal circumstances rains should start falling third week of October and those are rains which we recommend that farmers can a plant with.
“Maize requires 22 millimetres and above to germinate, for soya beans, 30mm and 35mm to be on the safe side. Not much has fallen and the chances of experiencing long periods of dry spell are quite high. The crop may germinate now but can be affected by the dry spell,” he said.
Meanwhile, widespread afternoon and evening thunderstorms accompanied by strong winds, hail and lightning with some localised heavy downpours were expected on Tuesday in Matabeleland, Midlands and areas along and to the south of the main watershed (Masvingo, Manicaland, Mashonaland East and Harare Metropolitan.
“Thunderstorms that occur now are violent. It is therefore important for the public not to expose themselves unnecessarily to the dangers associated with these violent thunderstorms.
“Current high temperatures and abundant moisture are also conducive to the continuation of these thunderstorms, at least up to Thursday 8 October after which there should be a reduction in rainfall activity country wide,” said the MSD.