Wimbainashe Zhakata, Farming Correspondent
THE moderate rains received in Manicaland beginning on Wednesday have done little to revive hope among thousands of farmers in the province whose crop was wilting due to moisture stress.
The intensity and distribution of the rains continue to worry farmers in the province.
The maize crop had looked miserable as it wilted in the scorching heat for the past three weeks, raising fears among farmers that the cereal crop may never reach maturity.
About 45 percent of the maize crop planted in the province is still in good condition while 30 percent (fair) and 25 percent (poor), according to Agritex.
Manicaland received an average rainfall of 166mm in the first half of the 2019/20 season, which is 67 percent lower than the usual expected rainfall this time of the year.
Agritex official Mr Cephas Mlambo told The Manica Post that crops had last received rain early December 2019.
“Generally, the crop that is in poor condition is in the areas of Chipinge, Chimanimani, Buhera South, Mutare South and in the northern districts of the province such as western parts of Mutasa and Makoni South. These last received effective rainfall in the second week of December last year.
“We have a good crop in the Eastern Highlands of Chipinge, Chimanimani, parts of Mutare, Mutasa and Nyanga, Headlands and Nyazura,” added Mr Mlambo.
Headlands, Rusape, Nyazura and parts of Odzi received some rains since Wednesday, though it is lower than normally received in this time of the year.
Rainfall that is normally received in the province this time of the years is more than 1 000mm per annual, but has drastically declined due to negative effects of climate change.
“The rainfall normally received per annum ranges from 450mm in the eastern lowveld to above 1 000mm in the Eastern highlands.
“Crops and livestock production in Manicaland is being affected by the negative effects of climate change like long dry spells, low and poorly distributed rainfall and outbreaks of new pests like fall armyworm,” added Mr Mlambo.
Ninety percent of the germinated crop is at vegetative stage.
“The bulky of the crop, about 90 percent, is at vegetative stage while three percent of maize crop in the irrigation schemes is at tussling stage.
About seven percent of the crop is still at planting stage in parts of Chipinge and Chimanimani, which received effective rains of up to 96mm in the third week of December,” Mr Mlambo advised.
Statistics from the Manicaland Crop and Livestock Situation Report of January 5, 2020 revealed that the province has a cereal deficit of 165 456 tonnes.
“A total of 64 406 tonnes of cereals, that is maize and small grains were under production this season of which 51 070 tonnes were maize, 3388 tonnes sorghum, 8 428 tonnes pearl millet and 1 520 tonnes was finger millet,” read the report.