THE wet spell being experienced in the country will continue until February, with more rainfall expected for the next eight weeks. However, farmers have been given up to 15 January to plant cereals after which they may not mature.
The Meteorological Services Department (MSD) is still projecting a normal to above normal rainfall season despite a dry spell that affected some parts of the country late last year leaving crops with moisture stress.
The wet spell which started on 15 December 2021 will be experienced by various provinces in the country that receive rains coming in from the northern parts of the country.
James Ngoma, Head of Public Weather Services at the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) highlighted provinces that had been receiving the current rains in Zimbabwe.
“Most of Matabeleland North, South, Masvingo as well as part of the Midlands had rains for much of this season. The main areas that were mainly affected because of this dry spell in December were Mashonaland West, Central, East, Harare Metropolitan Province and Manicaland. These received less rainfall in the month of December and not for the rest of the country.
“These rains are the main rains that are experienced during the rainy season in Zimbabwe, so these will give us continuous rainfall for a 60-day period.
“Based on that we have the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) that comes out from the northern part of the country, from Zambia going into Zimbabwe so these areas mentioned above are closer to Zambia than the rest of the country. So, they are receiving the current rainfall that we are having right now,” said Ngoma.
“Farmers should expect more of these intermittent rain showers that we have been experiencing for at least a couple of more weeks. It’s good news for most farmers particularly those in Mashonaland Province but for those in Masvingo and Matabeleland South it’s a bit less rain as the ITCZ does not reach that far, it is coming from the north.
“Those farmers had their rains earlier and now this current spate of rains is affecting parts of Mashonaland and Masvingo Provinces into the Midlands,” he said.
Ngoma said areas that did not receive the initial rains were now receiving the current rains being experienced in some parts of the country.
“Those that got rains earlier should have started planting crops earlier too because most farmers in Matabeleland North actually depend on the earlier rains than these current rains so most farmers know their rainfall patterns.
“It’s only that these current rains came a little bit late because usually they come on the 15th of December but this time around, we saw them late by two weeks so that two-week delay should not really affect the crops,” said Ngoma.
Chief Agritex Officer in charge of Bulawayo and Matabeleland North Provinces, Dumisani Nyoni said farmers must take note of the 15 January cut off to conclude planting of cereals.
“We are saying to famers, they should plant maize, sorghum and millet up to 15 January 2022, beyond this date they should not plant those crops. They need to plant ultra-early maturing varieties that take 90 to 115 days. They should plant sugar beans, cow pea, sunflower and sweet potatoes now, those can be planted up to the end of January,” he said.
“We get our maximum temperatures in November and December, these highest heat units aid in growing the crops, after January the temperatures start going down and the growth of crops like maize if planted in January becomes low. The crops are likely not to mature if planted after 15 January.
“If you look at last season, the rains ended at the end of February in many places, so crops planted in January didn’t mature so that is why we are saying, from past records, anything planted after 15 January, if its maize, sorghum and millet is problematic in terms of maturing,” he said.
Nyoni further said another challenge was that people in rural areas let out their cattle to graze in harvested fields while the late planters will have green crops in the fields which is a problem.
The MSD said they were monitoring the rainfall systems as they come and go and would keep the nation informed if there were any changes to previous forecasts.