Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Zimbabwe Farmers Must Heed Weather Forecasts
August 11, 2016
Opinion & Analysis
Zimbabwe Herald

The auction tobacco marketing season came to a close on Friday August 5 2016 after 90 days of marketing the flue-cured tobacco. A total of 194,5 million kilograms were sold at an average price of $2,94 with farmers benefiting $572 million dollars. The 2015/ 2016 season was characterised by the El Nino weather phenomena which required farmers to practise water conservation techniques and to use drip irrigation.The weather forecasts for the 2016/ 2017 season are predicting the opposite of the El Nino, known as the La Nina which is characterised by heavy rains.

La Nina is a phenomenon that usually follows the El Nino and is characterised by heavy rains.

This means those with irrigated crops can plant early such that by the time heavy rains come, they will be reaping and will not feel the full effect of the La Nina.

For the rain fed crop, however, there are ways to mitigate the effects of the La Nina.

Farmers should understand their soil, and this can be done through soil testing, a process in which soil nutrient levels and compositions are determined as well as the soil pH is measured.

This is important because heavy rains normally cause leaching, which is the pulling down of nutrients to depths below that of the roots.

Nitrogen leaching is most likely to affect crop quality and yield and top dressing with cup number two of ammonium nitrate in the early stages of the crop or calcium nitrate with cup number two which is two milligrams if leaves turn from green to pale green after topping.

Nutrient deficiencies reveal themselves in plant appearance, however, rectifying root cause of deficiency is not always straight forward.

Managing soil nutrient level is fundamental in tobacco production and one cannot manage what they do not know or that which has not been measured hence the need for soil testing at least every two to three years.

High rainfalls increase the ripening rate of the tobacco crop, thereby putting pressure on the curing facilities.

Calcium nitrate can be used to slow down the ripening stage so as to ease pressure on the barns.

The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) urges farmers to follow meteorological department’s daily, weekly and monthly weather forecasts as these can change hence farmers should not rely on one forecast they would have heard.

Noteworthy is forecasts are given in a probabilistic manner hence the unlikely can happen.

Whilst the Met Department will give a macro climate, farmers operations should also be guided by micro climate hence it is prudent for a tobacco farmer to invest in a rain gauge and to keep records of all daily rainfalls so as to be able to estimate amount of water that would have soaked into the soil as this will also help in carrying out leaching adjustments.

Such a farmer can also join Meteorological Office volunteer network where they will avail rainfall data to the Meteorological Department for their area for meteorological office’s analysis.

Re-ridging must be done to avoid water logging as water logging culminates in plant wilting and causes fast ripening of the tobacco plants.

To avoid water logging, ridges can be constructed along the slopes so as to enable them to lose excess water.

Integrated weed management programme is essential particularly in the face of heavy rains and is more likely to suppress weeds more successfully if implemented early as weed suppression becomes more difficult as season progresses.

Weeds can contaminate final produce as well as reduce quality and value of the tobacco produce.

Farmers particularly those in hail storm prone areas are encouraged to insure their crop with reputable insurance companies.

For additional Information contact:
TIMB on telephone numbers 0772145166 /9 or 0279-22082 /21982 or 025-3439 or 067-24268/ 29246 or 0277-2700 or 064-7280 or 0271-6772 or Toll Free Number 0731999999 or E-mail:

No comments: