The risks that threaten dryland crop production
By Hanks Saisai
It is halfway through the rainy season, and most crop farmers who rely solely on rainfall as a means of irrigation are anticipating good harvest from their cultivated fields.
Most maize and mahangu plants are at flowering stage and with only a month to go, farmers are anticipating good harvest. In recent weeks however, several emerging risks has risen posing a threat to the crop harvest of farmers.
The recent outbreak of red locusts in Kavango East Region poses a very serious threat to many crop fields and could potentially compromise the projected harvest anticipated by many farmers.
These locusts easily consume crop fields in a very short period of time. With limited mechanisms available to control the outbreak, many farmers are threatened by total crop failure due to pests. Moreover, crop failure can easily lead to food insecurity and potential hikes in food prices.
The above-normal rainfall received in some parts of the country such as the Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West regions has resulted in flash floods and the flooding of low-lying crop fields.
The prolonged stagnant water bodies covering crop fields can have a detrimental effect on the growth of crops. When crop roots are submerged in water, this restricts gaseous exchange (which allows carbon dioxide to enter the plants via the roots and needed for photosynthesis). Normally floods reduce the ripening of crops produced under dryland production and in some cases, flooding results in total crop failure.
Apart from locusts, pest outbreaks such as fall army worms are a threat that most crop farmers must be on the lookout for. Fall army worms are specific pests that attack maize plants and can easily cause serious damage to crop.
Furthermore, a lack of mitigation measures such as the timely spraying of crops with chemical pesticides can result in total crop failure.
During this crucial time of flowering and setting of cobs and panicles on maize and mahangu, farmers are advised to always take time to scout their crop fields and report any pest outbreaks to the nearest Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform DAPEES offices.
Further to that, farmers are urged to keep pest control remedies handy in order to mitigate the threat posed by pests.
- Mr Hanks Saisai is Agribank’s Technical Advisor (Crops & Poultry).