Cloud seeding starts as crops suffer growing moisture stress

THE Meteorological Services Department has commenced cloud-seeding in order to encourage rainfall after crops, especially late-planted crops, are showing signs of growing moisture stress due to a prolonged dry spell.

In some areas, farmers are already counting losses as the late planted maize, sugarbeans and soyabeans have succumbed to the high temperatures and drying conditions. The late planted maize crop in some areas is now a write-off and will not recover even if significant rains fall.

Met Department deputy director, Mrs Linia Gopo, yesterday said cloud-seeding had started. “It started last week. It can only be done when conditions are conducive.”

Cloud-seeding requires certain conditions and thresholds, starting with clouds that can potentially bring rain. If hazy clouds are seeded they simply evaporate and no rain falls.

The Met Department indicated in September last year that it had all the resources required to conduct cloud-seeding during the present rainfall season, should need arise.

Government set a budget and there were also two planes, one stationed at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo and the other at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare for use when there is need for cloud-seeding.

Some parts of the country have been receiving rains during the past few days although the condition of crops has continued deteriorating in other areas.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president, Dr Shadreck Makombe, yesterday said maize had been affected by the dry spell, especially the late crop.

“Some cobs have fallen and this crop will not recover even if we are to get rains. But about 30 to 40 percent of the late planted maize can recover.”

Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers’ Trust president, Mrs Depinah Nkomo,, said traditional grains were in a better condition when compared to maize. Many of these grains, indigenous to Africa, can sit out a dry spell and then start growing again when rain falls.

“A number of areas have been receiving rains for the past days. In some areas sugarbeans can recover. The condition of traditional crops such sorghum is fair. The crop is tolerant to drought conditions,” she said.

Head of the Plant Protection and Research Institute Mr Shingirai Nyamutukwa, advised farmers to increase scouting frequency and come in with chemicals as soon as there is pest infestation.

“The current weather conditions are conducive for rapid pest infestation. We have noticed fall armyworm in most areas including small plots in urban areas. The Pfumvudza crop is doing well and is not affected by pests. The late planted maize is at high risk of pest infestation,” he said.

Agriculture expert and Agricultural Rural Development Authority board chairman, Mr Ivan Craig , said all hope was not lost as farmers with a write -off crop still get something from the crop residues.

Mr Craig said farmers could make silage or snap corn to feed livestock using the crop residues.

“Not everybody should give up. There are some crops which will survive when they receive rain.

“In some cases the maize is now a write-off and the cob has fallen. Farmers should not leave the crop to dry but should cut it into small pieces and make silage thus adding value to the wasted crop.

“Besides silage, farmers can also make snap corn, taking the wasted maize and grinding it. It is then mixed with salt or other feeds and fed to livestock. Farmers can also sell the snap corn to other livestock farmers and get money,” he said.

Mr Craig urged farmers to seek assistance from experts to avoid ammonia poisoning.

Crop residues are a good substitute for grazing. Farmers can use them for this, but not immediately after applying urea and ammonium nitrate as these generate ammonia poisoning. Herald.

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