‘Light showers are a threat to wheat yield’

THE Agriculture ministry has warned winter wheat farmers to be wary of the sporadic rainfall being experienced across the country recently of damaging their produce which is now ready for harvesting. 

This year, Zimbabwe expects a surplus harvest of 62 000 hectares of the crop which is a 53 percent increase than that of last year. 

This comes as the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) revealed that the country will experience scattered thunderstorms and light rainfall in some areas. 

It also comes as places like Masvingo (28mm), Bulawayo (16mm), Nkayi (14mm), Matopos (10mm) and Chinhoyi (6mm) received rainfall earlier this week. 

These light showers have the potential to cause damage to the winter wheat crop which is now ripe for harvest. 

“Small amounts of rainfall can reduce grain quality of wheat, grain germination, rotting and reduced falling numbers and farmers are encouraged to recheck moisture content before harvesting,” the Agriculture ministry warned local farmers on Twitter yesterday. 

Besides rainfall damage, the farmers’ wheat crop also faces a threat from the devastating quelea birds. 

The little birds that flock in very huge numbers were devouring vast fields of wheat especially in provinces such as Mashonaland Central, East and West, Midlands and Manicaland. 

The average quelea bird eats around 10 grams of grain per day, roughly half its body weight so a flock of two million can devour as much as 20 tonnes of grain in a single day. 

Farmers have been urged to report quelea bird sightings as soon as possible to Agritex officers for the implementation of intervention measures following importation of chemicals by the government from Kenya and China. 

All this comes as the government is expecting farmers countrywide to have harvested 65 percent of their wheat crop by the end of October. 

“The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has designated 18 intake depots for collecting wheat, and is purchasing quality control equipment as well as accelerating grain movement from the northern depots to the southern depots. 

“Allocation of combine harvesters and transporters is being finalized by the AFC and GMB,” Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said following a Cabinet meeting in Harare on Tuesday.