THE rains are around the corner. It is October but the month can be considered as part of the rain season. So land preparation should not be left until November, it might be too late, especially that the first rains bring moisture that favour seasonal crops.
So if this month of October blesses the land with 4mm of rain, farmers should take advantage of land preparation as this moisture is enough to set the ball rolling and start land preparation activities.
Make sure that the use of early rainfall to prepare the land will ensure that subsequent rainfall does not run off. Water received will benefit the plants or crops to be planted. Once land preparation is done during the month of October, this gives a very good chance of putting the seed in the soil before the second week of December.
This is what we can call early planting. This is very critical especially in regions of Zambia falling in 1 and 2 where rainfall is not so adequate.
It is equally important for farmers who rely very much on seasonal rainfall to grow their crops. Early planted crops have a better chance of withstanding midseason dry spells. As farmers it is also important to know that a soil receiving rainfall of the order of say 25 – 30mm in ten days is sufficiently soaked for planting operations.
So such amounts of rainfall give a farmer a good start.
When it comes to planting of whatever crop, the seed to be used must appropriately be suited to the area, so this means that normal planting schedules so recommended for each area or region must therefore be used.
If it is in drier areas, drought resistant crops such as sorghum, millet and so on would give better returns.
In addition to this, where seed resources permit, planting should be staggered to reduce attacks by pests and diseases.
Seasonal crops should not be the only crops to be planted.
During any rain season, it is also important for farmers to practice tree planting programmes that are recommended by the Department of Natural Resources, especially in areas with poor vegetative cover.
With such practices, farmers would be contributing to making other natural resources available for other uses in the nation.
Dissemination of information by the Meteorological Department on weather is very important.
If this is taken seriously, the farmers would be in a better position to know when they can start land preparation, planting etc.
As farmers develop keen interest in weather forecasts this would help and incorporate weather forecast information in their operational decision-making as already mentioned e.g. timing of planting end spraying that is if needed. Weather information would be necessary so that on open days these activities can be carried out.
The nation needs food, and it all depends on our hardworking farmers.
It is to them that we are looking up to. We cannot rely on imported expensive food which will and would drain our foreign exchange resources. Food has to be grown locally and grown abundantly to feed every Zambian mouth.
The Zambian agro – ecological regions which have been established and mapped in the country helps the farmer to plan as to when to grow or plant the required crop.
Each region or zone has its own parameters such as the length of growing season of a crop, the amount of sunshine in the rainy season – this affects the growing crop a lot.
Others have to do with drought occurrence during the rainy season. All these differentiate the regions. The start of rains in all the three zones differ, in the north rains start early and the season is long while in the valley areas of the southern parts of the country receive almost half of what the northern region gets. The less rainfall that is experienced in regions or zones 1 and 2 makes water availability a major constraint to sustainable agricultural production.
Therefore, this makes the Meteorological Department more relevant to weather forecast information for the farmer to plan properly on how to make good use of whatever rainfall that maybe received.
This will be compounded by the choice of seed that would be suitable to an area or region to have an appreciable yield when the season comes to an end. The agro – climatic condition which involves the extremes of weather do actually impact strongly on the production of our food.
Hence, the dissemination of weather information would and is of great importance for the farmer to perform. The climatic cycle would indeed determine whether there would be feasts and famine among the end users of the produced crops – the citizen of the country. So farmers must make full use of whatever rains that may be received.