Winter cropping is here

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By Shingirirai Mutonho

MANY farmers have finished harvesting the 2019/2020 summer crop and it is time to go back to the drawing board — focusing on how to make the next season a success. 

Calls have been made for those practising winter cropping to adhere to proper methods of farming for maximum production.

Government has called on those with access to irrigation facilities to produce crops which thrive in winter, especially horticulture produce.

Horticulture expert Luckmore Kupita told The Patriot that for maximum production, farmers must use adequate inputs.

“A farmer’s yield and its quality determine whether they are going to break even or make a loss,” he said. 

“For one to achieve maximum yield per hectare, one needs to have correct and adequate inputs.

“The seed, fertilisers and chemicals used have a bearing on the crop produced, so it is important for farmers to choose the best varieties and amounts.”

Before planting in winter, said Kupita, farmers should prepare the land accordingly.

“When preparing the land, crop residual trashes from the previous plants are ploughed underground and they will decompose forming humus, thereby adding fertility and improving aeration,” he said.

“The decomposed trashes make nutritious feed for the worms underground which help in the restructuring of the soil.”

With wheat no longer the first winter crop of choice, farmers are producing crops such as onions, tomatoes, cabbages, lettuce and other leafy vegetables.

According to Kupita, farmers should take note of how to apply fertiliser and the amount required at any application.

Farmers can also use manure and animal waste as they have nutritional components that aid crop production, he said.

“Apply 30-to-50 tonnes of cow dung, decomposed farm manure or poultry excreta during ridging or bed preparation when growing cabbages,” Kupita said.

“Two weeks after planting, apply sulphate of ammonia at a rate of 80-100 kg per hectare (ha) and repeat at six weeks after planting.”

With tomatoes, Kupita urged farmers to apply 20-50 tonnes of cow dung; decomposed farm manure or poultry excreta two weeks before planting.

“It is advisable to apply basal compound four-seven days after planting at a rate of 1 000 to 1 500 kg per ha,” he said.

“At least 100 kg of ammonium nitrate is to be applied at first fruiting and when fruits are marble at three-week intervals.”

When producing lettuce, farmers are advised to apply decomposed manure; poultry excreta or cow dung at ridging or bed preparation stage.

“The standard fertiliser application programme is 500-800 kg of basal fertiliser per ha to be applied before planting and 200 kg per ha of limestone ammonium nitrate (LAN) to be applied as a side dressing two-five weeks after transplanting,” said Kupita.

As for farmers producing butternuts, they require two-to-four kg of seed per ha.

“A farmer should have 400-600 kg of Compound D fertiliser, 200 kg per ha of AN top dressing and 

10 000-15 000 kg per ha of manure to produce a quality butternut crop,” said Kupita.  

Those producing ginger should apply 30-50 tonnes of cow dung, decomposed farm manure or poultry excreta using the broadcast method before planting.

“At least 50 kg P20 and 25 kg of K20 can be applied using the broadcast method at the time of planting,” said Kupita.

Agriculture has been the bedrock of the country’s economy in the past and its revival is crucial to sustainable economic growth.

The sector used to supply about 60 percent of industry’s raw materials.

Therefore, reviving agriculture must remain Government’s number one priority if Zimbabwe is to reclaim its status as the bread-basket of Southern Africa.

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