A WORD FROM… Jerry Mthombothi
During this season, farmers have experienced many problems such as high input costs, hot dry spells in January and heavy rains from mid-February.
Many farmers may not be able to return to farming in the next planting season as a result of the drought that their crops suffered in January, followed by floods that affected the crops thereafter. The crops suffered in areas where heat waves were experienced, and as a result the maize did not grow well. Some of the maize was stunted and leaves dried up.
The maize that was not affected by the drought, as well as the maize that was recovering from the drought, was affected by the heavy rains from mid-February. The heavy rain has filled the water table very quickly, which resulted in serious water damage and the drowning of farmers’ crops. Most of the crops were affected in such a way that many farmers will suffer a total crop loss.
Those farmers may struggle to go back to farming in the next planting season, especially the smaller farmers who did not insure their crops.
Farmers should try and limit their risks by planting their crops as early as possible in October or early November in the Highveld, depending on the rain. This is to avoid the tasselling of their maize during mid-January, when there can be hot dry spells that will disturb the pollination of their maize crops.
It is also very important to insure crops against hail damage, drought, frost and fire. Farmers should diversify by planting different types of crops at different times in one season. Those who can farm with both livestock and cash crops, must do so to spread the risk.
– Jerry Mthombothi is the regional development manager for the Mbombela office.
Publication: May 2023