Successful dryland crop production requires input suppliers to ensure that seeds, fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides are readily available for farmers.

According to Agribank’s technical advisor for crops and poultry, Hank Saisai, as Namibia’s rainy season steadily approaches, farmers across the country are in good spirits, awaiting much-anticipated rain showers.

He said to this end, rainfall provides favourable conditions and positively effects agriculture activities.

Firstly, rainfall replenishes water resources, and secondly, it encourages the regrowth of grass on grazing lands and is the main source of irrigation for most crop farmers.

“Namibia aims to be a food-secure country by locally producing most of its staple grains. This has required farmers who practice dryland crop production to annually prepare to ensure a successful cropping season.”

Key steps

Dryland crop production is commonly practiced in Namibia’s Omaheke, Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena, Kavango West, Kavango East and Zambezi regions.

Saisai said this form of agriculture focuses on producing major staple grains and relies solely on rainfall as the only source of water supply for crop fields.

“Conventionally, the operations of dryland crop production respond to the first rainfall that is received, and usually about 25 mm of rainfall is needed for the soil to support seed germination.”

He said consequently, preparedness is a key factor that farmers must bear in mind when intending to successfully grow rain-fed crops.

According to Saisai, as November is fast approaching, farmers are urged to start procuring all the necessary inputs they need to grow cereal crops such as maize, pearl millet (mahangu) and sorghum.

“Once the seeds are available, it is of great importance for farmers to start clearing bushes and all unwanted vegetation that may hinder easy cultivation of their fields.”

Another crucial aspect is for farmers to start registering for ploughing services at all of the agriculture ministry’s agricultural development centres (ADCs) in their respective constituencies to ensure that their fields are ploughed on time.

Prepare ahead

Saisai said from government’s side, it is ideal for them as service providers to ensure that tractors and inputs such as fertilisers are made available before the commencement of the ploughing season.

He said farmers are further urged to acquire information on rainfall forecast trends for the upcoming season.

This information should specifically focus on the average amount of rainfall expected in each region that participates in dryland crop production.

“This will aid farmers to understand how much water will be required for them to grow crops successfully.”

Saisai said for maize producers, an average amount of above 500 mm is required to successfully grow white maize.

On the other hand, crops such as pearl millet (mahangu) require about 350 mm when one grows cultivars such as Okashana number two. Sorghum may require about 400 mm of water per growing season.

Additionally, farmers must ensure that they understand the forecasted rainfall distribution, as it may influence the production of crops.

Weather patterns

He said dry spells during the growing season and crucial stages such as flowering may hinder the yield potential of crops. Furthermore, farmers must study the forecasted intensity of rainfall, as it has a direct effect on crop growth.

Light-intensity rainfall that is prolonged is ideal for maximum soil absorption and ensuring that crop roots are supplied with adequate water, whereas high-intensity rainfall may cause soil erosion and damage to crops on open fields.

Saisai also encouraged farmers to ensure they procure the right seeds that have a short growing period, as rainfall patterns are unpredictable. Overall, preparedness may ensure that farmers achieve their objective of a successful harvest.

Moreover, he said farmers in flood-prone areas of the Zambezi Region can utilise emerging streams as the flood waters dry up for the growing of cereal grains such as maize, sorghum, and Mahangu, which are staples in that region.

[Bron – Republikein]

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