Dryland crop producers prepare for season

07 October 2021 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

All eyes on weather forecastsPreparedness is a key factor that farmers must bear in mind when intending to successfully grow rain-fed crops.

As the start of the rainy season slowly approaches, dryland crop farmers should make the proper preparations that will ensure a successful harvest.

Agribank’s technical advisor for crops and poultry, Hank Saisai, says Namibia aims to become a food-secure country by producing most of its staple grains locally.

This requires farmers who practise dryland crop production to be prepared each year to ensure a successful cropping season.

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

“This form of agriculture focuses on producing major staple grains and relies solely on rainfall as the only source of water supply to crop fields,” Saisai says.

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

Preparation is key

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

Saisai says as the month of 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 and sorghum.

He says farmers must start by buying the right cultivars of these crops and then 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 the agriculture ministry’s Agricultural Development Centres (ADCs) in their constituencies to ensure that their fields are ploughed on time.

“On 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.”

Weather forecasts

He further urged farmers to acquire information on rainfall forecast trends for the upcoming season, saying that this information should specifically focus on the average amount of rainfall expected in each region that participates in dryland crop production.

According to him this will aid farmers in understanding how much water will be required for them to grow crops successfully.

“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 require about 350 mm when one grows cultivars such as Okashana number two.”

Sorghum requires about 400 mm of water per growing season, says Saisai.

Additionally, farmers must ensure that they understand the forecasted rainfall distribution, as it may have an effect on the production of crops.

Dry spells during the growing season and crucial stages such as flowering may hinder the yield.

Furthermore, he says that farmers must study the forecasted intensity of rainfall as it has a direct effect on crop growth.

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

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

“On the other hand, farmers are encouraged to ensure that 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.”