Crops rot in the rain

In agronomy, too much rain can become a double-edged sword with vegetable producers recording millions in losses after heavy, prolonged rains.

17 March 2017 | Local News

Some farmers in areas near Tsumeb, Grootfontein and Hochfeld have suffered crop losses of up to N$3 million after receiving copious rain.

The farmers received up to half of the total seasonal rain in February resulting in large-scale damage of carrot, potato and onion fields.

In February alone, most Namibian vegetable producers received half of their seasonal rainfall while producers in the north say it is still raining.

According to the latest rain bulletin issued by the weather office, the northeast, central-north and Zambezi Region have already received more than the average of 350mm rain, while some areas have recorded up to 200% of their normal averages.

The office, however, stressed that the rainfall recorded in most parts of the country is normal for this time of the year.

The heavy rains that have fallen over a short period of time have brought problems for agronomists whose vegetables have been flooded by the water and attacked by pests.

Pest control measures have been rendered useless by the continuous rain and the fields are too wet for tractors to be used.

Namibia's biggest potato and onion farmer Ludie Kolver from Cando Farming in Hochfeld area said because too much rain fell over a short period, he has lost crops worth about N$3 million.

“Within a period of two to three weeks, I received between 250 to 300mm of rain. That is too much and I lost about 12.5 hectares of potatoes. Another negative impact of so much rain is that nematodes attacked the potatoes.”

According to Kolver, he also experienced heat damage last year in November and December and suffered a crop loss of up to 80%.

“The problem is that a person cannot get your input cost back after that much damage.”



Huge damage

Another mega potato and onion farmer Cobus Coetzee from the farm Bombay between Tsumeb and Grootfontein said in that area, there was also too much rain which resulted in potato crop losses of about N$1.8 million on his piece of land.

According to him, the average rainfall is about 400mm but to date, the area has received 550mm.

“I planted about 30 hectares of potatoes and generally harvest about 50 tons per hectare. However, due to the rain, we expect only about 35 tons per hectare. The harvest for the onions is expected to be worse.”

Dirk van der Berg from Uitkoms and Neseier who farms near Tsumeb said he received about 300mm of rain and he has written off a block of yellow carrots.

“I had 75mm at once, for example. The Altenaria fungus attacked the vegetables and because it was too wet, I could not get into the crop fields with my tractor to spray the pests.”

He said he plants yellow carrots in blocks of about one and a half hectares and harvests 50 to 60 tons first-grade carrots per hectare. “The loss therefore is about N$390 000.”

But for Van der Berg who is also a cattle and citrus farmer, he is thankful for the rain.

Gerhard Engelbrecht an agronomist from the maize triangle says he received a total of 800mm of rain for the season and although it was much more than the average of 550mm, he did not suffer much damage.

According to Engelbrecht, his loss may be about 10%.

He says the good rains also helped to bring the outbreak of commando worms under control that was also supported by pest control sprays.

Louis Steyn, another well-known maize producer from the farm Highlanders near Grootfontein, said his young plants drowned but the older plants survived.

He estimates his damage to be between 20 and 30% total losses.

On average, he receives 460mm rain but has already received 810mm for the season.

George Sievers who farms north of Grootfontein on farm Gross Ilmenau in the Abenab area said he received more than 700mm for the season.

“My land cannot handle that much water and it is not the best situation to grow maize. The yellowing of the maize can decrease my harvest by a quarter. But we still prefer the good rains to the drought and the groundwater resources are recharged which is very important.”



ELVIRA HATTINGH

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