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Rains provide sweet outlook for sugarcane farmers

Rains provide sweet outlook for sugarcane farmers

Story by Gay Matambo

SUGARCANE farmers are anticipating a successful summer cropping season after the recent heavy rains raised water levels in irrigation water sources.

This follows a series of dry spells in 2022.

The El Nino-induced dry conditions have resulted in low water levels in dams that supply water for irrigation in the Lowveld such as Manjerenje Dam in Zaka district.

The situation has, however, improved after the wet spell, much to the delight of sugarcane farmers.

One of the farmers said, “We do rely on irrigation but when the dams are empty we can’t irrigate our fields. I remember early January Manjerenje Dam was at 30% full which was too low. We were starting to panic but we thank God for the rains the dam levels have improved.”

“After noticing that we were experiencing a series of dry spells we started planning for water rationing because we knew that the dam levels were too low. The rains have restored our hope as sugarcane farmers,” said another farmer.

Experts also contend rainwater contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus which are good for sugarcane production.

Zimbabwe Sugarcane Association Experiment Station, Senior Industrial Agricultural Research Chemist, Dr Mutatu said, “Rainwater can help farmers reduce their reliance on irrigation and water from other sources. It can also help conserve soil and water resources while improving crop yields. However, if too much, rainwater causes runoff which results in leaching hence we encourage farmers to apply fertilisers when the soil is dry.”

Meanwhile, El Nino-induced heat waves have also created a breeding ground for yellow sugarcane aphids which severely affected yields since 2015.

“Yellow sugarcane aphids usually attack young cane. We urge farmers to spray their cane and as part of measures to contain the pests we have acquired a drone which we are using to spray the fields in all plantations with Mkwasine being the hardest hit by the yellow sugarcane aphids,” said ZSAES Entologist, Miss Concillia Mukanga.

There are however sustained efforts to contain the yellow sugarcane aphids whose effective control requires all crops within the same area to be sprayed at once to deprive the pests of breeding space.

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