HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsClimate change reshapes cropping season

Climate change reshapes cropping season


The cropping season is upon us and majority of farmers across the country are preparing their land. They are, however, constrained by the fact that crop agriculture has somewhat delayed due to shortage of rains. So far sporadic rains have fallen across the country.

Report by Wisdom Mdzungairi

As I was chatting to various farmers at the weekend, it became clear to me that even some pessimistic farmers have accepted the existence of global warming.

Farmers, Development Trust executive director Lovegot Tendengu said: “You know what, I never believed in this phenomenon, but I realise it is real. I use irrigation, but it is clear our cropping seasons now delay, in fact, they have shortened. Perhaps we need to do something about it.”

So if this condition continues, farmers across the country could get a permanent dose of hot weather if future climate change projections are accurate. I can imagine a farmer trying to eke out a living from an almost barren piece of land in Masvingo, Zaka, Gokwe, Binga, Matabeleland and elsewhere without enough rains and/or fertiliser to help him boost crop production.

The fact that this farmer knows little or nothing at all about global warming means government has a lot of explanation to do to farmers countrywide.

That could translate into changes in the government position on agricultural information or subsidies at a time when food production might face even more challenges.

What of seed houses –are they doing enough to equip farmers with the right information so that they are able to grow short-season varieties or drought-resistant varieties?

In the past, some farmers would by now be weeding. This has not happened –the reason being across much of the world crop agriculture could become up to two months longer due to climate change.

Zimbabwe is one country that has been heavily affected by global warming together with such countries as Norway.

A recent research project in Norway has been studying the potential and challenges inherent in such a scenario, and scientists expect the global mean temperature to rise in the future.

One consequence is that by the end of this century, farmers could be growing their crops for up to two months longer.

In areas of higher elevation, in fact the difference could turn out to be three months. A warmer climate would, however, open up several exciting opportunities for agriculture especially in Europe while it could spell doom for Africa.

It is not clear what needs to be done to ensure that plants thrive through the entirety of the longer growing season. A warmer climate means the growing season extends longer into the autumn.

As the climate shifts, it is a naked truth that farmers will be confronted with major meteorological challenges.

Rainfall variability with a smaller number of storms over the growing season and more intense storms are things we will have to watch out for.

If this develops, it will affect us all. Another important concern with temperature as it relates to maize production is pollination. What we would like to have is a situation where it may be hot in the daytime but there’s a drop in nighttime temperatures, which facilitates pollination.

Even with climate change, Banket, Mazowe Valley and Macheke among other areas would continue to be the country’s best maize-growing areas and might actually need to increase production. Climate projections suggest areas that rely on irrigation to boost productivity might drop maize production altogether if permanent drier conditions prevail.

One possible benefit from warmer annual temperatures is the prospect of more farmers growing soya beans and winter wheat in the same crop year.

Climate change could affect crop agriculture in other ways including:  Seed varieties. To produce high-yielding crops in more challenging weather conditions, farmers might have to choose varieties with better resistance traits and different maturity dates. Planting schedules also might have to be adjusted.

Soil erosion: Much progress has been made in stemming soil loss brought on by the combination of farming practices under moderate rainfall and temperatures. If conditions change, it could reverse those gains and reduce soil organic matter.

Depending on the size and scope of future climate change, government policy on renewable fuels might need to be revisited.

  • millenniumzimbabwe@yahoo.com/twitter.com/wisdomdzungairi

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