With El Niño taking its course, farmers are warned to take extra careful measures to prepare for wet and dry weather conditions as planting season is set to take place.
The South African Weather Service (SAWS) announced that the northeast areas in the country can anticipate more rain than usual in the late spring, and most of the country is anticipated to receive above-average rainfall in early to mid-spring.
Sthembile Ngubane, a crop farmer on the south coast of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, told Food For Mzansi that the changing weather conditions will affect her because she does not have tunnels.
She said she has to be well prepared because she doesn’t have a clear picture of how much damage there could be as planting season looms.
“I will make sure the soil stays healthy by using organic things such as animal manure, dry-cut grass, and leaves.
“I will be planting using in lines as I usually do and open holes on top of the line and plant in that hole. In that way, when watering, the water stays in and doesn’t overflow nor evaporate fast,” Ngubane said.
Small-scale farmers at risk
Meanwhile, Andile Mkhize, a small-scale crop farmer in Melmoth, KwaZulu-Natal, believes that the weather conditions will affect him and other small-scale farmers because of their dependence on rainwater.
“I am dependent on rain-harvested water because I do not have a proper irrigation system. These weather conditions will increase production costs as I will need to get water to irrigate in different ways to the extent of hiring a water tanker to deliver water if the situation is too bad,” he said.
He explained that healthy soil is key for crop production. Mkhize uses cow, goat, and chicken dung to keep his soil healthy. He added that mulching is also one of the key strategies he uses to keep his soil moisturised and healthy.
Several measures taken
“I am currently working on a plan to start Vermicompost which is rich in fixing soil structure. I will continue investing more in mulching as it will keep my soil moisturised and healthy.”
He said he will also irrigate early in the morning before it is hot, this helps in more water being absorbed in the soil.
“Keeping track of weather conditions will guide me on how I should irrigate on that particular day. Farmers should always have knowledge of the weather conditions as it affects their daily operations,” Mkhize said.
Best not to plant too early
Meanwhile, Peter Johnston, a research officer from the Climate System Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town, told farmers that the forecast is now a prediction and farmers should be careful to not plant early.
“Farmers should be warned of planting early. If there is above-normal rain in September but a dry October, then they may lose their crop.
“They should be aware that El Niño means the chances of below-normal rainfall in summer are higher than normal. They should be conservative and only plant in their best fields,” he said.
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