Farmers in the Free State are keeping their fingers crossed for another three weeks without frost so that threatened crops have sufficient time to dry.
This, coupled with veld and especially tall grass along the roads posing a fire hazard, have farmers and organised agriculture on high alert.
Free State Agriculture (FSA) warns of a potential fire danger risk with farmers in the province hoping for just three weeks of grace against the winter cold.
This is so that late crops can reach their full potential. Over the past four mornings, frost has occurred in the low-lying parts of the southern Free State already.
Regional FSA representative Johan Fourie explained that night temperatures in low-lying parts of Dewetsdorp, Wepener and Vanstadensrus have significantly dropped, creating frost in the process.
Fortunately, at this stage no crop damage has been reported.
FSA’s Letsemeng regional representative, Kempen Nel, says farmers in the Jacobsdal area hope for three weeks without frost so that crops have sufficient time to dry.
Fire protection associations on stand-by
Meanwhile, Dr Jack Armour, commercial manager of FSA, warns that farmers should be aware of a fire hazard after the frost.
“The good rains of the past season have contributed to good veld and growth conditions. However, the veld and especially tall grass along the roads pose a fire hazard.”
FSA encourages fire protection associations to get their structures and equipment in place in the wake of the frost-related fire danger.
“The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) has indicated that their contractors will only start cutting the grass from 14 May when no regrowth can take place,” Armour says.
Armour also explains that the late rains that occurred in large parts of the Free State during December and January had an influence on planting dates. Earlier, this also led to flood damage in some areas.
“Many farmers’ initial plantings were washed away or were compacted and had to be replanted later. This has a major financial impact on farmers. So, if frost occurs too early and the late plantings are also damaged, it will be a big blow to these farmers.”