Dryland crop production preparations

August 22, 2023

As we steadily approach the start of our rainy season, farmers across the country are in good spirits awaiting much-anticipated showers. To this end, rainfall provides favorable conditions and positively affects agricultural activities.

Firstly, rainfall replenishes our water resources (e. g. rivers, boreholes, underground water aquifers).

Secondly, rainfall encourages the regrowth of grass on our grazing lands and is the main source of irrigation for most crop farmers.

Namibia aims to be a food secure country by locally producing most of its staple grains. This has required farmers who practice dryland crop production to annually prepare to ensure a successful cropping season.

Dryland crop production is commonly practiced in Namibia’s Omaheke, Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena, Kavango West, Kavango East and Zambezi regions.

This form of agriculture focuses on producing major staple grains and relies solely on rainfall as the only source of water supply for crop fields. Conventionally, the operations of dryland crop production respond to the first rainfall that is received and usually about 25 mm of rainfall is needed for the soil to support seed germination.

Consequently, preparedness is a key factor that farmers must bear in mind when intending to successfully grow rain fed crops. As the month of November is fast approaching, farmers are urged to start procuring all the necessary inputs they need to grow cereal crops such as Maize, Pearl Millet (Mahangu) and Sorghum. Firstly, farmers must start buying the right cultivars of maize, mahangu and sorghum to be produced.

Secondly, once the seeds are available, it is of great importance for farmers to start clearing bushes and all unwanted vegetation that may hinder easy cultivation of their fields. Another crucial aspect is for farmers to start registering for ploughing services at all Ministry of Agriculture’s Agricultural Development Centers (ADCs) in their respective constituencies to ensure that their fields are ploughed on time.

On Government’s side, it is ideal for them as service providers to ensure that tractors and inputs such as fertilizers are made available before the commencement of the ploughing season.

Farmers are further urged to acquire information on rainfall forecast trends for the upcoming season. This information should specifically focus on the average amount of rainfall expected in each region that participates in dryland crop production. This will aid farmers to understand how much water will be required for them to grow crops successfully.

For maize producers, an average amount of above 500mm is required to successfully grow white maize. On the other hand, crops such as Pearl Millet (Mahangu) require about 350mm when one grows cultivars such as Okashana number two. Sorghum may require about 400mm of water per growing season.

Additionally, farmers must ensure that they understand the forecasted rainfall distribution as it may influence the production of crops. Dry spells during the growing season and crucial stages such as flowering may hinder the yield potential of each crop.

Furthermore, farmers must study the forecasted intensity of rainfall as it has a direct effect on crop growth. Light intensity rainfall that is prolonged is ideal for maximum soil absorption and ensuring that crop roots are supplied with adequate water. Whereas high intensity rainfall may cause soil erosion and damage to crops on open fields.

Finally, successful dryland crop production requires input suppliers to ensure that seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides are readily available for farmers. On the other hand, farmers are encouraged to ensure that they procure the right seeds that have a short growing period as rainfall patterns are unpredictable.

Overall, preparedness may ensure that farmers achieve their objective of a successful harvest. Moreover, farmers in the flood prone areas of the Zambezi Region, can utilize emerging streams, as the flood waters dry up, for the growing of cereal grains such as Maize and Sorghum and Mahangu which are staples in that region.

These combined efforts will contribute to improving self-sufficiency and ultimately alleviate food insecurity at household levels.

* Hanks Saisai is Technical Advisor: Crops & Poultry at Agribank

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Last modified on Tuesday, 22 August 2023 17:36

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