Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
The 2016-17 rainfall season in Zimbabwe officially ends this week, with winter features expected to set in after Friday, the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) has said.
More rainfall is expected, though relatively light during the month of April.
According to the MSD, by this time, most of the rain-fed summer crops (particularly maize and groundnuts, if planted on time) will no longer need water but sunshine instead.
“It must be pointed also that, despite this cut off date, there is still some residual moisture around.
“Therefore, the rains can usually continue falling.
“Even for this 2017 season, present weather patterns indicate that more precipitation in the form of drizzle is expected to continue mainly in Masvingo, Midlands and Manicaland,” said MSD.
According to the MSD, there has been less than satisfactory solar radiation or sunshine in March to effectively dry the summer crops.
March had been characterised by mostly cloudy and windy weather, the relative humidity is still unusually high for this time of the year and the water table in many areas is still too high.
“Overnight temperatures are getting colder and the wind chill factor becoming more effective and pronounced.
“A shorter than usual transition from summer to winter is more than likely,” said MSD.
The department urged the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development to immediately assess the impact of the prolonged wet spells, high moisture content and reduced heating on the quality and timing of the maize harvest.
“Of particular importance will be disease outbreaks or even re-germination.
“It is pleasing to note that the majority of the major dams now have enough water, with some even spilling, for irrigation. Water is a finite resource and the future seasons may not be as good as the present.
“Accordingly, water conservation and water harvesting programmes should continue unabated,” said MSD.
Despite the good rains received this season, there were areas that had severe prolonged moisture stress.
The hardest hit were those on the leeward side of the Eastern Highlands.
Some Districts in Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East also had inferior harvests due to the relatively poor distribution of the rains.
“Cloud seeding could have made a positive contribution, had it been carried out.
“Accordingly, the department hereby reiterates the need to ensure that cloud seeding remains core to agricultural production until irrigation takes over.
“It is hoped that it gets the support it deserves,” said MSD