Wimbainashe Zhakata Mutare Correspondent
Agro-dealers have been urged to stock improved varieties of pearl millet to ensure an improvement in the production of the crop.
This follows a 26 percent decline in production of the crop in Manicaland last season due to a mix of erratic rains and inferior varieties used.
In an interview, Manicaland provincial agronomist Mr Cephas Mlambo said the province produced 7 117 tonnes of the crop, a significant decline from the previous season.
“About 37 199 hectares of pearl millet (Mhunga) were grown last season in Manicaland and the yield was 0.22 tonnes per hectare, this was 26 percent lower than last season,” he said. “Production was 7 117 tonnes, which was 24 percent lower than last year.
“The unavailability of improved varieties such as PMV1 and PMV2 among others at local level was also a challenge, as well as low and poorly distributed rainfall which reduced productivity.”
Mr Mlambo urged farmers to start land preparations in order to increase yields this season.
“Agro-dealers should be encouraged to stock improved pearl millet varieties,” he said.
“Seed multiplication programmes in semi-arid regions should be intensified so that foundation seed is available locally.
“We advise farmers to do land preparation and procure inputs now so that they plant the crop with the first rains. Farmers should also think of value addition to Pearl millet grain to earn more income from the crop.”
Mr Mlambo said Agritex had conducted awareness campaigns on the benefits of growing small grains in semi-arid regions, which had resulted in the increased area put under the crop.
“However, the decrease in productivity was due to the poor rain season that was characterised by long dry spells and poorly distributed rainfall in both time and space,” he said.
Mr Mlambo said pearl millet farmers were facing several challenges affecting productivity.
These include traditional beliefs that prohibit the production of the small grain in certain villages, yet it grows very well in those areas.