Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Mat South Bureau Chief
FARMERS in Matabeleland South province have been urged to grow small grains which are ideal as the peak of the rainy season has passed.
In addition to being endowed with micronutrients and antioxidants, starch from some varieties of small grains is slowly digestible compared to the starch of commonly consumed grains.
This means that the release of sugar from small grains is slow and sustained, maintaining low blood sugar levels, thereby making them ideal for sugar-controlled diets. Slow digestion also means one feels fuller for longer.
Slowly digestible carbohydrates and whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of diet-related chronic diseases.
Matabeleland South acting provincial agricultural officer Mr Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu said short season varieties were especially ideal as they ripen quicker.
“The peak of the rainy season has since passed and the remaining moisture should be enough to grow short season varieties. Under normal circumstances, the rainy season ends towards the end of February. With short season varieties, they would’ve ripened by the end of the rainy season. They need about 60 to 90 days to mature, which is very much ideal,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He said the short season varieties include sorghum (Marcia and SV4), pale millet (hybrid seeds), maize (300 series), sugar beans and sunflower.
“Sunflower is very much ideal because when it gets relatively dry around February-March, wheat will be difficult to grow so if one has planted sunflower, it can substitute wheat, survive and thrive under limited moisture. Sunflower has to be planted by January 20. Farmers can also utilise this time to grow forage sorghum, velvet bean and other fodder varieties. With these ones, even if they don’t thrive, it really doesn’t matter because what farmers really need is the biomass so that they can feed their livestock,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Statistics show that there has been an increase in the number of people suffering from diet-related illnesses such as type II diabetes and hypertension as a result of poor diet.
According to research, the quality of carbohydrates people consume contributes to the risk of diet related non-communicable diseases.
Agriculturalists note with concern the practical disappearance of indigenous crop and vegetable varieties.
They also say fewer crop species are feeding the world than 50 years ago, raising concerns about the resilience of the global food system.
They warn that loss of diversity means more people are dependent on a few key crops, leaving them more exposed to harvest failures.
Higher consumption of energy-dense crops could also contribute to a global rise in heart disease and diabetes, they added.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the diversity of cultivated crops declined by 75 percent during the 20th century and a third of today’s diversity could disappear by 2050.
Agricultural experts say the world’s agro-biodiversity is disappearing at an alarming rate and for several major crops, up to 90 percent losses in variety over the past century have been reported.
“There is a need to promote the consumption and growing of small grains as these are better equipped to thrive under adverse weather conditions and are more suitable for long-term storage.” — @Yolisswa