Midlands farmers near winter wheat target with 11 600 hectares planted

Patrick Chitumba, [email protected]

FARMERS in the Midlands province have put a total of 11 600 hectares under winter wheat out of the targeted 12 000 hectares that had been set for this season.

The province has set a target of harvesting 60 000 tonnes of winter wheat this year, contributing 19 percent of the national wheat requirements of 320 000 tonnes.

Government is targeting to increase wheat production to meet the national requirement in line with the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, the Agriculture Recovery Plan and the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1) and in pursuit of Vision 2030.

Wheat is mostly grown under irrigation during winter, which runs from May to July. The crop is harvested from October to December.

In the Midlands, winter wheat is mainly grown in Sherwood Block and farms around the Kwekwe District.

There are also some irrigation schemes in Mberengwa, Lower Gweru and Shurugwi contributing to the provincial target.

There are leading farmers such as Precabe Farm owned by the First Family where 500 ha have been put under the crop.

Mr Douglas Kwande of Douglas and Claris Kwande (DCK) Investments, which own DCK Farm in Kwekwe planted nearly 400 ha of wheat.

Gweru City Council managed to put 33 ha under winter wheat at its Go Beer farm.

In an interview, Midlands provincial agronomist, Mr Innocent Dzuke said the biggest challenge was a decline in water levels in the dams due to the El-Nino-induced drought.

“We managed to do 11 600 ha under winter wheat, which is a milestone because last year we had 10 000 ha. We had set a target of 12 000 ha but because of water challenges, some farmers reduced hectares,” he said.

“We also had new farmers who participated, which is a welcome development for the province.”

Through implementing various programmes, the country is expected to produce 600 000 tonnes of wheat for the first time in history.

Agriculture experts described this year’s wheat success story as a game changer towards Government’s thrust to achieve wheat-based food security adopted in the face of El Nino induced drought.

 Mr Ronnie Chigombe, sales agronomist at SeedCo said wheat takes about 125-140 days to physiological maturity depending on variety, altitude and weather conditions.

“The winter wheat that was planted early is at growth stages varying from early vegetative to mid-vegetative stages. However, those farmers who planted wheat early are done with the application of herbicides and second top dressing and are now busy with maintaining irrigation scheduling,” he said.

“Those who planted late are almost through with hardening the crop and now applying first top dressing and application of herbicides so that the crop grows free of weeds, which when not controlled, will compete with the wheat crop for nutrients thereby affecting crop growth.”

Mr Chigombe urged farmers to maintain good agronomic standards throughout the stages of growth. 

“Wheat critical stages such as crop establishment, tillering, flowering and grain filling will coincide with the optimum growth conditions when the crop is planted early,” he said.

Mr Charles Knight of Subdivision 10 of 20, Sebakwe Block said he managed to put 21 ha under winter wheat.

“We have 21 ha under wheat and the crop just came off the hardening stage. We are applying top dressing now,” he said. 

Zimbabwe is optimistic that this year’s winter wheat production will help to boost food security following various interventions put in place by Government and private sector engagement to boost a record harvest.

The wheat crop is supported through private contractors, Government’s National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme, (Neaps) Presidential wheat support and self-financed growers.

This season, the Government was well prepared to support wheat production better than previous seasons as it is working closely with various stakeholders to boost food security.

Last season, about 468  000tonnes of wheat was produced from a target of 91   000ha far below the 120 000ha that is set to be achieved this season.


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