The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: 'Power Cuts Could Reduce Wheat Yield'

Harare — POWER cuts currently being experienced in the country might reduce the expected winter wheat yield, the Department of Agricultural Research and Extension Services (Arex) has warned.

Arex director Dr Shadreck Mlambo yesterday said the winter crop had been badly affected by the power cuts and hinted that this might significantly result in reduced yield.

Dr Mlambo said the power cuts were disturbing irrigation operations on the farms, hence affecting crop growth.

"The crop is suffering badly from these power cuts. That is likely to have an adverse effect on the yield," Dr Mlambo said.

The revelations come as a major setback to the winter wheat programme after farmers failed to meet the targeted 110 000 hectares.

A validation exercise report of the 2006 winter wheat programme revealed that of the targeted hectarage, only 53 percent was planted in the country's eight provinces, translating into 57 835,8 hectares.

The report cited the shortage of critical inputs such as fertilizer, load shedding, erratic supply of fuel and delayed payment for grain delivered to the Grain Marketing Board as some of the factors leading to the missing of the targeted hectarage.

This means the estimated production will be about 218 046 tonnes and implies a deficit of 168 954 tonnes. Zimbabwe consumes about 400 000 tonnes of wheat annually.

Dr Mlambo said that apart from the problem of the power cuts, the general condition of the crop around the country was satisfactory.

He said in some areas, the wheat had reached milk stage.

This is the stage when the wheat was likely to be attacked by the quelea birds and Dr Mlambo advised farmers to report the presence of the birds as soon as they discover them.

He said his department and the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority were already on the ground fighting the birds, which are wrecking havoc in Chisumbanje and Matabeleland South where they are threatening sorghum yields.

He said his department had received a major boost in the fight against the migratory birds after it received Queletox, a chemical used in the fight against quelea birds from a local non-governmental organisation.

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