The summer cropping season started on a slow note in Matabeleland North province, with most districts having planted between 300 and 500 hectares of maize so far.

The low activity is being attributed to the low rainfall that has been received since the beginning of the season.

Bubi and Nkayi are the two districts that have received the highest rainfall, ranging between 74 and 130 millimetres since the beginning of the rainy season.

Hwange and Binga districts have received less than 60 millimetres so far.

Although the province only has an average draft power of 45 percent, there are few tractors in service which can be hired out for tillage services.

Private tractors are unaffordable to many and this has affected the farmer confidence in resource mobilisation for the inputs.

Due to the current rainfall patterns, farmers are being urged to embark on conservation farming, stagger their planting and plant when they have received adequate rains to enable crop germination.

“The moisture lasts for about 3-4 days and then, you have inadequate moisture to germinate the crop. Rains are coming in heavy showers accompanied by a lot of wind, which leads to soil compaction and quick run off before any infiltration, so we encourage conservation agriculture techniques where they try to slow the flow of water in the fields so that we encourage infiltration which is what will benefit the crop going forward,” he said.

Although maize is the main crop, the uptake of cotton inputs has been overwhelming in Nkayi, Binga and Lupane with farmers in Bubi still awaiting their allocation from the government input programme.