Soil testing key to improved yields: Experts

Zimbabwe has the capacity to produce enough food for both the domestic and export markets if farmers improve their soil quality through testing, agriculture experts have said.

Speaking during a field tour of Rainfields Farm, some 30 kilometres West of Chinhoyi to assess the progress of winter wheat in the province, Mashonaland West Agritext head, Mrs Edna Shambare said Zimbabwe was poised for food security and improved foreign currency inflows if farmers consider getting their soil for PH and alkaline quality testing.

While Zimbabwe has battled with erratic rainfall, shifting seasons and inadequate inputs supplies, the nation has also allocated a huge chunk of its foreign currency to food imports.

“As a province we have been given a mammoth task to put 35 000 hectares under winter wheat, which we failed to meet,” she said.

“However, we are working to improve our yields next season as we target on agriculture recovery plan and some of the areas we hope to prioritise is soil sampling and testing.”

Speaking during the same event, Seed Co head agronomist, Ms Wendy Madzura said through soil sampling, the nation was going to meet its national wheat demands of 450 tonnes and cut on 80 percent imports of the figure if farmers prioritised their soil.

Mr Farai Chirinda, the owner of the 800 -hectare Rainfields farm said he has managed to conduct soil sampling and testing since 2018, which has helped to improve yields of his rotational crops including wheat, soya beans and maize.

Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company (ZFC) has also produced a specified brand of Chirinda Blend 620 – 34 zinc which supports the farm’s soil quality.

Currently, the farm has 200 hectares of different varieties of wheat nearing maturity which he was contracted under the CBZ/Agro yield programme.

Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka applauded youths for rising to the occasion in mitigating food shortages despite the province failing to meet its 35 000 hectare target.

The province has managed to put 14 810 hectares under the cereal crop which is 60 percent less than the target, but is 6 000 hectares more than the 2019 winter wheat season.

Let me commend young farmers including Farai Chirinda who decided to take up farming seriously after the death of his late father, our liberation war hero, Cde Nixon Chirinda. The breed of young farmers we have in the province and their work dovetails well with government’s Vision 2030 agenda of making the nation an upper middle economy.

Farmers should emulate what Mr Chirinda is doing here. His efforts ensures the province of an improved Gross Domestic Product for Mashonaland West and the whole nation, she said.

More than 180 000 farmers and about 90 percent of Agritex field officers in the province have so far been trained about the programme while at least 80 000 hectares of land has been prepared towards the same on-going initiative.–

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