Farmers urged to embrace early maturing crops

Crops officer, Stocker Nundwe displays an early maturing maize cobs

* This aligns with the government’s growing calls for farmers to practise climate smart agriculture

* Which includes planting early maturing crop varieties in our district which is hit with disasters annually

By George Mponda, MANA

Farmers in Karonga District and the rest of the country, are advised to plant early maturing crop varieties to lessen the impacts of weather unpredictability and climate change-induced flood disasters on their agriculture productivity.


Karonga District’s agriculture development crops officer, Stocker Nundwe said this at Mwangulukulu Village in the area of Senior Chief Mwakaboko in Karonga during an agriculture field day organised by SeedCo — emphasising that Ministry of Agriculture wants three things for a farmer namely; food security, good nutrition and financial security.

He said the three can be achieved if farmers use early maturing seed that can withstand drought and suit the climate conditions of their area.

“This aligns with the government’s growing calls for farmers to practise climate smart agriculture, which includes planting early maturing crop varieties in our district which is hit with disasters annually,” he said.

Agronomy Manager for SeedCo Malawi, James Mtiesa appealed to farmers to select appropriate crop varieties based on their agro-ecological regions to maximise yields.

“It all starts with the right seed and on display today we had maize, soya and rice which mature early,” he said. “Some crops do not need much rain and I can assure farmers that they will still get a bumper harvest even when grown on a small piece of land.”

Some of the crops on display were Kalulu maize seed, which matures in not more than 80 days and Signal 110 soya seed which matures in 104 days.

Mtiesa said farmers can harvest 50 bags and 28 bags per hectare of the maize and soya respectively.

“Nerica 4 rice seed matures in 100 days and can be grown everywhere since it does not need much water hauling in 32 bags from a hectare,” he said.

Mtiesa stressed that by selecting appropriate early maturing varieties and diversifying crop choices, farmers can mitigate the risks associated with uncertain rainfall patterns and increase their chances of achieving a successful and bountiful harvest.

One of the farmers, Paliph Msukwa, said adopting hybreed seed varieties which mature early and are drought tolerant can be a solution to the problems faced by farmers in Karonga and help increase yields, food and nutrition security.

Weather update

Just last month, a survey — conducted by Lilongwe University of of Agriculture & Natural Resources (LUANAR), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Malawi Agriculture Policy Advancement & Transformation Agenda (MwAPATA) Institute — touched on promotion of drought-resistant maize varieties and alternatives to other food crops.

The survey reveals that substantial portion reported moderate to severe crop damage (85.9%) and that nearly half of the households anticipate significant yield losses, with 16.9% expecting complete failure, especially for maize, which is a major cause for concern.

It emphasised that the heavy dependence on a single crop of maize, that is vulnerable to drought conditions, worsens looming food crisis, saying nearly all surveyed households (92.8%) expect significant harvest reduction across crops, leading to a major decline in food production and jeopardizing food security.

Almost all households (94.7%) reported cultivating maize, which is a drought-susceptible staple whose 76.5% crop has been damaged while the potential for widespread crop failure (16.9%).

“Promoting climate-smart agriculture is essential,” said the report. “There is an urgent need for farmers to adopt drought-tolerant crops and varieties well-suited to local conditions.

“Concurrently, addressing barriers to adoption is critical. Ensuring access to affordable seeds and training on cultivation techniques for these crops will facilitate a faster transition away from maize monoculture,” said the survey.

Meanwhile, at an agriculture field day in Thyolo, farmers were urged to take farming as business if they are to make profits and improve their economic livelihoods.

Speaking during the event at Chinguluwe Primary School in the area of Traditional Authority Bvumbwe, Thyolo District Commissioner, Hudson Kuphanga said it is high time farmers emulate modern farming techniques and treat their work as business saying he is impressed with what the farmers are doing as it has potential to champion national development.

“Today we have visited farmers who are into fish farming, dairy farming and others are into macadamia nuts combined with maize farming, and this is an indication that people are serious with agriculture.”

Kuphanga added that macadamia farming has the potential to replace tobacco which provides foreign currency to the country, saying the crop generates huge sums of money — “hence there is a need for mindset change for people and government to abandon tobacco and put much effort in the nuts by making it accessible on the market to macadamia farmers”.

Macadamia mega farming being practised in Mzimba

He also said there was need for government to make feed for fish available to farmers on the local market since it is rare to find it as indicated by farmers, instead they use other alternatives as feed and this inhibit the growth of the fish.

Chief land sources conservation officer from Blantyre Agriculture Development Division, Medson Thole said the field day is important to smallholder farmers as it promotes good agriculture practices among them which in turn boost their production.

Michael Somanje, who represented Kambiri Estate which practices fish farming and banana production in Dwale area, said they have learned a lot from the field day adding they will expand into other farming activities which other farmers are doing.

Bvumbwe Research Station showcased newly released varieties of sweet potato, groundnuts, soybeans, potato and pigeon peas, alongside One Acre Fund and other agribusiness enterprises showcased their pavilions.—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express & Beni Bamusi, MANA