02 Nov 2017
PLANTING SEASON TIPS FOR FARMERS
The season for planting has officially arrived and farmers should be busy preparing the land for cultivation and planting of grains like pearl millet (Mahangu), sorghum, maize and vegetables like, pumpkin, runner bean, water melon and tomatoes. Establishing a crop means that seeds or seedlings are placed in the ground at a certain time (referred to as planting time). If the crop establishes itself poorly, the yield potential is immediately limited.
Thus, a significant relationship exists between the time you plant and the crop yield you obtain. To ensure that the optimum yield is realised, crop producers need to take into consideration factors such as the correct time for planting, the plant spacing and the depth of seeding (sowing depth).
For most crops there is an optimum time for planting, which depends on the climatic conditions and the time taken by the crops to reach maturity. For summer crops, such as maize, pearl millet and cow pea, early planting at the beginning of the rainy season is desirable as yields decrease with late planting. If planting commences late, the crop is likely to not reach its full physiological stage due to fewer days remaining for it to reach maturity.
The spacing of plants refers to the distance between rows and between plants in the row. The closer the spacing, the greater the number of crops that can be planted per hectare. However, too close spacing results in competition among crops and diseases and pests can spread quickly among the crop population. The ideal plant spacing depends on the type of crop, variety and the climatic conditions such as rainfall and water availability. Tomatoes may be grown at closer spacing of 5 cm apart, whereas crops like runner beans require 30 cm spacing in-between. In drier areas, wider spacing is preferable in order to provide more soil water to the individual crops. In high rainfall areas, or where there is irrigation, closer spacing is possible.
The sowing depth of a crop depends on the size of the seed, the type of soil and the weather. Generally, smaller seeds are sown at a shallower depth than larger seeds, while the deeper the seed is planted, the longer it will take the seedling to emerge and the weaker the plant will be at emergence (which may reduce plant vigour and
yield). Seeds may be planted deeper into sandy soil or in the case of dry planting i.e. planting before the rainy season. An important point farmers should remember when planting is to ensure good seed-to-soil contact as this enables the necessary absorption of water by seeds, which initiates germination.
To achieve an optimum crop harvest, do not crowd seedlings or plant them too close to each other. Give the plants sufficient time and space to reach their full potential and avoid deeper seeding in heavy soils.
This article is compiled by Ms. Emilie Abraham, Technical Officer: Crops within Agribank’s Agri Advisory Services Division.
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