SA summer crops remain under severe drought stress

SA’s summer crops remain under severe drought strain and widespread, penetrating rains are urgently needed to prevent the demise of crops still on the lands, according to a Grain SA statement.

Conditions in the North West have deteriorated dramatically and 80% of the areas planted to summer crops such as maize and sunflowers are in dire need of rain. Sannieshof, Mareetsane and Delareyville have been particularly hard hit.

Grain SA also expected below average yields in the north-western Free State. Dan Kriek, Free State Agriculture president, said he had never seen anything as bad as the area between Bultfontein and Brandfort. Only 40mm of rain has fallen in the area since May 2015. “There is no life. Everything is grey. The veld and crops were annihilated by the relentless drought and extreme temperatures,” he told Farmer’s Weekly.

Isolated showers were reported in the western production region during mid-March. Ben Otto, grain producer from Wesselsbron, received 70mm. He said it would go a long way toward replenishing the virtually depleted soil moisture levels.

He planted only 20% of the available hectares on his farm to maize this year. “This rain was a godsend to pull the little maize that was planted through. The sad part is that farms located only 20km away from my farm did not get a drop of rain,” he said.

About 40% of the maize crop in Mpumalanga could still be saved should it rain timeously, according to the GSA statement. Soy and maize yields in KwaZulu-Natal are estimated at 30% below average.