Not enough rain for large-scale planting

Grain planting in the summer grain production areas currently varies from 70% in Mpumalanga to as little as 5% in the eastern Free State and North West.

Grain planting in the summer grain production areas currently varies from 70% in Mpumalanga to as little as 5% in the eastern Free State and North West.

Many farmers on the southern Highveld have had to plant maize in dry soils, according to Hennie Laas, CEO of Agri Mpumalanga.

“Our optimum planting dates have come and gone with very little rains. We have had good rains in the Delmas area recently and some sporadic showers in the Middelburg area. The young maize plants in the rest of the southern Highveld are suffering because of very high temperatures and a lack of moisture,” he said.

“The fact that a considerable percentage of the maize was planted in semi-dry soils resulted in compaction, which means that large tracts had to be planted over. We urgently need follow- up rains to ensure a decent maize harvest. Soya beans can be planted up to December, but producers are wary to start planting because of the dry conditions.”

Pietman Botha, an agronomist at Grain SA, said that up until 21 November 2011 about 5% of the annual grain complement had been planted in the eastern Free State and 5% in the rest of the province and North West. Seventy percent of the plantings in KwaZulu-Natal had been completed, although the Midlands had received very little rain so far.

“There is no reason for concern in the western grain production areas. We are at the beginning of the planting season for the western and north-western Free State and North West. In the central production area, the optimum planting dates extend to the beginning of January,” he said.

“However, the planting season for the eastern production areas expired on 20 November. Planting dates for the western parts of the summer grain regions stretch from 15 October to 15 December.” Despite forecasts of rain over the central interior, large parts of Free State are still too dry to start planting. Good rains have occurred over North West, according to Joseph du Plessis, a Grain SA exco member. Schweizer-Reneke, where he farms, has received between 15mm and 30mm.

“This means we can start to plant maize. We still have time before our optimum planting period expires on 15 December. But, although these rains are enough to start planting, we still urgently need follow-up rains. “The farmers are planting maize, with sunflower and groundnuts to a lesser degree,” he said.

The Hoopstad, Wesselsbron, Bothaville and Odendaalsrus areas in Free State are still too dry to plant, but good rains have fallen recently between Boshof and Hertzogville. – Annelie Coleman