There seems to be some reprieve ahead from searing heat farmers in the northern regions have experienced over the last couple of weeks. Early last week farmers in Limpopo and North West expressed concern that, despite good early rains, the scorching sun was killing new grass. Buks van der Walt, a farmer in Limpopo’s Koedoesrand district, says he fears another “green drought” – a phenomenon where the veld appears green, but has too little moisture to facilitate enough growth to sustain livestock.
Hannes Esterhuizen, who farms in the Swartruggens area, raises similar concerns. Maize farmers are also worried about the high temperatures. owever, on Tuesday last week GrainVest climatologist Louis Botha said farmers in most parts of the country could look forward to some rain over the following 10 days. “Temperatures should also be around normal at least until the end of the month,” he said. Botha also said southern parts of the country might experience temperatures below normal for this time of year because of the fronts moving in over these areas. While it is normal for frontal conditions to occur during this time of year, Botha noted that the frequency of fronts moving in does seem a bit higher than normal.
“High-pressure systems wedging in behind these fronts bring the rains we have been experiencing over the last couple of weeks,” he said, explaining that this could be a result of La Niña conditions. Botha nevertheless warned that farmers should not throw caution to the wind and expect above-normal rainfall due to possible La Niña conditions. “While is associated with wet conditions, we must bear in mind that there is only a 25% difference between the effects of El Niño and La Niña, and there are too many other variables affecting the weather to make decisions solely on the occurrence of one of the above.” Botha suggested farmers plan for a normal year and not take any unnecessary risks based on rumours of a wet summer ahead. – Jasper Raats