Why time is money

Planting your crops at the right time for your region is extremely important. If you fail to make the deadline, your yield will suffer greatly.

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In the last issue, we explained that to work out profit, you subtract your expenditure from your income. In other words: money earned (income) – input costs (expenditure) = profit. We also warned that it’s important not to spend all your profit on personal things, but to put some aside for next season’s input costs.

Foundations for Farming teaches four basic principles which, when done properly, help to create profit. Farming should always be done:

  • On time.
  • To the highest possible standard.
  • Without wasting anything.
  • With joy!

In this issue, we’ll discuss the first principle – getting the timing right.

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…”

This is certainly true in farming, where it’s vital to fit in with the days and seasons. If, for example, you start planting too early or too late, your crop will suffer. This means you must plan ahead carefully, so that you do every task at the correct time of the year.

The longest day of the year (earliest sunrise and latest sunset) is 22 December. Now consider the following:

  • Plants need sunlight to grow, and on this day there is more sunlight than on any other day.
  • Plants need warmth to grow, and the more sunlight there is, the more warmth.
  • Plants need water to grow. Because of all the sunlight and heat, more water from dams and rivers evaporates to form clouds, which bring rain.

All these things are at their best on 22 December (more or less). So it makes sense to plant your crops in time so that they can take full advantage of all this sunlight, warmth and rain.

This depends on where you farm. You need to find out the best planting date for crops in your region. In South Africa, the best planting date will depend on rainfall patterns for the area. Also bear in mind that for maximum potential, you need to plant early enough to have the plants with sufficient leaves at midsummer to make full use of daylength and temperature when the plant can make most of it.

This is usually about mid-October. If planting is delayed due to rain, plant earlier maturing varieties. In Zimbabwe, 25 November is the best planting date for maize, because then the plants will be just below knee-high on 22 December. And this is when they need the sunlight and rain the most as it’s just before their most active growth phase.  If you plant too late, you can lose yield. Figure 1 shows that, in Zimbabwe, for every day we plant after 25 November, we lose 120kg/ ha of our potential yield!

Whether you plant maize, grow vegetables or run cattle, it’s necessary to plan ahead and do things at the correct time. Yes, it’s hard work. But it’s even harder to deal with mistakes from bad planning or laziness!
To find out more about Foundations for Farming, go to www.foundationsforfarming.org