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Maize Farmers Grapple with Erratic Rainfall

12 May 2011

KENYA - Shortage would greatly affect production, says Agriculture ministry official. Erratic rains this month have put farmers at a crossroads over whether or not to weed and top-dress their crops.

According to the Daily Nation, planting put off due to lack of rains Kenyans now told to prepare for dry spell During the month of May, maize farmers in the North Rift usually weed and top-dress their crops, and the latter requires good and consistent rains.

But the latest weather reports indicate that there would be a cessation of rains in highlands west of the Rift Valley and the south western part of the province in the third and fourth weeks of May.

The report, from the weatherman's website, also shows that there would be rain in the first and second week of May, but this has not been the case, as it only rained during the first week.

Uasin Gishu district agricultural officer Julius Cheboi says that lack of enough rains this month would greatly affect maize production this year. "This is a critical time for maize farmers as all the activities done in the fields require adequate rainfall," said Mr Cheboi.

He said rain is important in the establishment of the plant's root system and for the uptake of fertiliser after top-dressing.

But farmers who use chemicals to weed would be most affected since the herbicides work best when it rains. The rain also helps neutralise the herbicide so that it does not affect the crop.

Mr Cheboi also said that for weeds to die after spraying, they need to be active.

"Weeds may fail to die if they are not active, and for them to be active there must be rain," he said.

The rain is also vital in dissolving the fertiliser after top-dressing.

Farmers who planted in mid-March when rains started pounding most parts of North Rift are yet to top-dress, with others are taking risks by top-dressing in the hope that it would rain soon.

"I have had to take a risk and apply the fertiliser because it's past the period for top-dressing. I just hope that it would rain soon," said Mr Fredrick Muholera, a farmer in Trans-Nzoia county.

According to agriculture experts, maize should be top-dressed two months after planting.

TheCropSite News Desk

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