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Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development

 

Report on the Small Grains Demonstration plots in Mashonaland Central: 2012/2013 season.

By Chipo Zishiri (Small Grains Specialist)

 

 

Agriculture, Technical and Extension Services

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to acknowledge support from the Ministry of Agriculture Mechanization and Irrigation Department, Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services-AGRITEX. I particularly acknowledge the coordination and support from the following: AGRITEX Head Office staff: Mr. J. Gondo the Principal Director, Mr. B. Mache the A/Director Technical and Ms.  R. Nhongonhema the A/Chief Crops Branch

                  :.

 

Mashonaland Central Provincial staff: Mr.Tapererwa the Provincial Agricultural Extension Officer and Mr. Mandaza, Mr. Jaidi: Provincial   Agronomists

 

District staff: Mr. Mupambwa of Rushinga district, Mr. Zhou of Muzarabani district and all agricultural extension staff from Rushinga and Muzarabani districts who participated in making the small grains demonstration plots a success. 

 

Edited by: Rutendo Nhongonhema, Fungai Kunaka–Gamu and Mrs. Mwenye

Graphs: Richard Makanza

Pictures: Sepo Marongwe

 

Ministry of Agriculture

Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services

No.1 Borrowdale Road

Ngungunyana Building

Causeway

Harare

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.. .................................................................................................................................2

1.0       BACKGROUND......................................................................................................................................5

1.1 Small Grains Production Trends. ...................................................................................................................5

Fig 1. Sorghum Production Trends (14 years)........................................................................................................6

Fig 2.Pearl millet Production Trends (14 years) ....................................................................................................7

Fig 3. Finger millet Production Trends (14 years)...................................................................................................8

Fig 4 Comparison of Yield (t/ha) trends for Small Grains........................................................................................ 9

1.2 Benefits of Growing Small Grains.................................................................................................................. 10

1.3 Contribution of small grains to Food Security................................................................................................. 10

1.4 Possible reasons for limited production in Zimbabwe...................................................................................... 11

2.0 GOAL AND OBJECTIVES............................................................................................................................12

2.1 Overall goal ................................................................................................................................................12

2.2 Specific objectives were: ..............................................................................................................................12

2.3 Expected outputs.........................................................................................................................................12

3.0 METHODOLOGY.........................................................................................................................................13

3.1 Demonstrations plots Site and location......................................................................................................... 13

3.2 Field layout ...............................................................................................................................................14

3.3 Agronomic practices...................................................................................................................................14

4.0 TRAININGS................................................................................................................................................15

5.0 LESSONS LEARNT....................................................................................................................................16

6.0 CHALLENGES............................................................................................................................................21

7.0 RECOMMENDATIONS............................................................................................................................... 22

8.0 CONCLUSION........................................................................................................................................... 23

 

 

List of Tables

Table 1: Summary of varietal attributes of sorghum as recorded from demo plots. 18

Table 2: Summary of varietal attributes of Pearl millet as recorded from demo plots. 20

 

List of Figures

Fig 1. Sorghum Production Trends (14 years). 7

Fig 2.Pearl millet Production Trends (14 years) 8

Fig 3. Finger millet Production Trends (14 years). 9

Fig 4 Comparison of Yield (t/ha) trends for Small Grains. 10

Fig 5. Comparison of Sorghum head sizes (as from the field)19

Fig 6. Comparison of Sorghum Grain Sizes (as from the field) 19

Fig 7. Comparison of Pearl millet Head and Grain Sizes (as from the field) 20

Fig 8. Finger millet Head and Grain Sizes (as from the field) 21

 

1.0  BACKGROUND

1.1 Small Grains Production Trends

Small grain production in Zimbabwe has been progressively declining over the past fourteen years. The decrease experienced has been both in area and production (Fig.1: Fig.2: Fig.3).The Crop and Livestock Assessment report for the 2012/2013 season indicated very low national average  productivity  levels of sorghum (0.32t/ha), pearl millet (0.3t/ha), finger millet (0.24t/ha), against expected level of 2 to 4t/ha (Fig.4). Finger millet has been decreasing sharply every yearas most farmers are no longer willing to grow the crop. Improving productivity of small grains is the key to food and nutrition security in this time of climate variability and changing seasons which has  led to increased frequency of  drought and extended dry spells in both marginal and high potential areas. This has made it increasingly difficult to grow drought sensitive crops like maize and increased the importance of drought tolerant crops like small grains

The Department of Agricultural Extension Services is mandated to train farmers on best agronomic practices such as soil management, soil pH and strategies for better crop yields and value addition (processing and utilization). This is achieved through setting up demonstration plots to encourage farmers to grow drought tolerant crops in this time of food insecurity and climate variability.

 

Fig 1. Sorghum Production Trends (14 years).

 

Fig 2.Pearl millet Production Trends (14 years)

 

 

 

Fig 3. Finger millet Production Trends (14 years).

 

 

 

Fig 4 Comparison of Yield (t/ha) trends for Small Grains

 

 

1.2 Benefits of Growing Small Grains

Diversification to small grains production has been encouraged at household level for increasing yields. Growing small grains suitable in marginalized areas is one of the successful approaches for improving household food security. A number of reasons exist why households should grow small grains.

  • Small grains are tropically adapted C4 plants with high water use efficiency due to their morphological characteristics that reduce water transpiration for growth and yield of the crop. Small grains are drought tolerant. Pearl millet can withstand hot dry conditions and grown on soils with low water holding capacity where other crops fail. It is ranked as the most drought tolerant crop after sorghum and finger millet. Small grains are best choices in low potential parts of the country that normally experience drought every year.
  • The characteristic of early maturity fits in the current Zimbabwe climate. Prioritizing small grains in their cropping programs can lead households to be grain secure. In the event that maize has failed, small grains can remain as a stable grain reserve.

1.3 Contribution of small grains to Food Security

 Small grains (sorghum, pearl and finger millet) are ranked second as staple cereal crop after maize in Zimbabwe. They play vital role in food and nutrition security. Their drought tolerant nature make them able to thrive better in marginal areas for thus being key to grain security  in this current environment of climate change and variability. The marginal areas of Zimbabwe (Natural Regions III, IV and V) are characterized by high temperatures , low and uneven distributed  rainfall. Finger millet in particular has long storage life. It is seldom attacked by storage pests. The long storage life makes it an important crop in risk-avoidance strategy in food security. Growing small grains is one of the possible successful approaches for improving household food security. Small grains have numerous uses in food and nutrition security. They can be prepared into thick porridge (sadza) taken together with relish or as thin porridge and beverages.

 Small grains are a rich source of carbohydrates. Sorghum and pearl millet are rich in vitamins and minerals especially potassium, calcium and phosphorus. The minerals are important for heath bones and teeth while finger millet is rich in iron an important component of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Iron is an important requirement for children under five years, pregnant women and the chronically ill patients.

Small grains are also used for brewing beer (ndari) which has contributed to household income security in some areas. It also have got cultural values when it is used for traditional ceremonies. Furthermore, the popular opaque beer known as ‘chibuku’ is prepared from sorghum.

1.4 Possible reasons for limited production in Zimbabwe

Despite these advantages of growing small grains in Zimbabwe, production of small grains is declining each year. Below are some contributory factors for limited productions:

  • Post harvest technology is the most limiting factor. Threshing, processing and utilization are non-existing in Zimbabwe. Farmers use hand methods of threshing and this requires a lot of labour and costly too.
  • Another deterring activity for the small grains production is the pre-consumption processing. Majority of population that grows small grains still rely on the traditional method of pestle and mortar which is laborious.
  • Marketing opportunities are limited for small grains. They are limited formal marketing opportunities for the crops except for sorghum. Farmers expect spreading production and post harvest costs on the market price, but the demand for small grains is very low in Zimbabwe.
  • Lack of certified seed in the market. Except for sorghum, there has been little attention in terms of breeding and genetic improvement.
  • Bird damage is one of the main challenges faced by farmers in small grains production especially for white seeded types. Damage is minimum for the red sorghum varieties.
  • Tastes and preferences are also a contributory factor that is derailing the production of small grain. Thick porridge prepared from white maize is more preferred than small grains.
  • Production of small grains is also affected by poor prioritization of resources. Most farmers do not allocate inputs to small grains. Some grow small grains in their worst part of cropping land and others do not prioritize time of planting and fertilizer management. This really has a negative effect on their production.

 

2.0 GOAL AND OBJECTIVES

 

2.1 Overall goal

To increase small grains productivity per unit area among small holder farmers through best agronomic practices.

2.2 Specific objectives were:

  • To train extension staff and small holder farmers on the best agronomic practices for small grains production.
  • To demonstrate the importance of growing small grains in climate changing season as food and nutrition strategy.

2.3 Expected outputs

In order to achieve the objectives three extension methods were employed and these will be discussed in detail.

3.0 METHODOLOGY

3.1 Demonstrations plots Site and location

Demonstration plots of small grains production were set up in Mashonaland Central province, in Rushinga and Muzarabani districts. Demonstrations of best agronomic practices were done for the benefit of both farmers and extension staff.  A total of four demonstration sites were set, with at least two demonstration plots per district. Extension staff close to the demonstration site and local farmers was trained at each demonstration site using participatory approach. Field days were conducted at the Muzarabani demonstration site at the end of the season. In Rushinga district the team that assisted in the demonstrations was District Agricultural Extension Officer, Mr. Mupambwa and Mary Mount extension staff (E.Muchenje, Kadyauta, Chinhanga, and Tamai). Demonstration plots were done at two farmers, one male one female. The name of the first farmer was Mr. Nyabani, male who resides in Chief Makuni in ward: 4 and village called Murenza. The name of the second farmer was Tamai, female of Chief: Makuni Ward: 21 of village called Makuni. In Muzarabani District the team that helped wasDistrict Agricultural Extension Officer, Mr. Zhou, One Supervisor and 4 AEWs (J. Chabunda, Mutema, Chituwu, and Fusirai). The farmers involved were two farmers, one male one female. The first farmer was Mr. A. Gore, male of ward 8 in village Muringazuva. The second farmer was Mrs Machingura of ward of 8 and village Munhenzva.

 

3.2 Field layout

  • The average area for each plot was 300 square meters.
  • Two varieties of sorghum ( SV3 and SV2 ) and two varieties of pearl millet

  (PMV4 and Okashana 1) were planted at each plot.

  • One of Muzarabani demonstration plot had finger millet.
  • Control treatments had no fertilizers.
  • Inter-row spacing: 75 cm and in row spacing: 20cm.

3.3 Agronomic practices

Land preparation was done by ox-drawn plough to achieve a fine tilth. Rushinga sites used broadcasting method of planting while Muzarabani sites planted in rows. All sites were generally late planted. However, Muzarabani demonstration plots were planted end of December 2012 while Rushinga sites were planted early January 2013. Basal fertilizer used was Compound D at 300kg/ha while topdressing fertilizer used was Ammonium Nitrate at the rate of 150kg/ha, split into two applications of 75kgs each. Carbaryl 85% was used for the control of armoured crickets and aphids. Main method of weed control was hand hoeing. Harvesting was done by hand using knives and sickles and threshing was also done by hand. The grain was weighed using a standard scale and yield was estimated to per ha basis.

4.0 TRAININGS

The total number of extension staff trained was 40, 15 for Rushinga and 25 for Muzarabani. The total number of farmers who benefited from the demonstration plots was 60 for Rushinga and 140 for Muzarabani. Methods of training used included lectures, practical’s and look and learn visits. The main field operations where trainings were

 conducted include:

  • Importance and contribution of small grains in food and nutrition security,
  • Soil analysis.
  •  Small grains types and varieties.
  •  Land preparation.
  •  Optimum plant population.
  •  Timely planting and planting dates.
  • Planting methods.
  •  Timely and effective weed and pest management.
  • Use of fertilizer and nutrition on management.
  •  Harvesting and processing and value additions were performed accordingly.
  • Sharing experiences on small grain production and utilization.
  • Of the two varieties of sorghum, SV 3 was found to be slow in growth and late maturing compared to SV2 at both sites.  However, plant growth was more uniform than SV2. SV3 had bigger heads than SV2. SV2 is early flowering and maturity. SV 3 had better yield 3t/ha than SV2 with 1.8t/ha under the same treatments, geographical location and planting dates.

5.0 LESSON LEARNT

  • Of the two varieties of pearl millet, PMV 3 was more vigorous in growth than Okashana. PMV 3 had bigger heads than Okashana 1. PMV 3 had better yield 2.1t/ha compared to 1.5t/ha under similar conditions. However, Okashana 1 was noted to be more drought tolerant than PMV 3.
  • Finger millet was more tolerant to bird damage than sorghum and pearl millet. Finger millet was the first small grain to be attacked by armoured crickets.
  • Small grains responded well to fertilizers. In comparison with the control treatments which had no fertilizers.

Table 1: Summary of varietal attributes of sorghum as recorded from demo plots

 

Sorghum

SV2

SV3

Emergence

Slow emergence

Fast emergence

Plant Height (cm)

125semi-dwarf

110 semi-dwarf

Tolerance to Drought

Good

Highly tolerant

Tolerance to armoured cricket damage

Highly susceptible

Highly susceptible

Head size

Big

Bigger

Grain size

Large

Larger

Grain Yield (t/ha)

1.8

3

 

                                         Fig 5. Comparison of Sorghum head sizes (as from the field)

SV2 SV3                                                                   

                                       Fig 6. Comparison of Sorghum Grain Sizes (as from the field)

SV2  SV3                                                                                                   

 

 

 

Table 2: Summary of varietal attributes of Pearl millet as recorded from demo plots

 

Pearl millet

PMV 3

Okashana 1

Emergence

Uniform

Good

Tolerance to Drought

Good

Better

Tolerance to armoured cricket damage

Susceptible

Susceptible

Head size

Bigger

Big

Grain size

Bigger

Big

Grain Yield (t/ha)

2.1

1.5

 

                                                   Fig7. Comparison of Pearl millet Head and Grain Sizes (as from the field)

 Okashana 1 PMV 3

 

 

 

                                                             Fig. 8 Finger millet Head and Grain Sizes (as from the field)

  

6.0 CHALLENGES

  • Bird damage was the biggest challenge. Jessa birds destroyed sorghum and pearl millet as early as at flowering stage.
  • farmers could not put extra cost of labor to scare the birds on the demonstration plot because small grains were not part of his cropping program.
  • Pest damage. Armyworm, armored crickets and stalk borer damage was minimal. AGRITEX provided carbaryl for control of .
  • Most farmers cited that they were not aware of fertilizer use in small grains during the look and learn visits.
  • Some farmers did not know about weed management in small grains. They thought once the crop is planted it grows up to harvesting without weed control.
  • Most farmers for look and learn visit cited lack of finger millet seed as contributory factor for not growing the crop.
  • Armoured crickets caused serious threats to all demonstration plots. They feed 24 hours during their active stage.
  • Farmers cited threshing and processing problems and high labor demands for small grains.
  • Demonstration plots lacked identification and originators. The plots had no banners.
  • Farmers need further training on small grains production and post harvest technologies. There is need for training in post harvest technologies. Threshing and processing machinery (de-hullers) are needed in small grains in order to reduce high labor demands and costs.
  • There is need for diversification of marketing opportunities coupled with utilization in order to encourage farmers to grow small grains e.g. GMB former experience of large stocks of small grains which had not been utilized.
  • There is need for awareness among extension staff and farmers about accessibility of small grains certified seed.
  • Bird scarring measures must be put in place to reduce damage. The farmer must be advised to budget for bird scaring costs.
  • The selection criteria for farmers to carry out demonstration plots is that the farmer must be a small grains grower and already has small grains in his or her cropping program in order to reduce labor costs.
  • Armoured crickets and army worm are potential threats to the crop. Carbarly must be provided for the control of armyworm and armored crickets. Carbarly was noted to be effective against armored crickets.
  • Fertilizer use in small grains must be encouraged and promoted. Currently, few farmers use fertilizers on small grains. Future demonstration plots must have such message to the farmer.
  • Number of farmers for finger millet demonstration plots must increase to a village or even a ward if seed is availed to encourage farmers to grow the crop. Leaching of nutrients due to continuous rains. In all the demonstration plots the crop showed signs of nitrogen deficiency. Split top dressing fertilizer application was recommended in order to improve crop vigor and condition.
  • The is need to prepare labels or banners with AGRITEX Logo so that the plots are easily identified.

7.0 RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Competitions and promotional material should be sourced for such demonstrations

 

8.0 CONCLUSION

Demonstration plots in Mashonaland Central in the stated districts were a success. Despite the challenges cited above, below were the achievements.

  • Establishment of four demonstration plots, two in each district was successful.
  • Training of 40 extension staff and 200 farmers was achieved.
  • Reproduction/multiplication small grains production guidelines was done and these were successfully distributed to extension staff and farmers.