South Africa

Prayer for rain: Heatwave sparks concerns among farmers

Frustrated farmer

As South Africans braced a heatwave this week, many farmers are concerned about their crops.

The South African Weather Service (Saws) recently announced a heatwave, warning of high temperatures.

Free State Agriculture (FSA) said on Thursday, that the heatwave amid stage 6 load shedding had sparked growing concerns among farmers in several regions.

“The confluence of circumstances is causing great anxiety in the agricultural community at a critical time in the development of our crops,” said FSA president Francois Wilken.

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‘Critical crop-growing stage’

Agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo noted the concerns but said crops remained in “fair condition” despite blazing temperatures.

However, Sihlobo emphasised the pressing need for rainfall.

“…We are now at a critical crop-growing stage where, in various regions, flowering or pollinating is starting, and thus, there is a need for more moisture to improve yields’ potential,” he explained.

The agricultural economist emphasised that summer crop-producing areas would need plenty of rain throughout the rest of February to deliver a decent harvest.

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El Niño

Meanwhile, Saws said SA’s current El Niño state would persist throughout the rest of summer − marked by dry and warmer weather conditions.

Weighing in, Sihlobo said El Niño state didn’t quite have the same effects this time around.

“Fortunately, El Niño this year has been different; it has not led to the drought we saw in the 2015/16 season,” he said, explaining that rainfall had been excellent at the beginning of summer, supporting planting conditions for summer crops.

“Still, things are uncertain; rainfall in the next few weeks is crucial to ensure a better agricultural harvest,” he explained.

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Better days ahead?

Speaking to The Citizen, Saws senior forecaster Mbavhi Maliage said the heatwave would dissipate on Friday in North West, Free State and Eastern Cape.

However, Gauteng resident will have to brace the heat for one more day as it is expected to last until Saturday.