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» »Unlabelled » Small scale sugarcane farmers lose over 1 000 hactares to poor drainage

Beatific Gumbwanda

CHIREDZI - Mkwasine sugarcane farmers have lost more than 1000 hactares of land since the withdrawal of Tongat Huletts Zimbabwe in Mkwasine Estates as farmers are failing to clean the Jete drainage system leading to sodicity and salinity of their soils.
On the side lines of a field day hosted by the Zimbabwe Sugarcane Development Association (ZSDA) vice chairperson Elias Nyatowo at farm 27 in Mkwasine, Professor Munashe Shoko of Great Zimbabwe University’s (GZU) Gary Magadzire School of Agriculture and Natural Sciences said farmers are failing to manage sodicity and salinity costing them huge chunks of land.
Sodicity refers specifically to the amount of sodium present in irrigation water. Irrigating with water that has excess amounts of sodium can adversely impact soil structure, making plant growth difficult.
Soil salinity is a term used to describe the salt content within soil. Excess soil salinity causes poor and spotty stands of crops, uneven and stunted growth and poor yields, the extent depending on the degree of salinity.
“Sodicity and salinity is caused by poor water management which is a common problem to small holder farmers especially over irrigation without proper drainage.
“Cane does not require water the way you may think of. When you over apply water, it raises the water table to the extent that when you apply fertilizers they don’t infiltrate through the soil and end up creating a white crystal on the surface,” said Professor Shoko.
Professor Shoko said managing sodicity and salinity at such a stage is costly and takes years.
He said there is need for a complete write off and rehabilitation of the field by bringing in break crops like soya beans then gypsum.
“There is need for a complete write off, so the farmer needs to quickly do what we call rehabilitation and it is very costly.
“You need now to apply bags of gypsum, a lot of them and there is also need to work on the drainage system,” said Professor Shoko.

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