AN outbreak of mice and the prevailing cold weather conditions in Umguza district are threatening thriving horticultural produce in the area denying farmers potential yields in the process.Speaking at Umguza district show held at Redwood last Thursday, the district’s Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services officer, Mrs Shalene Mabharani, said mice as well as frost were threatening the viability of most agricultural enterprises in her area of jurisdiction.
Umguza district is Matabeleland North province’s prime farming area and a major supplier of horticultural produce to Bulawayo.
“This year there is a huge presence of mice throughout the district and this has left a trail of destruction as these rodents have a tendency of destroying seedlings. Of course part of the crops has been lost due to frost.
“My advice to farmers is to employ various strategies to trap these rodents and one such technique being to dig open 10-litre containers into the ground and half-fill them with water and put roasted ground nuts as baits on the brim of the containers to ensure that they slide into it and are trapped in the process,” Mrs Mabharani said.
Redwood irrigation scheme chairman, Mr Abraham Luckson Moyo, said the mice destroyed most of the project’s cabbage crop.
“The scheme is not operating at its optimum but we are trying despite a myriad of challenges we are facing. Of late we are faced with a calamity of having 11 000 of our cabbage plants out of 20 000 that we transplanted being destroyed by mice.
“Our tomatoes, rape and choumoullier were also affected by frost including our sugar bean crops though we managed to salvage above five tonnes from the harvest,” Mr Moyo said.
The 90 hectares irrigation scheme is home to 25 farmers. Matabeleland North provincial Agritex officer Mr Dumisani Nyoni could neither confirm nor deny the outbreak of mice in Umguza district.
He, however, acknowledged that the prevailing cold spell had destroyed crops in Umguza and Bubi districts.
“I’m yet to get any information pertaining to crops being destroyed by mice but I can confirm that most crops especially tomatoes, sugar beans and maize have been extensively damaged as a result of frost.
“The situation is serious in Umguza. However, we continuously inform farmers to desist from growing crops that are susceptible to frost during the winter season,” Mr Nyoni said.
He said to preserve their crops from diminishing due to frost, farmers could use grass or polythene plastics as wind breakers or engage in light irrigation in the evening while the other option was to burn old tyres or cattle dung close to the fields in the wee hours of the day to prevent the cold from affecting the crops.