Mother Hubbard’s cupboard is bare

4 07 2009

Andrew is a maize breeder and a director in his own seed company which is based just down the road from my house. I was chatting to him this morning about maize yields and why the USA can achieve higher yields than Zimbabwe. He was of the opinion it was mainly due to a longer day length and better research (maize research has been largely neglected in Zimbabwe in the last 20 years) which has resulted in cultivars that perform well at very high populations. I mentioned that the article (Google UNDERSTANDING AND MANAGING CORN YIELD POTENTIAL) that I’d read on the subject indicated that highest maize yields in the USA occurred on rain-fed crops. This would never occur in Zimbabwe where the rainfall is often erratic and best yields always occur on irrigated crops.

Irrigated agriculture is de rigeur in southern Africa especially when an el Nino strikes as seems highly likely this year. This was not usually too much of a problem as up until the mid 1990’s commercial agriculture was strong and farmers were encouraged to build dams (called reservoirs elsewhere) to cope with the endemic droughts and a system of water rights for irrigation was tightly controlled. The commercial farmers are now largely gone, forcefully evicted from their farms, though the dams are still there and unused as anyone who takes a daytime flight in or out of the country can easily see. Coupled with possibly the worst maize harvest on record despite a generally good rainy season (Andrew reckoned that rural yields might reach a dismal 200kg/ha – he spends a lot of time in the rural areas) the old nursery rhyme is likely to ring starkly true.

As is usual in Zimbabwean conversation he enquired how my business was going; OK I replied, but we were not very busy largely because there was so little money out there. He commented that his company still had hundreds of tonnes of various seed with contract growers and no-one had the money to buy it. What with the government ever more desperate to grab from the pool (see previous post) the situation is unlikely to improve.

So in typical ostrich fashion I went off to the open day at Komani Microlight Club where we fly models and snapped this photo!

Boys and their toys

Boys and their toys


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