Conservation Farming Unit Zambia has cautioned farmers not to gamble over herbicide application and usage of other pesticides.
Conservation Farming Unit Zambia central region deputy regional manager Oliver Kandela Bulaya warns that this farming season the country may encounter a lot of pest attack to crops due to high temperatures and dry spells in selected areas.
Dr Bulaya observed that 2021 was severely hit by climate change marked by late beginning of the rain season and poor distribution of rainfall in most places.
“However, farmers should not gamble in terms of herbicide application and usage of other pesticides. Any application of these synthetic chemicals should be undertaken with full understanding of their effects to avoid loses,” Dr Bulaya advised, in a statement.
He noted that weed management and pest control was critical to well establishment of crops and increase yield potential.
“This is a non-negotiable principle in farming. Climate smart entails that farmers should use appropriate methods that ease the way of doing things and preserve potential yield,” Dr Bulaya said. “Hand-hoe weeding although one of the traditional way of doing things has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of time it takes to do the job.”
He said before any weed killer or pesticide is used, farmers should ask what they were targeting.
“Our farmers should be sure with what type of herbicide/weed killers they want to use and for which crops. And what is the timing for spraying the herbicide and how is it done? What is the correct walking speed and what type of nozzles should they use to apply non-selective and selective herbicide?” Dr Bulaya said. “In terms of nozzles, many farmers do not understand that those nozzles (hollow cone nozzles) that come with the sprayers are best used for pesticides other than herbicide application. For non-selective, they should use orange flat fan or equivalent nozzles fitted correctly to attain required swath (spray distance) and amount of herbicide per hectare. As for selective herbicides, they should use blue flat fan nozzles or equivalent in order to use required amounts of herbicide per hectare.”
He said the residual effects of the weed killer was pertinent, noting that not all weed killers were good for conservation farmers.
Dr Bulaya said some weed killers containing atrazine only or a mixture with tebulthylazine to control weeds in maize field was not recommended because its residue retention does not allow crop rotation in the next season.
“As CFU, the kind of herbicide we train farmers on are those with no or less residual retention in the soil so that farmers can still crop rotate their crops with legumes in place of cereals without any loss to the crops,” he said. “When it comes to pesticides farmers should similarly know what type of pesticides to use and what pests are they targeting? What rate of chemical are they supposed to use in a specific sprayer? This season we may encounter a lot of pest attack to crops due to high temperatures and dry spells in selected areas. Our farmers should be on the lookout.”
Dr Bulaya noted that there were enormous challenges that come with herbicide/pesticides usage by smallholder farmers.
He noted that some farmers had lost crops due to improper usage of weed killers or misuse of pesticides.
“CFU has done its best to train farmers on safe usage of herbicide and pesticides through CFU Network of staff and farmer coordinators doted in its operational areas,” Dr Bulaya said. “Our farmers should understand that there are no herbicides that are safe. Therefore, storage precautions have to be considered seriously to avoid deaths and loss of crops. Farmers should engage agro dealers and the Ministry of Agriculture staff or consult CFU/FTMA for guidance. We have a short period of rain season and it is disastrous for farmers to lose crops because they applied the wrong herbicide or the timing was wrong. We are calling upon all farmers to use their farming skills with caution and consult where they are not too sure.”
He advised people to observe personal safety in the usage of synthetic chemicals to avoid daggering their lives.
Dr Bulaya advised farmers to wear protective clothes such as overalls or long trousers and sleeved shirts, goggles, rubber gloves, hats and gumboots and masking to avert inhaling drifts of chemical spray.
He also advised against eating whilst spraying, blowing through the nozzle if blocked and never use any empty bottle for any purposes after use.
“Chemicals should not be transported or kept near food or drinks and never buy any products which are not labeled properly. After spraying, bath with soap and keep away clothes used for spraying or wash them. Farm to Market Alliance/Conservation Farming Unit is there to offer much needed support to our farmers wherever they are. CFU has invested in literature to provide more information to our farmers so that no one is left behind,” said Dr Bulaya.
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