Tobacco farmers here have started transplanting tobacco seedlings from the seedbed to the field under irrigation.

Midlands Provincial crop and livestock officer Mrs Madeliner Magwenzi said farmers with irrigation facilities mainly in Gweru and Kwekwe districts have undergone thorough training by Agritex and various tobacco training institutions such as TIMB and Tobacco Research Board in order to improve their agronomic practices.

“Irrigation tobacco is now being transplanted and we are urging tobacco growers to apply systemic aphicides and nematicides during the transplanting stage of tobacco to avoid the spread of insect transmitted diseases. We are also monitoring land preparation, a process which entails ploughing, disking and ridging.

“In terms of land preparation, we are training them on disking, which is done to break soil clods into a fine tilt to enhance uniform ground therefore allowing equal distribution of water. At least five litres of water must be applied per planting station two weeks before transplanting commences. This is aimed at linking the applied water with ground water or residual moisture,” she said.

Mrs Magwenzi said they are also training the tobacco farmers on integrated pest management as the anticipated El Nino weather conditions can be associated with more and early pests and diseases for the tobacco crop.

“Tobacco farmers need to be wary of pests at all stages, while they are transplanting now, application of wrong pesticides leads to pest resistance, pest resurgence and environmental pollution. Tobacco planted around September October may not be affected by tobacco aphids whose peak period is in November/December hence timing of planting can help in the prevention of pests.

However, we continue to educate farmers on pests management as they affect yield quality and ultimately profit margins,” she said.

The province she said is targeting to plant 500 hectares under irrigated tobacco this season.