Evaporation 22nd to 28th February, 5, 5, 2, 3, 2-12, 2-3, 0-11
February rain brings my total to just 564mm – a pretty dry year! (So far)
I gave one of my talks to the Small Scale Farmers in Chief Siachitema’s area on Friday. One of the things that came up is a need for good agricultural information that can be downloaded onto a Smart phone. Not many of these farmers have smart phones (yet) but that could change. The suggestion was made that agricultural files could be kept at the ZNFU office in Choma where any farmer could download whatever (s)he is interested in. I have a few files to make a start, but if anyone else has a useful article or photo, could they please leave it there? In fact, we could do this for commercial farmers as well. When I get the chance, I will set up two folders on the ZNFU computer, one for large scale and one for small, and I will leave the files that I have – I have a good .pdf on Litchi production.
I dropped off some hessian for Patrick to bale the tobacco that he had picked up after my hail strike and was very impressed by the quality of his crop coming out of his barns. It certainly makes me wonder what I am doing wrong. I was reasonably pleased with my quality, but it is not in the same league as his. I feel I need to try some fairly radical experiments next year. I will certainly try reaping a bit greener (counter to most advice) but cure it slower (with less air). I am also going to consider growing the crop to topping with slightly low nitrogen and then top-dressing it – which is roughly what Patrick was forced to do by the weather. It MAY just be possible that high early nitrogen is making the crop more vulnerable to disease, which has that extra 10 week growing period in which to start multiplying. With low initial nitrogen there may be less disease; late top-dressing will then require reaping green – remember the old advice, in a drought reap ripe, with high nitrogen tobacco reap green.
Anything that can raise our quality from reasonable to very good is worth doing.
Another way of looking at this problem is that it looks as though my Hail payout will be 50%. I still hope to cure 75% of the weight that I grew – giving me an effective yield of 125%. Nice. But (and there is always a but) the Hail damaged tobacco WILL be lower quality and will probably only average 50% of what it might have done – an effective yield of 87%. Two very different outcomes!