By Albert Makendenge
Winter is slowly fading away with occasional high temperatures settling in and signaling the arrival of a new agricultural which is just but around the corner. Preseason is a time where almost all farmers around the country find themselves in a rush or in plans to secure all the required inputs but before everything begins, land and soil preparation, which is strongly recommended before the summer rains, is where everything begins.
Land or soil preparation covers a wide range of practices from zero tillage or minimum soil disturbance to a totally worked out one which typically involves ploughing or plowing to till or dig up, mix and overturn the soil; harrowing to break the soil clods into smaller mass and incorporate plant residue; manuring and finally levelling the field to make it more suitable for crop establishment. The exercise can stretch for up to 3 or 4 weeks and can be done at any time right from the last harvest or during the fallow which stretches right up to the few weeks just before the rains come (in mid-November up to December in Zimbabwe) . It releases nutrients into the soil, destroys and/reduces weeds and ants nest and improves the soil and plant contact whilst also reducing the incidence of pest and disease infestation. The biggest advantage, however, with well-timed land preparation is that it allows the farmers to hit the ground running and plant their crops with the first effective rains for a greater chance of higher yields.
But of course land preparation is never complete without soil sampling and testing. No matter how well furnished and fine the soil tilth may be, the finishing touch can only come through gaining insights into the deep and nutrient status of the soil. Only then can they make an informed on which crops to grow and the amount of fertilizers to best condition the soil for the crop chosen.