ENLARGEMENT AND DISSEMINATION OF SESAME SEEDING TECHNOLOGY
Korea Program on International Agriculture (KOPIA) in conjunction with The Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre (SIRDC) launched the sesame production program in Muzarabani and Mt Darwin districts in 2020 with plans to spread it to other drought prone areas in Zimbabwe.
The program has introduced sesame as an alternative cash crop with minimum input requirements and high returns. Farmers shall be taught good agronomic practices and post-harvest handling strategies and marketing of the end product.
The agronomic practices for Sesame production involve ridging, pinching, thinning and mulching. It also involves crop production which is done on raised and flat beds with different treatments under analyses which include: application in varied combinations of basal and top dressing fertiliser (chemical fertilisers); manure and controls with zero treatment.
Ridging is done by heaping soil together giving a clear demarcation between the planting zone and the water path for a smooth irrigation. This is done manually before planting. This is the same practice which was done in the project demo sites with cultivation on raised beds. In sesame seed cultivation, raised beds are ideal for optimum production of sesame as this crop thrives well in drained soils. The raised beds provide an advantage of keeping the crops above water, as well as allowing excess water to be drained and flow along the ridges made on the beds. Flat beds can be used depending on the soil type and the area as well as drainage of the soils. However, in the case of the demonstration sites, the flat beds were prone to waterlogging problems which adversely affected the plants resulting in crop losses.
Addition of organic manure in the soil during land preparation is a good practice that ensures that the soil retains its fertility and its good qualities. Manure can add a lot of nutrients to the soil hence useful when applied. This practice would definitely increase the land productivity with time. In the plots under the project in Mt Darwin, the crops under manure exhibited rapid growth indicating the positive impact of organic fertilizer on crop performance.
Thinning is the removal of excess plants in the field to reduce unnecessary competition for space and nutrients between the plants. Thinning is usually performed 2 weeks after planting when the crops is about 10 to 15cm tall. Plants are thinned to 10 cm distance between plants by removing the weak or diseased plants. Crowding results in weak plants and bears very few pods. The plants that are removed should be reserved in a temporary seedbed just in case they are needed for gap filling. Some of our farmers in Muzarabani did their thinning late, resulting in the plant losing essential nutrients owing to competition. Timely performance of management practices is essential for a healthy crop.
Pinching is the removal of terminal shoots of plants. This is similar to the practise of pruning in cultivation. This is a practice which regulates fruit growth and promotes fruit bearing capacity of plants. In sesame production ,pinching results in improved growth and yield of the plant. This occurs because pinching promotes development of lateral buds consequently increasing number of branches and flowers on the plant thereby contributing to a significant increase in yield of the plant.