Heat makes for seedless crop

Isolated drought conditions and the heat wave of the last 10 days in many parts of South Africa have affected the maize crop severely, John Purchase, the general manager of Grain South Africa, said yesterday.

Isolated drought conditions and the heat wave of the last 10 days in many parts of South Africa have affected the maize crop severely, John Purchase, the general manager of Grain South Africa, said yesterday.

"[With] the heat at 35C to 36C daily, even higher, there was no chance that maize crops could pollinate and produce," Purchase said.

"I think we sit with a big crisis in the maize industry now."

Purchase said a big concern was the grain-producing area of North West, specifically the western and southwestern region, and areas of the Free State and Mpumalanga.

Purchase said Mpumalanga had looked good earlier, but the weather over the past two weeks had an effect on crops. These provinces are part of the three largest grain-producing areas in South Africa.

Purchase said February was usually a critical month in the maize plant's development in terms of pollination.

"Crops can look good from the outside, but there will not be cobs on the plants because there has been no or bad pollination," he said.

Many farmers in the affected area have started cutting their maize to try to get good quality fodder while the maize still has a percentage of moisture.

"Farmers have to make a difficult decision now, it's a sad decision," Purchase said.

The next summer grain estimates of the National Harvest Estimates Committee are expected to be published today.

These estimates, including data from the past two weeks, could provide a good indication as to how severely the heat wave has affected the national maize crop.

Lentse Setshedi of the Bloemfontein Weather Service said that though it might still feel as though the heat wave was continuing, it was actually over.

"The temperatures are a little below heat wave conditions, but it will remain hot for the coming week." Setshedi said. - Sapa

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