Rice farming in Nigeria has become a priority in the Nigerian agriculture sector. The increase in rice demand is the reason why rice farming in Nigeria has become very important. According to FAO, rice generates more income for Nigerian farmers than any other cash crop in the country, with small-scale farmers accounting for the largest volume by selling 80% of their crops.
Rice remains the most consumed staple food in Nigeria. Its consumption spread across all the geopolitical zones and socioeconomic classes. The increase in consumption can be no doubt traced to consumer’s preference towards rice, increasing population growth, and rapid urbanization.
Despite rapid population growth and the ever-increasing demand for rice, there is still a deficit in the production of rice in the country. Various data collected show that Nigeria imports about 1.9 million tonnes of rice yearly, making it the third-largest importer of rice worldwide. This indeed is a huge challenge that the country needs to work towards solving.
Farmcenta is continuously contributing its quota to solving this problem by empowering rural rice farmers, promoting modern methods of rice farming, and supporting innovative/mechanized ways of rice farming in Nigeria.
This article focuses on modern rice farming techniques and cultivation processes.
FARMCENTA’S RICE FARMING TECHNIQUES AND PROCESSES
There are 7 major steps of rice production process:
The first step to healthy rice farming is the selection of good and quality seedlings. This would determine the overall performance and yield at the end of the farming season.
Good seeds are highly resistant to disease and pest. Selecting quality seed could help:
- Generate high yield and therefore increase one’s profit
- Produce consistent rice gain size
- Prevent weed invasion.
To get the best and quality rice seedlings, we recommend getting the seedlings directly from The National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI) Badeggi, Niger State. The institute is the one responsible for regulating the seed industry in Nigeria. So far, the institute has developed 63 rice varieties for commercial production that have low water-use efficiency, and are pest and disease tolerant/resistant.
Land is the most important asset in rice farming. Fertility and good soil are key to healthy plant growth. Key factors to watch out for in land selection include a water source, drainage facilities, type and quality of soil, and location.
Rice is a tropical plant which means it requires sufficient water to grow well. Therefore, the land/ soil needed to grow rice should have a good water holding capacity.
There are two major sites where rice can be grown. These are Upland and Lowland.
Lowlands are lands that require irrigation systems while Uplands are lands that have enough rainfall throughout the year. However, rice production is most productive on the irrigated soil of lowland swamp. The location/land type also determines the type of rice seedling to go for, either an upland seedling or lowland seedling.
Land preparation is important to ensure that the rice field is ready for planting. A well-prepared field controls weeds, recycles plant nutrients, and provides a soft soil mass for transplanting and a suitable soil surface for direct seeding. Land preparation is the combination of land clearing, harrowing, leveling the field, ploughing, and/or the use of herbicides . Proper land preparation is necessary for rice production to minimize competition with weeds.
At Farmcenta, we carry out mechanized ploughing using four-wheel tractors attach to a plough. Most of our rice farms are in the northern part of the country, which is characterized by low land grasses, therefore we do little land clearing. After ploughing, we leave the grasses for about 1-2weeks to cause them to decay. This process provides organic manure that improves soil nutrient.
Aeration is the exchange of gases between the soil and the atmosphere. it reduces compaction, oxidizes the soil, reduces the risk of fungal diseases, Allows the roots to grow deeper, Improves nutrient absorption and drainage.
We allow aeration to take place for 1-2weeks. Since plant roots and soil microorganisms absorb O2 and release CO2 during aerobic respiration in the soil profile. Soil aeration is one of the most important determinants of soil productivity.
NOTE: Pre-emergence herbicide should be used before planting. This is used to kill the seed of weeds that are emerging.
After land preparation, planting starts immediately. Rice crops can be planted either directly or transplanted. Direct planting involves sowing the seed directly into the soil while the transplanting method involves raising the rice grain in a nursery/ seedbeds before planting them into the field. There is an important factor to consider when choosing a planting method, this includes locality, rice ecosystem, type of soil, and availability of input and labor.
Another important aspect to consider before planting is the timing, Choosing when to plant is crucial to establishing the crop in the field. Timely planting into a well-prepared field will help produce a fast-growing, a uniform crop that will have higher yields and better competition against weeds and other pests. The best time to plant depends on locality, variety, weather, water availability, and the best harvest time.
Farmcenta’s planting techniques
Our rice farmers use both mechanized planting and the broadcasting method to carry out a successful planting operation. The broadcasting method of planting is the scattering of seed, by hand on the surface of the soil. It requires some mastering so as not to waste seeds.
Small seeds such as barley, rice, should use the broadcast method so that the seeds will be one or two inches apart. We train our farmers on how to carry out this task effectively,
The mechanized planting method involves using a rice transplanter. This is more effective and less time/energy-consuming. After planting, a harrow is used to bury the seed to allow smooth germination of the seed. It also prevents birds from picking the seeds.
Within 2-3days after planting, the seeds start germinating (sprouting), depending on the rain pattern. Our farming cycle spans across six months (July-December), because of the presence of heavy rainfall during that period.
Weeding and Fertilizer Application
Based on an expert recommendation, we carry out manual weeding 2-3 times before the last harvest. Also, fertilizer is applied tentatively as weeding occurs. fertilizer application techniques involve broadcasting methods and foliar methods.
The foliar method involves the application of liquid base fertilizer on the leaves during the tillage stage, while the broadcasting method involves the application of crystalline base fertilizer. Split applicationss and one-way applications are the two major methods of broadcast method.
For the broadcast seed method, the most effective fertilizer application technique is the split application process. In the split application process, we split the fertilizer application into three parts: before planting, mid tillage stage, and before the flowering stage.
Other fertilizer application techniques include
Harvesting is the process of collecting mature rice crop from the field. It consists of cutting, threshing, cleaning, hauling and bagging, Field drying and stacking or piling are optional. Harvesting can be performed manually using sickles and knives, or mechanically with threshers or combine harvesters.
We use a Combined Harvester for our rice harvesting process. It removes the rice grain from the shaft. This process is the best and most effective way of harvesting. It makes the work easier, faster and also gives a cleaner end product, instead of a manual harvester that could be very stressful or less effective. After the rice harvesting process, bagging and further processing takes place.
No doubt profitable rice farming in Nigeria highly depends on the rice farming processes and techniques. To help improve rice farming that drives profitable rice production, food security and reduce the exportation of rice, Farmcenta continually supports local farmers with innovative ideas, capital, and mechanize/modern farming techniques and equipment.