Dry Season Farming in Nigeria: Step by Step Guide


 

One of the best ways of guaranteeing food security in any nation is to ensure the availability of food all year round. However, local farmers in the country often complain about the unpredictability of rain as the reason for poor crop yield and food shortages. This is often common during the dry season when the average rainfall is below 60mm. This limited rain coupled with the lack of available water sources leads to exorbitant prices of many farm products during the dry season.

As the country’s population continues to grow exponentially, it is important this increase in food demand is matched with adequate supply. One major way of meeting this demand is by dry season farming. Currently, there are over 400,000 farmers from 19 states of the country involved in this practice however, the unwavering increase in importation of food products shows that there’s still a need for an increased number of dry season farmers.

Dry season farming has been used to cultivate crops like cotton, rice, tomatoes, vegetables and maize. Generally, dry season farming improves food availability and ensures better pricing all year long. In recent times, the government has significantly increased its participation in such agricultural practices by increasing its investment in dry season farming.

One major advantage of dry season farming is that it helps to reduce the country’s reliance on importation as a way of ensuring food security. Also, dry season farmers can contribute significantly to the country’s GDP through food exportation. For instance, rice is a crop that is cultivated in the country yet a major portion of the rice consumed in the country is imported from China and Taiwan. However, the production of rice can be increased by several million of tonnes through dry season farming. In fact, the last three years has seen a surge in the quantity of rice produced by at least 1 million tonnes annually due to increased number of dry season farmers.

This article provides the appropriate guidelines needed to properly execute dry season farming.

Planning

In dry season farming, a robust irrigation method is what ensures a successful farming system. As a result of the irrigation technology, the dry season farming can be capital intensive. This is why it is necessary to carry out a feasibility study that details the expected returns on your investment. The most important aspect of the study is the crop being cultivated. The study should be able to show that the crop being cultivated will generate reasonable profit for the farmer.

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Land Preparation

In dry season farming, the first step is to prepare the land for farming. The method of preparing is slightly different from what is obtained in wet season farming. The land is prepared by clearing as well as smoothing and grading of the land. After tilling the soil, fertilizer can be added to the water coming from the irrigation source.

Irrigation

Usually, the irrigation facilities are constructed in the form of canals, dams or water reservoirs. Then, the water can then be run across ridges. The water supply can also be run crop or tree rows.

Generally, the correct irrigation schedule and technique is essential for optimal crop yield. Using the right irrigation schedule that is tailored to the type of crop being cultivated is very important.

Irrigation practices in dry season farming can affect the microbiological processes in the soil. It can also affect the nitrogen content of the soil through the process of nitrification. Ideally, the proper irrigation practice should improve growth and crop yield.

Dry season farming can help improve the quality of the land being used. The process helps to regulate the temperature of the soil. Additionally, the irrigation of the farms helps to improve the water condition of the soil. It also helps to dissolve the nutrients in the soil and makes them available to the plant. The water content of the plant fiber as well as the turgidity of the plant can also be improved by dry season farming.

The most popular methods of irrigation are drip irrigation and rain gun irrigation. The drip system is good for tomatoes and vegetables. On the other hand, crops like rice and millet thrive well with the rain gun irrigation.

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Generally, the rain gun system doesn’t require labour and time. Also, it saves water and it doesn’t lead to water logging and salinization. This promotes germination of seeds and increases crop yield.

On the other hand, drip irrigation which is also known as trickle is based on the application of water through point sources. Fertilizers can also be applied through this method of irrigation.

However, drip irrigation has some advantages and drawbacks. One disadvantage of this system is when nitrogenous fertilizers are applied. This addition of nitrogen could lead to an uneven distribution of the ammonium ions in the soil causing nitrification and creating uneven distribution of nutrients in the soil. However, the problem can be solved through nitrogen fertigation alongside the drip irrigation which helps to improve nutrient distribution in the soil.

Planting

In dry season farming, planting should be done early in the morning or in the evening. Also, the right plant distance and spacing should be followed. This is essential to prevent competition among the crops. After planting, the plants should be watered daily or as required. As stated earlier the system of irrigation can either be drip irrigation or rain gun system.

Final Thoughts

One of the major drawbacks of dry season farming is that it is capital intensive and may require government support to be successful especially when the crop is cultivated at a large scale. This is as a result of the cost of the irrigation facilities. Additionally, salinization and water logging of the soil can occur during dry season farming.

Overall, when starting the process of dry season farming, it is important you contact a professional prior to installing your irrigation system. This is because an improperly installed irrigation system can lead to uneven distribution of water and fertilizer over the land area adversely affecting your yield.

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