One of the most commonly consumed vegetable in Nigeria is onions. In fact, Nigeria is one of the largest producers of onions in the world with over 2 millions tonnes produced annually.
Onions offers excellent health benefits and the ease of cultivating this crop makes it a lucrative venture for any aspiring farmer. Onions is used in the preparation of most of the popular Nigerian delicacies. Some of its numerous health benefits include lowering of cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
There are different varieties of onions. These include the red, white and yellow onions. The red is the popular one in the country and it is of great commercial value for farmers that cultivate it. Although many farmers are involved in the cultivation of red onions there is still a shortfall in meeeting the demand of the Nigerian market especially during the rainy season.
Generally, onions can be grown almost anywhere however if you want to ensure optimal yield, you’ll need to invest in a few things, one of such is irrigation. Overall, this article will show you all you need to know about onion farming in Nigeria.
The soil must be fertile and well drained. It can be sandy or loamy with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Organic matter can be added prior to planting to improve the soil as well as to increase crop yield. The land can be prepared by ploughing 6 to 7 times to make it soft. Usually, the organic manure is added at the final plough.
The planting of onions is done with seeds or setts. Onions are usually cultivated in November or December and it takes about 3 to 4 months to reach maturity. Due to the climate in the Northern part of the country, 100% of the onions consumed in Nigeria are produced in North.
The planting is done on ridges; and furrows should be created to ensure ease when carrying out post planting activities. In spacing of plants, 15cm by 10 cm is ideal. You can also plant the seeds on raised or flat beds. An advantage of raised beds over flat bed is that it prevents water logging. Usually excessive rain can cause water logging, and onions tend to the poorly on waterlogged soil. The raised beds along with a network of furrows will ensure that there are channels of exit for the water and this can help to prevent waterlogging.
Another strategy in onion farming is to plant your seeds in the nursery, then after 45 days, you can move them to the farm. These seedlings shoould be spaced at 10 cm apart.
It is important you water your onion plant adequately. This can be done by drip irrigation. Generally, irrigation should be done weekly for at least 2 months after planting or 3 weeks before the plant attains full maturity. Irrigation is very essential during the bulb forming stage, however if the watering doesn’t stop at the right time, it may delay maturation.
Apart from untimely irrigation, excessive irrigation or watering should be avoided because this tends to affect the growth of the plant. In fact the type of irrigation employed is extremely important; this is because irrigation systems like overheard irrigation can promote fungal disease infestation. Ideally, the best irrigation system for onion farming is drip irrigation
Generally, onions are planted between April and August, however there’s usually a scarcity around March to June, this is why you may need to tweak your planting process a little so that you can have supply during this period of scarcity. However the red onions can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 months so even if you plant it during the normal planting season. You can increase your seed input so that the output of your harvest can meet the market demand during periods of scarcity
One of the important activities after planting is weed control. Weeds have the capacity to decrease your yield hence it is important they are taken care of. Weeding is most important in the early growth phase. However, weeding is generally done 2 to 3 times within the onion planting season.
Some bacteria and fungal diseases may affect the onion plant. Some of these diseases affect the roots while others badly impact bulb thereby diminishing harvest yield. They include bacterial softrots, downy mildew, botrytis and rusts. Generally, these diseases can be mitigated with the use of herbicides.
Pest attacks are also common with onions. Some of these include maggots, thrips, nematodes and the leaf miners. These pests tend to affect the quality and quantity of your yield however they can be taken care of with the appropriate pesticides.
It takes the bulb onions about 3 to 4 months to reach maturity. The ideal time for harvest is the dry season. They can be harvested in January or February. The plant is harvested when 50% of the neck falls. Another indicator is the formation of a shiny membranous cover around the bulbs or when the foliage of the plant begins to wither.
Usually, harvesting is done by pulling the bulbs of the onion plant then cutting it off from the leaves. After harvesting, it is important you dry the bulbs in the sun before storage. This is because moisture can trigger fungal disease infestation. After adequate drying, the bulbs can then be stored in the storehouse ready to be transported to the market.
The importance of onions in the Nigerian diet can not be under-emphasized. One of the most popular uses of onions is as a spice in various local delicacies and soups. This is why onion farming is a very lucrative business venture. Interestingly, the market demand shows that there’s more than enough space for new onion farmers.
Once you are able to properly plan the farming process as well as how to reach your target market, it is certain that you will enjoy maximum returns on your investment in onion farming.