The practice of farming on viable land is known as arable farming. Globally, arable farming has been ongoing for centuries. It was basically a response to the increase in the global population which the subsistent level of farming could no longer cater for.
The evolution of arable farming came with the improvement in farming tools hence farmers were able to cultivate on larger portions of land. This also led to the increase in crop yield.
Currently, Nigeria has a land area of about 91 million hectares and 82 million of this total land mass is said to be arable. Unfortunately, a little over 40 per cent of this arable land is actually used for farming.
In fact, the arable land available in the country is more than enough to feed the country’s population of over 170 million yet most of the food consumed in the country is imported. Currently, over $20 billion is spent yearly importing food. Interestingly, these exorbitant amount spent on importation if channelled into our agriculture system will ensure the food security in the country.
However, there are many challenges when it comes to arable farming and this seems to have limited the number of new farmers in the section. These challenges have also frustrated many farmers over the years.
Overall, there are many factors that determine the success of arable farming. These factors are both physical and human. For instance cereal crops like wheat and oat require a warm climate and fertile soil to thrive. The land used in farming should also be flat and there should be adequate mechanized equipments for farming and harvest.
Many farmers in Nigeria are located in the rural areas of the country and a lot of times, their approach to farming is basically manual. This tends to slow down the whole process and also reduces their production capacity. Unlike Nigeria, developed countries have been using strictly mechanized equipments in arable farming.
Nonetheless, these farmers are still maximizing their yields through systems like crop rotation. This method of planting involves the moving of crops between fields over a period of time. This enables the different crops to tap from different levels of soil nutrients thereby preventing depletion of the nutrients while maintaining the productivity of the fields over a long period of time.
There are a lot of advancements in agricultural technology yearly and the application of these technologies can help improve the practice of arable farming. Overall, the correct application of these innovations can improve the crop yield in this farming system.
Arable farming is quite lucrative and it is often employed by both private individuals as well as large scale companies. Additionally, this type of farming is less demanding when compared with livestock farming.
Improving Soil Yield in Arable Farming
The application of technology in arable farming is centred on improving the soil. One of such ways is to get the biological activities to a level that stimulates growth of the crops and promotes optimal yield. Another way is to improve the organic matter content by building up humus which is an essential food for your soil and plants.
However, there’s an extent to which the crop growing environment can be manipulated. The soil can be improved, also the planting and post planting activities can be made more efficient however; the abiotic conditions can not be altered in arable farming. These include sunlight, temperature and carbon dioxide supply.
Preparing the Land for Arable Farming
The first step in arable farming is the land preparation. One of the single most important activities here is ploughing which is the process of turning the soil over to aerate it. The residues from previously planted crops are reduced and digging of furrows also takes place.
Arable farming can either be intensive or extensive. In the intensive farming, inorganic fertilizers are added after ploughing. The system also requires a large workforce as well as a lot of space and farming tools.
In extensive arable farming, the land depends on the soil natural resources. Crop rotation with tuber crops like yam and potatoes can also help prevent the diminishing of the productivity of the soil.
Generally, the intensive system is quite popular especially with cereals and tuber cultivation.
After the land preparation, the seeds or setts are placed in the furrows, and are covered with earth and solid fertilizers. Plant growth can also be accelerated by spraying with liquid fertilizers. This is done once the first shoots beginning to appear.
Watering the plant is also essential. It is not good to depend on only rainfall when planting. The irrigation systems that can be used include the drip and sprinkler systems. Flooding the soil can also be used for crops that thrive in swampy areas such as rice.
Pest control is also important in this type of farming. These pests tend to affect plants and reduce the crop yield. Artificial pesticides can be used however they are not eco-friendly. An alternative is the use of biological agents such as toads, lizards which prey on these insects. Genetically modified varieties that are pest resistant can also be used. However, these genetically modified varieties have been a subject of debate in the scientific communities in terms of their long term safety in human consumption.
The Future of Arable Farming in Nigeria
In developed nations, the cultivation of crops on arable land has become completely mechanized. There are specific machineries employed for the different types of crops used in farming.
From the plough to the harrows, tractors and combined harvesters, the whole process of farming is mechanized. The planting of the seeds can be done by modern planting machines. During planting the tractor is attached to a raised bed cultivator which covers the planted seeds with soil.
Other post planting activities such as the application of fertilizer and pesticides can be done with sprayers while harvesting is done with combined harvesters for cereals while reapers are used for forage. The harvest of tubers can be done using lifters, leaf-strippers and toppers.