Groundnuts (Arachis hypogaea), is a significant subsistence and food crop in sub-Saharan Africa. Groundnuts are grown in practically every country, with the continent accounting for roughly a quarter of the world’s production.
Nigeria is the largest groundnut producing country in West Africa, accounting for 51% of production in the region. The country contributes 10% of total global production and 39% that of Africa.
Groundnut is a crop that has a very high demand because of its usefulness in our economy. This crop could be eaten (as fried, roasted or boiled), it is a source groundnut oil, ingredient for groundnut cake, serves as feed for livestock amongst other numerous uses.
Groundnut production in Nigeria has suffered major setbacks from the groundnut rosette epidemics and foliar diseases, aflatoxin contamination and lack of sufficient and consistent supply of seed of improved varieties.
This has significantly affected productivity and thus production and subsequently led to losing its share in the domestic, regional and international markets.
However, despite this setback, Nigeria can still regain its position as the leading groundnut producers even in Africa. But to achieve this, it is important to know the steps required to begin a high yielding groundnut farming.
Good land preparation provides suitable soil conditions for rapid and uniform germination, good root penetration and growth, and steady pod development. The field should be cleared of all shrubs and stubble and crop residue from the previous crop before the rains startss so that sowing can take place early in the rains.
Conventional tillage is encouraged for groundnut production, as this ensures higher yields than conservation tillage (no-tillage, minimum tillage, reduced tillage, and strip tillage).
The land should be plowed and harrowed before making ridges to provide a good tilth for seed emergence. Groundnut may be planted on flat or on ridges, but planting on ridges produces higher yield compared to flats.
Groundnut grows best in a well-drained sandy loam or in sandy clay loam soils. Seed germination and seedling emergence are favored in loose, friable and sandy – loam soils
Deep, well-drained soils with a pH of 6.5-7.0 and high fertility are ideal. Heavy soils are not suitable as this leads to high pod loss and difficulty of harvest.
Pegging is also difficult on heavy soils; unlike sandy loam soils which facilitate pegging. The optimal soil temperature for good germination and vegetative growth is 27°C-30°C and 24°C-27°C for reproductive growth.
Low temperature at the time of sowing delays germination, and increases likelihood of seed and seedling diseases and of infestation by sucking pests.
An evenly distributed annual rainfall between 450 mm and 1250 mm per annum is required for good growth and yield.
While groundnut can be produced in most parts of the country, in regions with over 1,000 mm rainfall the crop must be grown either in well-drained soils or on ridges.
The seed used for production will determine the ultimate yield that will be obtained at the end. When selecting seeds of groundnut for cultivation, there are three important factors to consider – the source of the seed, the viability of the seed and its lifecycle.
Pods should be shelled 1-2 weeks before sowing and only good quality seed should be discarded.
It is necessary to get high yielding popular and improved varieties. The varieties can be acquired at Research institutes, seed companies etc.
The planting of groundnut mostly begins during the rainy season. This should be around late March. This is because seeds need optimal moisture content hence the soil must have had a couple of rain falls before the seeds are planted
Groundnut planting can be done on ridges or flat beds using furrows. Planting on ridges should be done on sides of the ridges to ensure surface irrigation water reaches the seed for uniform germination and proper crop development.
The seeds should be placed at a 5 to 6 cm depth. The spacing dimension is 75cm between rows and 25cm within rows.
After planting, there is also the need to maintain adequate moisture. This is to encourage germination From 50-100 days. However, After planting as the pegs enter the soil and the pod begins to develop, you must also ensure, adequate soil moisture. the pods should be filled until maturity of pods.
Farmers must also ensure that disease-free, clean, unbroken and physiologically-matured seeds should be used for planting.
To be continued…