Managing your rice farm efficiently

The number of rice farmers in Nigeria has been on the increase in past four years. Rice is a staple that is consumed in most countries of the world and has a high demand. Farmers in Nigeria say it is important to understand how to plant this crop in order to get good yield and earn considerable income, particularly when the rice farmer is into commercial farming.

The President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Aminu Goroyo, says over 13 million citizens across the country are involved in the cultivation of rice. He adds that this number has been on the increase, especially since 2015 when Nigeria intensified its local production of rice.

“As you know, from 2015 till date there was no importation of foreign rice into this country and local production has been boosted. Before 2015, our total annual production was between 2.5 and 3.5 million metric tonnes.

But today, we are producing up to eight million metric tonnes per annum,” Goroyo tells our correspondent in Abuja recently.

He explains that this is one reason why rice farmers must strive to adopt the latest farming skills when cultivating the crop.

Experts say in rice farming, the farmer needs to choose the right land for his farm. In order to stay in the rice farming business for long, it is advisable that you select a site in ecological zones where rice is grown traditionally.

Your chosen location could be in the east, north, south or western part of Nigeria. Also, it will be better to soil survey your land to avoid any risk. Choose lands that are fertile and have high water retention capacity, lands that are swampy and contains organic matter like loamy soil.

When this is done, you then prepare the chosen land for the cultivation of rice. A report by africabusinessclassroom notes that to prepare your land for rice production in Nigeria, you should do it from November to February.

During this time, there will be less rain in Nigeria, so your land should be ready from February when raining season might start approaching. Use a hoe to remove bushes and weeds and to expose the rhizomes of perennial weeds to the heat of the sun.

But if your land is in the Savannah region, your land preparation can start in February. For those who are using forest areas or new areas, cut and stump big trees and roots before ploughing. After that, disc harrow twice with the first rains from late February to early March to make good slope if the land is flat. Plough twice and disc harrow once if the land is sloppy.

Experts note that before final harrowing, apply basal fertiliser and divide the field into plots of 50 or 100m2. Also level the land to reduce erosion and choose the right varieties of rice to plant. Some popular varieties of rice grown in Nigeria are upland rice, lowland rice and Fadama rice. It is important that you manually choose your rice to prevent choosing an unhealthy type. If you need recommendations on the varieties of rice to plant, then you should visit any International Institute of Tropical Agriculture nearest to you. They will be glad to help.

When this is sorted out, try and plant your rice at the right time. The planting time for the forest area and the savannah area differs a little. Experts say in the forest area, plant rice in mid-March to mid-April, after three good spots of rain. In the savannah area, they note that you can plant rice in mid-May to Mid-June.

As you plant, endeavour to use the appropriate method of planting. You can either practice direct seeding into the farm or you can first plant it in the nursery and then transplant it to the farm. In the report by africabusinessclassroom, it states that for direct seeding, the processing is either by broadcasting or dibbling. Start by dividing the field into plots of 50 or 100m2 and then construct small bunds.

For your seeding rate, it can be 60 kg/ha by dibbling, 80–100 kg/ha by broadcasting and 50–65 kg/ha by drilling in rows spaced 30cm apart. The major problem of this method is weed. But you can apply herbicides to control them.

For Nursery rising, put seeds into gunny bags soaked in water for 24 hours. After soaking, place it under shades still covered in gunny bags. Sprinkle water over seeds after intervals and turn with hands about three times in a day for adequate aeration and to avoid heat damage.

Experts say after about 36 to 48 hours, the seeds sprout and are ready for sowing. You then broadcast them in seedbed on a puddle nursery field. Construct drainage canals for proper water removal if need be. Also, add decomposed organic manures and a small amount of inorganic fertiliser as basal dose may also be added to the nursery.

Transplanting of nursery seedlings to farmland starts after 21 days. This is done by uprooting the seedlings. You can uproot the seedlings by holding them at the same time between thumb and forefinger at the base of the culms and pull sideways.

Transplant two to three seedlings per hill. Spacing should be 20cm between rows and 15–20cm between plants. Experts advise that you transplant early maturing varieties 15cm apart and transplant medium or late maturing varieties 20cm apart.

They say rice farm beds should be flooded while uprooting the seedlings and fertiliser should be applied appropriately. They note that for transplanted seedlings, apply 200 kg/ha (about four bags) of NPK 15:15:15 carefully in the soil prior to transplanting.

Then after transplanting, apply another 100kg (two bags) of urea per hectare, broadcast at 30 days. For direct seedlings, apply 100kg of 15-15-15 per hectare (two bags/ha) as basal fertiliser, two to three weeks after the appearance to facilitate an integration of fertiliser into the soil.

You can also apply 50kg (one bag) of urea per hectare in about five weeks after sowing. In areas where acidity is high, do not use sulphate of ammonia but use other sources of nitrogen such as urea. If you are confused, you can visit any agro store for a better recommendation.

Try and control weed on your rice farm because the sooner the first weeding is done the better. The first weeding can and should be done within two to three weeks after appearance, using hoe instead of a cutlass. The second weeding should be done six to seven weeks after the appearance. You can do another weeding a third time if you want.

Chemical control of weeds can be applied by using the chemical that works best. Also control the pest in your rice farm. Birds, rodents, termites and army worm are most times the problems that you might face.

For birds control, you can scare them away manually by deploying people to the farm from 6am to 7pm in the first two weeks after planting, and from heading to harvesting. For Rodent control, you can kill them with snap traps. For termites control, destroy all dead woods and plant deposits by burning. And you can also locate termite mounds and destroy them by spraying Nogos 50 at the rate of 30ml per 4.51 (one gallon) of water. For army worm control, spray Gammalin 20 or Carbaryl (Vetox 85) at the rate of 1.68kg in 225 litres gallons of water per hectare.

When it is time to harvest your rice, you can do this in the next four months when your rice turn from green to brown or straw colour, experts say. They advise that you thresh carefully immediately after harvest to avoid losses. You can use mechanical devices when doing this. Thresh on a mat or tarpaulin over the concrete floor by beating rice against the floor or against a stick or drum.

Do not thresh on a bare floor. Thresh carefully and avoid dehusking the grains. Damaged grains become stained and coloured after parboiling and milling. After rice harvesting, you should grow leguminous plants like beans, peas, lentils, soya, etc, and also plow rice residues into the soil. This serve as organic matter and helps in maintaining the soil nutrients for another planting.

Source: Punch