RICE PRODUCTION IN NIGERIA: Step by Step Guide.
Globally, rice (Oryza sativa) is the second most popular crop after maize and is one of the most demanded food products in Nigeria. In order to cushion the dependence on imported rice, local production of rice is encouraged and while it doesn’t really require a lot of expertise, it entails a few necessary steps which include:
1. Use a crop calendar: A crop calendar is a picture of your rice growing season: crop production from the fallow, land preparation, crop establishment, and maintenance through harvest and storage. By using a crop calendar, farm activities are better planned, and performed at the right time. It is easier to organize labor and obtain inputs such as seed and fertilizer. Better planning will decrease input costs and increase yields.
2. Choose the best variety of rice seeds: in choosing the best variety, you will need to select the variety that suits your growing condition. Varieties of rice to be selected should be based on good yield potential, resistance to disease, good eating qualities, high milling yield, and are suitable for the market.
3. Use the best quality seeds: High-quality seed reduces the required seeding rate and produces strong, healthy seedlings, resulting in a more uniform crop with higher yields.
NB: To be able to test for high quality seeds, you can do a float test on the seed before planting and remove any seeds that float.
4. Land Preparation: Cultivation of rice requires choice of lands that are swampy in nature and have moderately high water-holding capacities. Choice of a swampy land saves the capital and stress of irrigation. However, paddy field can be prepared in both wet and dry conditions. The field is flooded with water (rain-fed or by irrigation) to soften the soil.
A well-prepared and levelled field gives a uniform, healthy crop that can compete with weeds, use less water, and give higher yields at a lower cost.
5. Plant Early: In Nigeria, planting of seeds are done in May/June when the rainy season is established. This can be done in a variety of ways:
· Transplanting: A small portion of the field or nursery is prepared for a seed bed. This is where the seedlings will be planted for 15-21days before they can be uprooted and transplanted. Soil solarisation is advised if possible. This refers to covering the soil with transparent polythene sheet in other to control soil borne diseases and prevent poor yield. Though this method is very laborious, it produces high yield. This method needs 45kg/ha grain.
· Direct seeding: The seeds are pre-germinated by submerging the seeds in water for about 24 hours, and then incubated for another 24-48 hours. The seeds are then broadcast evenly throughout the prepared field. Drain the field from 0-9 days after sowing to have good seedling emergence. This method requires 55-65 kg/ha grain.
6. Weed Control: There is the need to weed your rice farm early to cater for instances of grain losses which will reduce the optimum yield per hectare.
7. Fertiliser Application: Fertiliser application depends on variety and must be broadcast evenly across the rice field. This provides the nutrients needed by rice plants in the early stage of growth or the tailoring stage. The rice plants also develop strengthened resistance against pests and diseases and would survive unfavourable weather all leading to better yield.
8. Use water efficiently: The water availability on the farm largely determines the potential crop yield. For a crop to continue to grow, the water supply needs to be similar or a little above evaporation. Good-quality water is necessary to maximize crop growth.
9. Pests and Diseases Prevention and Control: Pest and diseases can be prevented by regular monitoring and application of pesticides. Early detection of pests and diseases is important for control before gross damage.
10. Harvest your rice on time: One week before the expected harvest time, drain the field if there is any still standing water to hasten uniform grain maturity and facilitate harvest and post-harvest operations. Rice crops must be harvested within 80-85% of the grains are ripen or have a golden-yellow colour. Harvesting can be done manually using sickle and or mechanically with the use of a mechanical combine harvester. Harvesting the crop on time is important to maximise yields and grain quality. Too early harvesting will have grains that break easily and poor milling recovery. If grains are harvested late, grains might fall from the pinnacle leading to losses.
11. Store harvested paddy rice safely: A safe storage system will prevent the grain from getting wet after drying and also give protection from insects, rodents, and birds.
NB: A rule of thumb for seed is that the life of the seed will be halved for every 1% increase in moisture content or a 5°C increase in storage temperature above recommended levels.
Today, rice is no longer a luxury food to millions of Nigerians but has become the cereal that constitutes a major source of calories for the rural and urban poor with demand growing at an annual rate of 5%.
References: i. Growing Upland Rice by Africa Rice Center.
ii. Steps to successful rice production by Int’l Rice Research Institute.