Being the largest producer of rice in the West African region, Nigeria, is suitably positioned as a self-sufficient rice producer in Africa. The West African country which boasts of a viable agro-ecological terrain which consists of rainfed lowlands, mangroves swamps, deep water and irrigated lowlands and uplands. Nigeria has an agro-ecological landmass which tallies to an estimated land area for rice production at 5 million hectares, it is worthy of note that only 1.7 million hectares of this massive (rice wealth) landmass has currently being used to cultivate the rice crop.
With the recent breakthrough in the implementation of the NEW RICE FOR AFRICA (NERICA) project, which has seen a sky rocketed demand for rice nationwide, thereby spiking the interest in rice farming and making dissemination of vital information on methods of modern day rice cultivation and production a must. In as much as rice production in Nigeria is a profitable business, farmers also take into notice the facts that the below listed constraints can and might arise while engaging in the rice cultivation:
- Soil acidity
- Soil erosion
- Stem borers
- Brown spot
- Insect pests
- Vertebrate pests
The following states in Nigeria are the largest producers of the rice crop in Nigeria, namely: Kaduna, Niger, Taraba, Benue and Ekiti. This implies that every family in the above listed stated states is either directly or indirectly engaged in rice farming.
The 2 general rice types cultivated in Nigeria are the Up and Low land rice types which follow nearly the same pattern of cultivation, only the geographical and geological regions of planting differ which also tell on the soil types and humidity for cultivating each type.
Rice production begins with planting and the general planting season of rice in Nigeria is between the months of May and June, when the rains begin to fall steadily without breaking.
N.B: For water-logged and flood-prone areas planting should be done quite early before the end of June.
Rice cultivation goes through three major processes which include:
This is the first major stage of rice cultivation where farmers sow the rice seeds (usually between 50-70 kg/ha grains) directly into the soil and wait for it to grow 45 kg/ha grains. The rice seeds are planted into already constructed rice bunds of 20-30 cm rows. Direct sowing is usually carried out with pre-germinated rice-seeds in wet soils.
To get rice seedlings farmers should soak seeds in water for 24 hours. After which they should spread the seeds out on a flat surface and cover tightly with polythene bags for 48 hours for the rice-seeds to grow sprouts. Sprouts are now transferred to a nursery where they are then planted in well-organized rows of low beds which have been drained of excess moisture.
N.B: during this period farmers must be on guard to ward off birds.
After 21 days in the nursery the rice-plants now become seedlings. Transplanting is done by uprooting seedlings and replanting them into raised lows beds. The rice seedlings are planted between 15-25cm apart. This is the final stage of cultivation and farmers should after this await the weeding season.