You will agree with me when I say that the agricultural sector in Nigeria is most times ignored, particularly, rice farming. And these are because we assume or see it as a toilsome and tedious process and then we shy away from it without thinking of how lucrative business the rice farming and production could be in Nigeria.

That’s why we concentrate so much on the importation of rice, which happens to be the most consumed food in Nigeria.

Below are some practices for rice farming

  1.   Choose right land for rice farming

To have a successful rice production in Nigeria, the choice of land that you use in planting your rice really matters. If you want 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.

It could be in the east, north, south or western part of Nigeria. And it will be also better to soil survey your land to avoid any risk.

Choose lands that are fertile and are high in water retention capacity; lands that are swampy ( clayey) and/or contains organic matter like loamy soil.

  • Prepare the land for the rice production

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. Clear and pack bushes, using 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 an early March to make good slope if the land is flat. (Plough twice and disc harrow once if land is sloppy.)

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Before final harrowing, apply basal fertilizer. Divide the field into plots of 50 or 100m2. And also level the land to reduce erosion.Choose 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 chose 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 (IITA) nearest to you. They will be glad to help.

  • Choose the right variety of rice

There are different varieties of rice and their growth and yield are different as well. Choosing the right variety could help you with a more productive rice harvest.

  • Plant your rice at the right time

The planting time for the forest area and the savannah area differs a little. In the forest area; Plant rice in mid-March to mid-April, after 3 good spots of rain. In the savannah area; Plant rice in mid-May to Mid-June.

  • Use appropriate method of planting

You can either practice direct seeding into the farm or you can first plant it in the nursery then transplant it to the farm.

For direct seeding; This 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 30 cm apart.

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The major problem of this method is weeds. Apply herbicides to control them.

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

After about 36-48 hours, the seeds sprout and are ready for sowing. 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 fertilizer as basal dose may also be added to the nursery.

Transplanting of nursery seedlings to farmland; this starts after 21 days. This is done by uprooting the seedlings. Uproot seedlings by holding at the same times between thumb and forefinger at the base of the culms and pull sideways. Transplant 2–3 seedlings per hill. Spacing should be 20 cm between rows and 15–20cm between plants.

Note* (Transplant early maturing varieties 15 cm apart and transplant medium or late maturing varieties 20 cm apart.)
Do not forget to flood the beds while uprooting.

  • Apply fertilizer appropriately

For transplanted seedlings; Apply 200 kg/ha (4 bags) of NPK 15:15:15 carefully puddle in the soil prior to transplanting. Then after transplanting, apply another 100kg (2 bags) of Urea per hectare broadcast at 30 days. For direct seedlings; Apply 100kg of 15-15-15 per hectare (2 bags/ha) as basal fertilizer, 2–3 weeks after the appearance to facilitate an integration of fertilizer into the soil.

You can also apply 50 kg (one bag) of Urea per hectare—5weeks after sowing. In areas where acidity is high, (do NOT use Sulphate of Ammonia but use other sources of nitrogen e.g. urea.) If you are confused, you can visit any agro store for a better recommendation.

  • Control weed on your rice farm
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The sooner the first weeding is done the better. The first weeding can and should be done within 2 to 3 weeks after appearance, using hoe instead of a cutlass.

The second weeding should be done 6 to 7 weeks after the appearance. (You can do a weeding a third if you want.)
Chemical control of weed; you can also use chemicals like TamariceTMPL, RonstarTMPL, GramoxeTM or RisaneTMat to control the weed. (Choose the one that you think will work best for you).

  • Control the pest in your rice farm

Birds, rodent, termites and armyworm are most times the problems that you might face.
For Birds control; you can scare them away manually by employing people to this from 6 am to 7 pm 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 30 ml per 4.51 (one gallon) of water.

For armyworm control; spray Gammalin 20 or Carbaryl (Vetox 85) at the rate of 1.68 kg in 225 liters gallons) of water per hectare.

  • Harvest your rice

You can harvest your rice in the next 4 month when your rice turn from green to brown(straw colour). Thresh carefully immediately after harvest to avoid losses. You can Use wacking frames or mechanical devices. Thresh on a mat or tarpaulin over the concrete floor by beating rice against the floor, or against a stick or drum.

Note 1* Do not thresh on a bare floor. Thresh carefully and avoid dehusking the grains. Damaged grains become stained and coloured after parboiling and milling.

Note 2* 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 matters and helps in maintaining the soil nutrients for another planting.