Wheat, a highly versatile crop, is used in making foods like bread, biscuits, cookies, cakes, spaghetti, and noodles. It is also used for making local foods like ‘Tuwo’, ‘Alkaki’, ‘Fura’, ‘Algaragis’, ‘Alkubus’, ‘Taliya’ ‘Gurasa’ ‘Danwake’ among others.
Experts say wheat requires well drained soil and does not tolerate salinity and acidity of soil.
Professor I.U. Abubakar, the Director, Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Samaru, Zaria in Kaduna State told Daily Trust that wheat is suitably grown in locations from Kaduna State up North He said the best time to start planting wheat is from November 15 to December 15, adding that it takes 100 to 120 days to mature and be ready for harvest.
Professor Abubakar added that the temperate crop could grow in the tropics particularly during the harmattan season and advised farmers to plant in good time.
He said wheat could be planted using drilling, dibbing or broadcasting but that drilling is recommended because it provides higher yield and suppresses weeds.
Prof. Abubakar said varieties like ATILLA, NORMAN, REYNA 28, CEPPIA and SERI 82 are high yielding, heat tolerant and adaptable to northern environment
“If you are growing wheat around the Lake Chad area in Maiduguri, the soil there is vertisol so you irrigate once in two or three weeks, but if you are growing wheat for example in Kadawa area, you irrigate once in two weeks, whereas in Sokoto basin you irrigate once every week because the soil is generally sandy,” Prof. Abubakar added.
He puts quantity of fertiliser required for wheat at about 120kg of Nitrogen, about 50kg Phosphorus and 50kg Potassium each per hectare.
“You apply half of the Nitrogen requirement and the entire Phosphorus and Potassium requirement at planting. The other half of Nitrogen is applied about six weeks after planting,” he advised.
Prof. Abubakar identified three challenges to wheat production namely unavailability of improved seed, unavailability of water for irrigation and high temperature.
“Initially, our private seeds companies were not interested in wheat seed production but now that they see government is interested in promoting wheat production, they have started going into it. The constraint of seed production witnessed this year would be solved by next year,” he said.
Weed control of wheat is really easy if you have good environment and if you plant early in November, you will not need to control weeds because it grows very fast and suppresses weed, the expert added.
The director stated that the major pest of wheat in Nigeria is stem borer which can be controlled by treating seeds before planting with Apron Star or Apron Plus at 2 to 3kg of wheat per sachet, adding that Furadan may be used for fumigation if infestation is high. Other pests are rodents and birds which is a problem if you plant in an isolated location.
He said the grains are harvested manually by cutting the stalks and winnowed to remove the chaff.
The grains should be stored in a clean store that is well ventilated with good air circulation and all holes that rats could use to get into the store blocked.
Professor Abubakar revealed that pneumatic storage which is a three layered bag ensures all insects and their eggs that are carried from the field don’t have access to oxygen and so die.
He revealed that the Nigerian milling industry has the capacity of milling 4.5 million tons of wheat per annum but that farmers are producing between 200,000 tons and 300,000 tons per annum only.
A wheat farmer, Malam Abba Kafinta, said a 100kg bag of wheat sells for between N22,000 and N25,000 after harvest but may fetch up to N30,000 off season.
As such, growing wheat seems a profitable venture worth going into, considering efforts by the government to diversify our oil-dependent economy.
A wheat farmer, Alhaji Sada Maiwada, said he uses a variety from Sudan that takes three months to mature.
He said one hectare is expected to produce 25 to 30 100kg bags of wheat, adding that he is expecting a bumper harvest this season.