• Urge FG to fortify farms, provide essential inputs
Agricultural scientists have explained that the Nigerian Meteorological Agency’s (NiMet’s) forecast of about 160 days of rainfall in Sahelian region of the north, 200 days in the central parts of Plateau, Niger and Adamawa, and about 260 days of rainfall in some inland cities of the south could mean food security for Nigeria if the period is maximised for cultivation.
Maximisation depends on readiness, investments, availability and affordability of quality seeds, seedlings and proper dissemination of the rainfall pattern information to smallholder farmers using their local languages.
An agricultural extension specialist at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State, Prof. Adebayo Kolawole, said NiMet had done well with the release of the information to guide farmers and extension service providers, but translating the information requires more critical inputs.
Some of the critical inputs, Adebayo said, are improved seeds/seedlings, fertiliser, insecticides and herbicides.
He added that without adequate security of life and property, farmers could refrain from land preparation, planting, weed management and hence, the possibility of a bumper harvest would be a mirage despite adequate rainfalls.
He challenged the Nigerian Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) to ensure standard seeds and seedlings are made available to the farmers through quality control, inspection of seed companies and prevention of circulation of adulterated seeds.
The government, through its security agencies, should also ensure improvement in the security situation so that farmers would not be discouraged as a result of rampant kidnappings, killings and attacks on Nigerians.
NiMet states, “In 2020, the length of the growing season is expected to span 110-160 days in the Sahelian region of the north. With the usual southwards progression of 160-200 days is predicted for the central parts of Plateau, Niger and Adamawa states. The inland cities of the south such as Enugu, Anambra, Ekiti, and Oyo states will expect a growing season of between 210 and 260 days.”
Meanwhile, the agency said in the forecast, farmers in Abuja, Kogi and Makurdi should also expect the length of season with the range of 200-250 days.
Implications for Sokoto, Kebbi, and Kaduna
The variation expected in the length of growing season for year 2020 is likely to affect a large section of the north-west where places like Sokoto, Kebbi, Gusau, Kaduna, Zaria, Kano are possibly going to experience an extended length of growing season which may extend beyond 7 days.
In the central states, Abuja and Plateau could also experience an extended length of growing season.
Rice, maize, tomatoes and sorghum grown in these states should be intensified to maximise the extended rainfalls. Early-maturing maize could be planted twice, with a reasonable time allowance for interregnal land preparation and planting.
Implication for rice cultivation
In the south, parts of Lagos State and northern Cross River (Ikom and Ogoja) could also experience a longer length of season when compared to the normal trend, and experts said rice could be cultivated in such places to take advantage of the predicted elongated rainfall period.
The agency said Uyo in Akwa Ibom State reflects a slight reduction in length of the growing season, but the signal could be quite insignificant.
“The coastal areas will have length of season that may likely extend to about 310 days. A growing pattern throughout the season is not expected to vary much from the normal across the country,” NiMet stated.
Oyo, Ogun, Katsina states and what to do
However, places around Shaki, Iseyin, in Oyo State, Abeokuta in Ogun State and Katsina are expected to have below-normal rainfall. On this, experts said early-maturing food crops like 65-75-day maize varieties, sweet potatoes, cowpeas, watermelon and other food grains should be cultivated to prevent drought.
Prof. Samuel Olakojo, a grain breeder at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, Oyo State, said yields from farms depend on where the farmers are located.
To maximise the rainfalls, Prof. Olakojo said farmers should not wait too long for land preparation to commence, and they should go for crops with maturity periods that could be accommodated within the rainfall distribution patterns.
He also explained that farmers should engage in the inter-cropping farming system for crop biodiversity and resilience building that could take care of dry spells.
The breeder also said rain harvest by dredging around the farms to collect runoff erosion “could be useful in sustaining production during unexpected breaks by pumping it back to the farm instead of allowing it to waste away.”
He advised agricultural service extension agents to educate farmers to monitor rainfall trends and follow NiMet’s forecast to plant whatever the distribution presented in their respective locations.
Overall, NiMet concluded, most places in the country would have a near-normal length of the growing season.