What you get from your wheat farm is determined by a number of factors. Although wheat production in Nigeria is not largely mechanised, adopting aspects of global best practices, even among the smallholder farmers, has been very low.
Despite the fact that the country spends about $4 billion annually importing over 3.5million tons of wheat and producing less than 600,000 tons to meet the country’s domestic demand of 4.2 million tons, government has failed to step up extension services and mechanisation for farmers.
All the states in the North, including Abuja, are wheat-producing areas, but wheat farming has continued to suffer neglect, and therefore, does poorly in the market while rice gets all the attention.
Experts have counseled those in the production to understand some of the factors that can shape their productivity, especially during the dry season, where thousands of smallholder farmers are now into production across the country.
Professor Daniel Gwary of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Maiduguri, and Dr Samaila Aliyu, an agronomist based in Abuja advised farmers to take the guidance seriously as it has huge effect on the outcome of their farm yield.
Professor Gwary, for instance, said for Nigerian wheat farmers to optimise yield, they need to address the following factors.
“The right seed varieties appropriate for the season are necessary. The Lake Chad Research Institute, which has the national mandate for wheat improvement, and associated seed companies, should be contacted. Sometimes the state ADPs can be helpful to the farmers.
Also, water management in wheat production is critical. Farmers who are new in the business of wheat cultivation must get assistance from agricultural extension agents near them. Even the old farmers should update their knowledge on new varieties and technologies,” he said.
Dr Aliyu also shared the same thought when he said, “Yield begins with good seed,” adding that “unlike rice, wheat is mainly broadcast or drilled, so spacing has little impact on yield. Seed rate is 60-80kg.’’ He added that correct irrigation scheduling is also important to guarantee vigorous growth and yield.
On fertiliser application, Professor Gwary asked farmers to take the exercise seriously because “fertiliser input is a great necessity for profitable production. This input cannot be compromised if the farmer is to be successful since most of the improved varieties are heavily nutrient-input dependent.”
Stressing the importance of fertiliser further, Dr Aliyu especially emphasized that amount and time of application was very critical. He advised that “fertiliser be applied at planting (or during land prep), at tillering stage (about four weeks after emergence) and at booting stage when the ear begins to swell. This may vary from location to location, as sometimes, two equal split doses suffice.”
The University of Maiduguri agric expert also drew the attention of farmers to the fact that diseases and various pests go with wheat wherever it is grown. He added that timely control of these pests is also recommended for the wheat farmers to avoid farm destruction and losses.
The professor said if farmers needed to benefit from government assistance maximally, they need to work under a “farmer associations or organised group. This can ensure ease of input distribution, water sharing, market security and extension services.”
On harvesting, the agronomist advised farmers on timely harvesting to prevent harvest and post-harvest losses, which also contribute to the yield.
Other experts also advised on considering soil analysis for fertilisation and liming programme, optimal planting dates and seedling densities, appropriate planter speed and planting depth and controlling weeds at correct times.