A Beginner’s Guide to Rice Farming

Data from fao.org shows Nigeria is Africa’s largest consumer and producer of rice. Rice is consumed in every geopolitical zone and socioeconomic class in Nigeria as one of the major staple foods in the country.

Rice consumption is rising rapidly in Nigeria due to the shift in consumer preference towards the food, in addition to other factors such as increased income levels, increasing population growth as well as rapid urbanization. Rice farming is adequately suited to regions and countries with high rainfall and low labor costs.

It grows well in Asia and some parts of the African continent. Let’s walk you through the steps required to start rice farming in Nigeria.

What Are the Opportunities in Rice Production?

The rice production business offers various opportunities you can benefit from:

  • Investing in Rice Production
  • Rice Processing
  • Rice Field Farmer
  • By-Product of Rice
  • Packaging and Branding of Rice
  • Rice Flour

Steps to Start Rice Farming Business in Nigeria

Here are the procedures required to venture into this business in this country:

Choose a Good Location

The first step is to choose an excellent location for rice farming. Due to their versatility, rice plants can be grown on various soil types that have low permeability and pH within the range of 5.0–9.5.

Full sun is one of the requirements for rice farming, and for this reason, the selected land needs to have enough exposure to full sun. You can cultivate rice in several different environments based on water availability.

Rice plants can be grown in both rain-fed and irrigated methods, and they can also withstand flooding. However, below are the favorable rice-growing environments:

  • Floating rice or deep water
  • Coastal wetland
  • Upland rice
  • Lowland, irrigated (rice is cultivated in both wet and dry seasons)
  • Lowland, rain-fed (this is drought-prone and favors medium depth , waterlogged, submergence & flood-prone)

Prepare the Soil

Rice farming can be done in a wide range of soil types. The best soil types for it are sandy loam, loamy sand, clay loams, silty loam, clayey loam soils, and silty, and they must have low permeability and be free of sodicity.

Whichever the soil type you choose to use, you must prepare it adequately for growing rice. Also, you need to make sure the soil is in its best physical condition for growing crops and its surface is level.

The processes involved in land preparation for rice farming include ploughing and harrowing to dig-up (or ’till’), mix, and level the soil.

Tillage takes care of weed control. It also ensures the seeds are planted at the appropriate depth. Then, you need to level the surface. This step will help reduce the amount of water wasted as a result of uneven pockets of exposed soil or too-deep water.

In rice farming, semi-dry, dry and wet systems are generally used. The semi-dry and dry systems of rice farming rely on rains and in general, the systems don’t have supplementary irrigation facilities.

But in wet rice farming system, abundant, reliable water supply is needed for growing the rice crop either via rain or irrigation.

Semi-Dry and Dry Systems: If you want to do rice farming with these systems, you need to prepare the field by carrying out many ploughings and harrowing. As the ploughing and harrowing are in progress, consider adding lots of organic contents into it. It’s a good practice to add organic contents into the soil for a minimum of 2–4 weeks before planting or sowing.

Wet System: In this system, you’ll plough the field thoroughly and puddle, ensuring there’s 3–5cm of standing water in the field. Ideally, the depth of puddling should be about 10cm in clay soils and clay-loamy soils.

After puddling, level the land. This process helps facilitate a uniform distribution of water as well as fertilizers. For commercial rice farming business, you’ll also need to apply some chemical fertilizer to produce maximum yield.

While the specific amount of fertilizers does vary from one place to the other, on average, you’ve to apply about 50 kg Nitrogen, 12 kg Potash, and 12 kg Phosphorus.

Before you apply chemical fertilizers into soli, carry out a test on it. You can also consult with an agriculture specialist within your locality to get a good recommendation.

Select Healthy Rice Seeds

The healthier the seeds you have, the better your chances of ensuring the highest yield possible. Consider selecting an improved variety and choosing the right seeds depending on the cultivation environment.

Avoid planting seeds indiscriminately and choose only the best variety of seeds. It’s crucial to select the seeds manually to ensure a profitable rice production.

You can buy your seeds from a company that’s licensed and registered with the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) — the body responsible for regulating the Seed Industry in this country.

When you choose good quality seed, you can

  • Improve yield by 5 to 20 percent
  • Achieve increased resistance to disease and pest attacks
  • Improve germination by over 80 percent
  • Decrease weed problems
  • Achieve consistent plant size

Consider the Climatic Requirements for Rice Production

Rice cultivation can be done on a vast area of flat low-lying river basins of the delta areas. Rice is the only major crop with the ability to grow under different degrees of flooding.

While it can grow in tropical and temperate regions of the world, the former is the primary region for rice farming. The temperature of the region is the most crucial factor to focus on when growing rice.

The farmer has to be familiar with things like regional rainfall, sunshine as well as relative humidity. The amount and distribution of rain are critical for optimum production in the rice farming business.

You’ll need to get a planting calendar and split the year into wet and dry seasons. To ensure optimum yield in rice farming, consider planting your rice during the wet season except there’s a proper irrigation system available for the dry season.

Types of Rice:

  • Lowland Rice
  • Upland Rice

Managing the Soil Nutrients & Weeds

For some months after transplanting your rice seedlings, consider removing weeds from the rice farm. Then, carry out a herbicide application regime for destroying any emerging weeds.

Some people often apply herbicide twice before they do the harvesting. Fertilizer is typically applied for boosting the growth of rice seedlings.

Also, do extensive soil tests with specialists before applying any fertilizer. Always set your mind at using organic fertilizer and spraying it in required amounts (as specified). This varies according to soil, environment and the rice type you want to harvest.

Each growth stage of your rice plant requires different nutrients. And bear in mind that farmers have to make sure the rice plant receives the proper nutrients at the right time.

Harvest the Crop

In about four months of the plantation, you’ll have your rice crop ready for harvest. When it’s mature, you’ll notice a color change from green to light brown. When that happens, your crop is ready for harvest.

The rice farming business is a viable enterprise in Nigeria. By applying the tips in this guide, you can ensure your farm gives a good yield.  

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