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Early planting risky, experts warn

By Fatima Muraina

As farmers and other residents in Ondo state began early planting activities, experts have cautioned them against what they called labour loss.

Experts explained that the early and seemingly continuous rainfalls do not mean the rainy season is here, warning that the available weather record now does not indicate rainy season.

In the last few weeks, farmers and other residents in the state had begun aggressive farming activities with planting of various crops, with a view to addressing the current food shortage being experienced in the country.

But experts described the early crops planting as very risky, saying rain is not yet consistent.

According to the experts who spoke exclusively with The Hope in separate interviews, revealed that the pockets of rain being witnessed in the state cannot be relied upon for planting.

The experts revealed that the implication is that crops will dry off when the rain seizes again and it will lead to losses.

They advised farmers not to rush to plant but wait untill the end of March.

They equally advised on the need to irrigate to save farming operations, just as they called on the Federal Government to support farmers with irrigation facilities rather than putting farming into unnecessary risk in a bid to cushion hardship.

A Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Ahmed Balogun, said it has become a habit of many farmers to rush to farm at the slightest drops of rain, saying this can be very risky.

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“It is a risk. Anybody can take risk. If their farm is around water area, it is good to go, but anyone that his farm is in upland area and went to plant, when it’s about three weeks will see the consequences.

“The farmers know they are taking a risk so what we are saying now is that government should support people to do irrigation so that if the farmers want to be early, farmers can irrigate,” he advised.

According to him, there are small irrigation kits that can use well water to irrigate the farm which could be assisted by government financially.

Speaking on crops that could be planted during the drops of rain before the effective ones, Balogun said this has to do with the maturity of the crops.

“Maize can be gotten between 75-150 days. If the rain period will be long, one can plant the variety that doesn’t grow fast, but if the rain will be for a short time one will plant the variety that will grow faster,” he said

The expert noted that farmers would get better explanation on getting to those selling agro allied products.

“The bottom line is that we don’t do irrigation here. If we start doing irrigation, we won’t be concerned about this issue of rain, but irrigation is money,” he noted.

He quoted NIMET seasonal rainfall prediction to be steady by April 12, but observed the third week of March has short growing season calling for the need to immediately start investing in irrigation.

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Also, the Project Manager, Agro-climatology Project of the Ondo State Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Adesina Akeju, described the seemingly continuous rainfall as a deceptive one which could lead to destruction of crops.

Akeju advised farmers to watch the weather till March end before they can start farming operations because there is tendency that it will rain and later seize.

“Being continuous does not mean the rain has started. The weather record now does not indicate rainy season. What we see now is just pockets of rain.

“The rain is not yet consistent and people should be patient and careful about it. You can start farming operation in preparation but not advisable to start planting,” he stressed.

Akeju further stated that the implication is that their crops will dry off when the rain seizes again and it will amount to losses.

According to him, farmers could only plant the dry season crops like vegetables and tomatoes which do not really need much water.

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