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Is planting season here?

By Maria Famakinwa

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In the last few weeks, farmers and other residents in the state had begun aggressive farming activities with the planting of various crops, to address the current food shortage being experienced in the country even though the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) seasonal rainfall prediction was said to be steady by April 12.

The idea of farmers rushing to plant due to the few rains raised concerns about the consequences if NIMET’s earlier prediction was anything to go by. Nigeria is a country that has a great variety of agricultural seasons and climates that can be broken down into two distinct categories: the wet season and dry season. During these  seasons, the environment has a great impact on the lives of farmers as they must adjust their farming techniques to accommodate climate change. Understanding the different agricultural seasons and how they affect farmers is essential for the Nigerian agricultural industry to thrive and remain successful.

Some farmers in the Akure North Area of the state who spoke with The Hope shared their views about the right time to farm. One of them, Mr Joseph Aladesuyi, in his contribution, explained that he doesn’t depend on NIMET prediction before planting because he makes use of irrigation which helps him to plant throughout the year.

The man with over 20 years of experience in farming added that with the current rain, one can plant cassava, maize, and cocoyam among others.

His words: “The rain is here already, so people can start planting. Based on my over 20 years of experience as a farmer, I don’t wait for any prediction before I start planting. I plant throughout the year because I make use of irrigation on my farm. Thank God it is raining now and everyone should go back to the farm and start planting to solve the hunger being witnessed in the country currently. You don’t need to have a piece of land before planting you can make use of the little spaces in your compound for planting. Even if your compound is tiled, you can use sacks to plant yam, potatoes, onions, and the likes. If we embrace massive farming, prices of foodstuffs will come down and hunger will disappear in our land,” he said.

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Mrs Elizabeth Lucky, a maize farmer, explained that maize don’t need much rain to survive if planted beside the river. “I am a maize farmer and my farm is beside a river which naturally supplies my crops with the needed water to grow. Besides, maize farmers can plant at any time if they can make the sacrifice to be present very early to wet it during dry season. I have been doing that for years and I never recorded loss”.

When told that experts had warned against the idea of rushing to plant due to the few rains, she said that maize farmers could not be affected because maize can survive during the dry season if one makes it a duty to wet the crop every morning. “People have started planting even with the few rains and some maize farmers have started harvesting their crops that is why you see fresh corns in some places. Though not much unlike when it rains constantly. But even with what I am seeing, I can tell you that people can start to plant now since most farmers have started planting,” she said.

Another farmer, Mr Audu Isah, who plants different crops said that vegetables, and maize planted beside the river can survive with the few rains but said that cassava, cocoyam, yam, tomatoes, and pepper among others cannot survive if the rain is not constant. “If any farmer plants yam, tomatoes, pepper, or cassava now, such will run at a loss because they require constant water to survive.

“The question of whether or not it is the right time to plant depends on the type of crops and the farm location. Those warning farmers against planting now are right, they are talking generally because the rain now is not constant but from April, it will start to rain regularly which will be beneficial to all farmers. Mind you, if the rain is too much, it also affects farmers. Like two years ago when we experienced much rain, rice, tomato, and pepper farmers ran at huge losses because their crops were washed away. What farmers want is moderate and constant rainfalls,” he said.

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

“It is a risk. Anybody can take risks. If their farm is around the water area, it is good to go, but anyone that has a farm in the upland area and went to plant when it’s about three weeks for the commencement of consistent rain 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 farmers want to plant early, farmers can irrigate.”

Speaking on crops that could be planted during the drops of rain before the effective ones, Balogun said that it 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 variety that doesn’t grow fast, but if the rain will be for a short time one will plant variety that will grow faster,” he said

Also, the Project Manager, of the Agro-climatology Project of the Ondo State Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Adesina Akeju, described the seemingly continuous rainfall as a deceptive one that could lead to the destruction of crops. He advised farmers to watch the weather till March end before they can start farming operations stressing that there is a tendency for it to rain and later cease.

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“Being continuous does not mean the rain has started. The weather record now does not indicate a 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  preparation but not advisable to start planting,” he stressed.

Akeju further stated that the implication is that their crops will dry off if the rain ceases which according to him will amount to losses. He said farmers could only plant the dry season crops like vegetables and tomatoes which do not need much water.

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