Soil testing, mapping and ecological adaption and regionalization of agricultural inputs of seeds, seedlings, fertiliser, insecticides, herbicides and other agro-chemicals have been described as factors that can help in crop yield per hectare.Higher productivity per hectare, experts have also found out, would help Nigeria to become food-sufficient and food-secure to cater for growing population projected to multiply in a few years.
Farm operation profitability, sustainability and industrialisation of agricultural crops also depend on the above factors. While other countries have 10 to 15 tonnes per hectare for food crops, Nigeria struggles with getting two to three tonnes of yield per hectare, especially in grains and pulses. This poor productivity explains why Nigeria is yet to achieve sufficiency in food production.
As population statistics has indicated that the Nigeria will be populated by about 450 million people by 2050, there is the need for researchers and innovators to come up with new technologies that would help the nation to meet up with food demand.It is, however, important to note that improved yields are dependent on farmers’ good farm management practices, including soil testing, application of the right fertiliser, right quantity and the use of improved seed varieties.
To help in input facilitation and soil fertility, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) came up with the Partnership for Agricultural Research Education and Development (PAIRED) and Enhancing Growth through Regional Agricultural Input System (EnGRAIS) project.
The project would make new technologies available to farmers on exact quantity of seeds and fertiliser required for maize, rice, and other crops.Through the five-year project, agricultural inputs such as improved seeds and appropriate fertilizer blends for the main crops are expected to be developed and made available to farmers.
Also, good agricultural practices would be synchronized and agro-ecological zoning would be compartmentalised to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and profitability.The participating countries are Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and Liberia and it is being implemented by the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF) and the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC).
Victor Chude, a professor of soil science and one of the facilitators at the workshop, said the aims were to validate recommended fertiliser blends and improved seeds that had been developed through research activities so that farmers could plant according to soil specifications to avoid the use of blanket recommendations that are injurious to the soil and that could affect farmers’ yields.
He said: “As far as seeds are concerned, there has been a lot of circulation of seeds by farmers which viability are no longer profitable.He disclosed that previous blends of fertiliser used by farmers gave them about two tonnes, but with good management practices, particularised blends of fertiliser could give up to nine tonnes of rice, and for maize, it could be up to seven tonnes.
He added that the fertiliser cost-benefit analysis was carried out and it would be affordable and profitable to farmers, saying this would increase productivity of farmers.The expert mentioned that the technology would be made available to the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), grain-based farmers’ associations, agro-input dealers and fertiliser companies.
One of the consultants, Professor Ishaku Amapu, disclosed that he was commissioned by CORAF IFDC to carry out survey on management practices on improved seed varieties and fertilizer blends used for seed varieties specific to Nigeria for about 10 crops. The crops include maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut, cowpea, cassava, rice and cocoa.He explained that they were expected to find out the varieties that best fit each agro-ecological zones and how they could be up-scaled.
On why farmers still buy a bag of fertilizer at between N8000 and 10,000, he said the major challenge was transportation. Although fertiliser is sold at N5500, taking it to some areas would require extra transportation cost and the agro-input dealers would want to make profit.He pointed out that through the Agricultural Inputs and Mechanisation (AIM) programme, the government was working to reduce the transportation cost by subsidising the price so that it would get to the farmers at N5500.
The National President of AFAN, Mr Kabir Ibrahim, said: “The approach will take us out of poverty. If you are able to identify good seeds and appropriate fertiliser blends, you are bound to improve your inputs, and once the inputs are improved, farmers’ would increase outputs and more farmers would desire such technologies. It is a welcome development.
“With what the Nigerian Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) is doing in knowing the capacity of seed companies to meet the needs of farmers in Nigeria, coupled with the fact that Nigeria is taking giant strides in fertiliser production with 1 million tonnes being produced and made available to farmers, Nigerian farmers should be ready for bumper harvests,” he said.He added that “We hope that as we go along, things will get better as the future portends good news to Nigerian farmers,”