Rice is one of the major staple foods in Nigeria, consumed across all geopolitical zones and socioeconomic classes. Rice consumption is increasing rapidly in Nigeria because of the shift in consumer preference towards rice, increasing population growth, increased income levels, and rapid urbanization. It is commonly boiled and eaten with stew or vegetable soup. It is also used in the preparation of several local dishes that are eaten in every home, especially during festivals and ceremonies. However, rice production falls short of demand; the country depends heavily on rice importation of over 3 million tonnes annually, equivalent to over US$480 million in scarce foreign exchange. The Nigeria agricultural landscape is changing, with increased government policies aimed at stimulating private sector involvement and boosting local production. The efforts are starting to show results, as Nigeria’s rice production rose from 3.7 million metric tonnes in 2017 to 4.0 million metric tonnes in 2018. For the record, the major rice producing states in Northern Nigeria are Kebbi, Borno, Kano, and Kaduna. Currently, most of the farmers producing rice rely on traditional technology with low use of improved input technologies. Average rice yields per unit area in the country are low and range between 2.0 and 3.0 t/ha compared to yields of 6‒8 t/ha reported on research plots. It is important for farmers to adopt improved varieties and have a good knowledge of rice agronomy to increase rice production and productivity in the various states in Nigeria. Emphasis on the promotion of improved rice production technologies gained a fresh momentum following the recent policy of rice import restriction. Also, it warranted a need to equip extension agents with up-to-date information on crop production practices.
Important steps in growing rice
In Northern Nigeria, rice can be grown in two main areas: Lowland areas: These are lowlands on the edges of flooded fadamas (inland valleys) and irrigation schemes where water is available for 4½ to 5 months. In some areas, water may be available for more than 5 months. Upland areas: These are areas with good soil and rainfall of over 700 mm. Select fertile land.
Proper land preparation is necessary for rice production to minimize competition with weeds. Two harrowings provide sufficient tilth for rice growth. Ridging is not necessary and is often a waste of space. In the southern parts of Adamawa and Borno states where the soils are more fragile and prone to erosion, minimum or zero tillage is recommended. Where zero tillage is to be adopted, the field should be sprayed with glyphosate at the rate of 4 L/ha (about 2⅓ Peak milk tins
of chemical/15-L sprayer) to kill emerged weeds. About 10 days after spraying glyphosate, slash or mow the dead weeds.
Seeds and seed preparation
After deciding on the rice variety to use, select plump, viable seeds that will grow vigorously.
Sources of improved rice seeds
Contact any of the following sources nearest to you for your supply of viable rice seeds:
• Agricultural Officer or extension worker
• State Agricultural Development Project that includes rice in its production programs
• River Basin Development Authority
• Branch officer of the National Agricultural Seeds Council
• Seed companies
• Other rice farmers
• Research Institutes with a mandate for rice production
Procedure for sorting seeds for planting
• To separate the heavier seeds from the lighter ones, soak them in 12% common salt solution or muddy water for about two minutes.
• To prepare the salt solution, dissolve 2 Peak milk (standard size) tins full of salt in 18 L of water (about a bucket full).
• The seeds that sink to the bottom of the solution are the healthy seeds.
• Separate the seeds.
• Wash the heavier seeds free of salt.
• Dry the seeds after washing and then sow. Accelerate germination by soaking the seeds in cold water for 24 hours or overnight; then drain and incubate them in a warm moist place for 36 to 48 hours. The germinating seeds should be sown immediately after incubation.