Agriculture is as old as man himself dating back from centuries past. Man has always found a way of feeding himself hence the introduction of agriculture as man’s best possible means to feed himself. This has played major roles in the standard of living as food planted, cultivated and harvested are either eaten or sold out. There are different farming practices adopted in the Nigerian agricultural system and we shall be studying about a few of them. These farming practices are listed below
1. SHIFTING CULTIVATION: This is a type of farming which is done on a piece of land for one or two years and then moving on to another piece of land which has not been cultivated before, leaving the former farmland to fallow, hence resulting in loss of vegetation.
2. CROP ROTATION: This is a method of farming in which the same piece of land is kept under cultivation every year in such a way that crops planted in rotation follow one another in a definite cycle. Deep feeders (cassava, yam, okro) are interchanged with surface feeders ( maize, groundnut, and guinea corn). This is aimed at restoring nutrients removed from the soil.
ADVANTAGES OF CROP ROTATION
1. Crop rotation facilitates the control of weed, pests, and diseases.
2. It maintains soil fertility by enriching the soil with nitrogen.
3. Plant food is effectively utilized.
4. There is maximum use of the soil without destroying it.
5. Labor is used much more effectively.
6. It conserves natural environment.
Pests can be defined as living things which do physical damage to man, animals and crops.
The following listed below are some crops and their major pests;
1. MAIZE; STEM BORERS, ARMY WORMS, WEEVILS
2. YAM: Yam beetles.
3. RICE: Stem borers, army worms, leaf rollers.
4. CASSAVA: Grasshoppers, mealy bugs, cassava scales.
5. COCOA: Black tea thrips, citrus aphids, cocoa stem borers, scales, root mealy bugs.
6. COTTON: Boll worms, hoppers, leaf worm, aphids.
7. GROUNDNUT: Boll worms, hoppers, leaf worms, aphids.
8. STORED GRAINS: Weevils.
9. SORGHUM; Sorghum midge, weevils, boll worms, aphids.
CONTROL OF PESTS
1. CHEMICAL CONTROL: Use of pesticides, like insecticides to kill the pest. Stored grains such as maize and rice are fumigated to minimize their attack by grain weevils.
2. BIOLOGICAL CONTROL: This involves using the predators and parasites of insect pests to keep them in check. This method prevents the danger of polluting the Eco system.
3. BREEDING RESISTANT SPECIES: This includes planting of crops that can resist viruses or bacteria transmitted by pests.
FOOD PRODUCTION AND STORAGE
This is a way of producing foods eaten by man through natural means, chemical means or genetically engineered. These methods need be taken into consideration as to their overall effect on man and his health. Also, precautionary measures need be taken when storing these various farm produce. There are different factors which affects these food production systems which are highlighted below
1. LAND AREA: The quantity of food produced depends largely on the area of land brought under cultivation. When it is large, food production increases, but when low, food production decreases.
2. RAINFALL: Adequate rainfall increases food production while low rainfall decreases food production. This improves or hinders the cultivation of fertile soil hence increasing or decreasing food production. This problem may be solved by irrigation.
3. DISEASES AND PESTS; Diseases and pests constitute a major threat to increased food production. These cause great loss of food in both the farm and during storage. These problem can be solved by effective pest and disease control measure.
4. BASIC AMENITIES: Lack of basic amenities such as water and electricity will cause a decrease in food production since potential agricultural workforce will migrate from rural to urban areas. The government can solve this by providing basic amenities in rural areas. These will help increase food production since able bodied men will settle in villages.
5. FINANCE: Lack of money hinders mechanized agriculture resulting in loe food production but of farmers are rich, they will buy tractors and harvesters which will enable them increase the area of land under cultivation hence increasing food production.
6. TRANSPORTATION: Bad roads makes the transportation of agricultural products from food producing areas to urban areas difficult. This discourages farmers from increasing the area under cultivation and this leads to low food production. Good roads will therefore increase food production since transportation of agricultural production is made easy.
7. AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION: Intensified agricultural education creates awareness on the importance of farming resulting in increased food production.
8. STORAGE AND PROCESSING FACILITIES: Good storage and processing facilities leads to an increased food production. Poor and inadequate storage and processing hinder food production and leads to food spoilage.
9. GOVERNMENT ATTITUDE TO DEVELOPMENT OF AGRICULTURE: Lack of interest of the government in agriculture will retard agricultural produce since meager amount will be allocated to agricultural sector and also government officials will not implement agricultural programmes which might increase food production. When government is interested in agriculture, enough money will be allocated to the agricultural sector and government officials will implement agricultural programmes hence an increased food production.
10. FARMING TECHNIQUES: Mechanized agriculture and good farming practices such as crop rotation will increase food production while poor farming practices and lack of machinery such as tractors and harvesters will retard food production.
WAYS OF IMPROVING CROP YIELDS
1. CROP METHOD: Cross breeding, budding and grafting help to obtain high yielding crops of resistant varieties.
2. PEST, DISEASES AND WEED CONTROL: Effective pest, disease and weed control measures help to improve crop yield.
3. GOOD FARMING PRACTICES: Farming practices such as crop rotation enriches the soil with nitrogen and also control weed, pests, and plant diseases.
4. USE OF FERTILIZES: Use of inorganic or artificial fertilizers and organic fertilizers introduced into the soil required nutrients which will make crops grow well.
5. SELECTION: In selection, plants of desired qualities such as large grains large tubers, short fruiting, and short maturation time or resistance to diseases are planted.
6. IMPROVED FARMING TECHNIQUES: Mechanized farming leads to an intensive and extensive agriculture giving rise to high crop yield.
7. INTRODUCTION: This involves the taking of crop species or varieties from its native locations where the plant was not grown before. e.g. cassava grown in Nigeria is a native of South America.
8. DIFFERENT METHODS OF PLOUGHING: Different methods of ploughing and farming maybe needed for different climatic conditions, soil types, and crops. This knowledge is useful for increasing crop yield.
CAUSES OF FOOD WASTAGE
Food wastages are causes by the following;
a. Microbial attack caused by organisms as bacteria, yeast and fungi.
b. Pest attack as seen in the destruction of stored seeds and grains by beetles and weevils.
c. Improper storage
d. Sprophytic action such as the attack of bread by moulds.
e. Carnivores and herbivores attack such as rodents.
f. Destruction of stored fruits and meat by some worms usually larvae of flies.
g. Delay in transportation due to bad roads.
h. Lack of market for the commodity.
i. Poor harvesting methods causes food wastage.
METHODS OF PRESERVING AND STORING FOOD
These methods of preserving foods are underlisted below;
5. Canning with the exclusion of air.
6. refrigeration or Freezing.
Grains can be stored in silos, or pots, yams in barns and packing of nuts in leaves, e.g. kolanuts.