This article was written by By Chris Agabi & Vincent A. Yusuf for dailytrust.com.ng

Farmers are advised to plant drought-tolerant seeds because of predicted early stoppage of rain

For every farmer and other stakeholders, the 2019 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) launched last Thursday is very important in guiding informed farm decisions and preparedness to adopting climate-smart agriculture.

Launched by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), the 2019 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) is vital in guiding agro-economic and socio-economic activities in the country.

With the theme “Weather-ready, Climate Smart Economy: a Pathway to National Development”, it takes a cursory look at what weather will be in the current year and the attendant consequences on economic activities and emergency preparedness mechanism of the country.

The report showed that 2019 will experience a late onset of rainfall and early cessation of rainfall in most parts of the country, with the far north having the worst hit. However, the 2019 forecast is a remarkable departure from the 2018 predictions but somewhat similar to 2017.

What farmers should expect at the onset

Presenting the highlights in Abuja, the Director-General NiMet, Prof. Sani Abubakar Mashi, said “as the year 2019 is anticipated to be an El Nino year, rainfall deficit with varying magnitude is expected for the most part of the country, especially northward. This is expected to have an impact on the timing of the onset and cessation of the growing season. A shorter length of the season is expected with below normal rainfall amounts. However, climate smart agriculture should be the watch word, he said.

The DG said “the predicted 2019 onset of the growing season is likely to be delayed in most parts of the country. The earliest onset date is predicted to be from March 7th around the coastal region of the south-south. The onset dates are expected to change as we move northwards with areas around Maiduguri, Sokoto, Katsina, Dutse, Potiskum, Kano and Nguru predicted to have onset from June 16th. The country is expected to experience late onset in most parts, but this delay is likely to be more evident in the northern States. However, normal onset is expected over coastal and some south-east states,” he explained.

Why you should take cessation date seriously

According to the prediction, the earliest cessation dates are expected to be from 29th September around the north-western parts of the country. Most of the north is expected to witness cessation dates within October, while around the central parts of the country, the growing season is expected to end between late October and Mid-November, 2019. Parts of the central and southern states are expected to experience the end of the season by mid-November, while along the coast, the season is expected to end by late December.

Most of the north, the south-east, Ikeja and Ijebu-Ode in the south-west are expected to witness an earlier than normal end of growing season. Most of the middle belt areas of Benue, Nasarawa, Niger, Abuja, Plateau and other places in the east and southern states are expected to experience normal to the late end of growing season.

The highlights also showed that in 2019, the length of the growing season is expected to range from 109 days to 291 days. Shorter length of growing season is predicted for most parts of the country especially over Sokoto, Yelwa, Gusau, Zaria, Kaduna, Kano, Dutse, Potiskum, Gombe, Bauchi, Lokoja, Enugu and Ikom while normal length of growing season is predicted over Shaki, Isheyin, Osogbo, Ado-Ekiti, Ibadan, Ondo, Akure, Benin, Port-Harcourt, Calabar, Owerri, Uyo and Umuahia. Areas around Bida, Minna, Abuja, Makurdi and Ilorin in the middle belt are also predicted to have a normal length of growing season.

It is also anticipated that in 2019, the country is expected to have rainfall amounts between 300mm in the north to 2700mm in the south. Places in the extreme north of the states of Sokoto, Katsina, Yobe and Borno state expected to have the least rainfall amounts within the range of 300-700mm. the central cities comprising Abuja, Baucnhi, Gombe, Jalingo, Kebbi, Bida and places along the Rivers Niger and Benue are expected to have annual rainfall amounts in the range of 700-1500mm while places along the coastline of the country such as Warri, Port Harcourt, Eket, Calabar and Uyo are expected to have rainfall amounts exceeding 2700mm.

Where farmers should consider drought tolerant/early varieties

By this prediction, farmers in places around Bauchi, Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Yobe and Borno states are likely to experience severe dry spell in the month of June. The report said this may last 10 to 22 days after the onset spilling into July. However, moderate dry spell that may last 8 to 15 days is expected around Yelwa, Bida, Minna, Zaria, Funtua, Lafia, Bauchi, Abuja, Gombe and Yola in June 2019. Thus, NiMet cautioned that the dry spells could cause a severe crisis for cops thus farmers could delay planting or plant drought resistant verities of crops.

The agency forecasts that the probability for a dry spell in July is moderate. However, the following areas in Borno state (Jere, Mobbar, Kukawa, Gubio,Nganzai, Mongono), Jigawa state (Birniwa, Guri,Sule, Tankarkar, Maigatari, Babura), Sokoto (Illela, Gada, Tangza, Isa, Gudu), Katsina state (Jibia, kaita, Mai’Adua, Daura, Mashi, Dutsi), Yobe State (Yusufari, Yunusari, Machina, Karasuwa), Kebbi state (Augie, Arewa dandi, Argungu ) and Zamfara State (Shinkafi, Zurmi, Maradun, Bakura, Kaura Namoda) will experience dry spell in the first week of July for 8 to 18 days spilling from the June dry spell.

Spread of heat-related diseases is likely on Livestock  

For livestock, the SRP report said the warmer-than-normal temperatures in February and April are expected to affect livestock production especially in some parts of the country particularly, the northern states where rainfall is not yet established.

It noted that the decrease in fodder production from dry land, increase in vector-borne diseases, internal parasite infestation and mortality rate is likely to increase in vector-borne diseases, internal parasite infestation and  mortality rate is likely to increase during these months due to temperature fluctuations; shell quality and egg weight in layers may also be affected it said.

Dr. Bala Mohammed, a veterinary professional urged livestock owners to take the warning seriously and adopt measures that will curb the effect of the predicted weather on poultry farms.

The Veterinary professional also believes that day-time temperature in March is expected to affect day old chicks and increase feed conversion ratio in layers and broilers. It also said the spread of heat-related diseases is likely as a result of predicted warmer conditions in most parts of the country. Thus, good vet practices for livestock-vaccination, fisheries and aquaculture management should be adhered to. It said fish production is likely to be adversely affected as a result of warmer-than-normal conditions especially in the northern parts of the country.

The National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Architect Kabir Ibrahim advised fellow farmers in places to be worst hit with low rainfall to use drought-resistant seeds and appropriate crops.

Architect Ibrahim noted that the data provided by the agency was very vital for both the government and the farmers to sufficiently get ready for the days ahead.

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