- Wheat, the most important crop of the world, is harvested some where every month of the year.
- More hectares of land worldwide are devoted to wheat than any other crop and the world’s total production exceeds that of any other grain.
- It is the preferred grain for food in advanced countries.
- Unlike many other cereal crops, wheat is mainly a food rather than a feed crop.
- After processing, the crop product is consumed directly by man, usually as a flour product (bread, pastries, cakes, crackers, macaroni and spaghetti).
- Wheat is also used in the manufacture of dextrose and alcohol.
- In producing wheat flour, the by-products which are higher in protein content serve as a valuable protein supplement in livestock feeds.
- The straw provides a valuable fodder. It is used for making baskets and hats, thatching and as packing material.
- Wheat has gained prominence in the import economy of Nigeria which has necessitated various governments to invest on its local production.
- Wheat is adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions, but is best suited to cool climates with moderate rainfall.
- Cool weather is especially important during the tillering and early growth stages.
- Wheat can be grown on a wide range of soils, but does best on well- drained, fertile soils of medium to heavy texture.
- However, very heavy or very sandy soils should be avoided.
- Wheat prefers neutral to slightly alkaline soils.
- The site for wheat production must be an area with permanent source of water for irrigation.
- Field measurement is very important because accurate field measurement will guide the farmers to know the actual area of his farm.
- The use of Geographical positioning System (GPS) has simplified the rigor of land measurement.
- For area calculation, select AREA, from the main menu of GPS receiver
- Enter START, then walk around the perimeter of the farmland you want to measure.
- Select CALCULATE to see the area inside the path walked through. The AREA’S unit can be converted to any unit in the GPS receiver.
There are a number of wheat varieties in Nigeria such as SAMWHIT-5 (Siette-Cerros), SAMWHIT-6 (Pavon F.76), SAMWHIT-7 (Bulbul), SAMWHIT-8 (Solanika), LACRIWHIT-1 (Seri-M82), LACRIWHIT-2 (Cettia), LACRIWHIT-3 (LINFEN), LACRIWHIT-4 (Atilla Gan Atilla). The most common varieities now are Seri M82 and Atilla Gan Atilla.
- The ground should be thoroughly cultivated, either manually or mechanized.
- The seed bed should be well-pulverized but compact.
- Beds (Check basins/Border strips) are made just before sowing followed by pre-sowing irrigation and land leveling.
Planting dates, time and Methods
- The optimum time for sowing is decided by several factors, the most important is the temperature.
- In northern Nigeria, the middle to end of November i.e. 15th – 30th November has been found to be the most suitable time for sowing.
- The seeds may be broadcast by hand, but this may result in fairly poor germination, wasted seed, and irregular plant stand.
Integrated Soil Fertility Management
- The improved wheat varieties have shown positive response to N up to 120-135kg/ha.
- Applications may be in 2 to 3 splits on light-textured soils for better fertilizer use efficiency.
- The recommended rates are 120 kg N, 40 kg P205 and 40 kg K2O per hectare.
- If NPK is 15:15:15 apply 6 bags + 2 bags of Urea at planting and 2bags of Urea 4 weeks after planting per hectare.
- If NPK is 20:10:10, apply 9 bags at planting and 2 bags of Urea at 4 weeks after planting per hectare.
- Wheat thrives well under good soil condition.
- Rice requires Clay/loam, loamy soils or sandy/loam soils.
- It is also important to grow wheat in rotation with legume crops to provide natural soil enrichment.
- It is recommended to apply 5 – 10 tons of Farm Yard Manure in order improve soil nutrients, texture and structure.
The first irrigation of wheat should be given immediately after planting to thoroughly wet the soil. Irrigation is done at an interval of 5-10 days depending on the weather and soil type. Irrigation at tillering, heading and grain filling is essential as these growth stages are sensitive to moisture stress.
1) Weeds are not a great problem where you have good land preparation; timely sowing, good spacing, fertilizer application and correct irrigation.
2) Recommended herbicides include:
- Pre-emergence herbicide such as Butachlor in form of Butaforce, Butastar etc, and the rate of 4-5 liters can be applied.
- Post-emergence herbicide such as Basagram 480EC can be used for grasses at 2.5ltrs per hectare at 3-4 weeks after sowing to control grasses. For broadleaf weeds, use 2-4D at the rate of 1-2ltrs/ha, 3-4 weeks after sowing.
Safety use and handling of pesticides
- Precautions must be followed to ensure safe use of pesticides.
- Even after use, the empty containers must be disposed very well by burying them.
- Instructions as stated on the label of the pesticide must be followed while only trained personnel should apply pesticide at recommended rate.
- The personnel should also wear protective clothing during application of pesticide.
Harvesting and Processing
- Wheat is usually harvested with a sickle, or mechanically with a combine harvester, when the grain is completely ripe and the straw is brittle and golden.
- The moisture content of the grain must be 13% or less.
- If it is higher, the grain needs to be dried before it can be safely stored.
- Where harvesting and threshing are done manually, winnowing must be done to separate the grain from the chaff.