Rice Farming in Nigeria (Beginners Guide)

Farmer looking at his rice Field

When I see farmers rice fields, all I can say to them is thank you. Most times they won't understand the reason behind my statement, this will prompt them to ask why, and I will gladly tell them that a single grain cultivated is an extra food to an average man's plate. This post will guide you through the little things you need to know in rice farming. 

Keyword: Rice, Farming, Nigeria


Gone are those days when we tell others that rice (Oryza sativa) consumption are only for the rich,this is not the case now. This crop has grown to become an important staple food to most Nigerians.  Rice is the third most cultivated grain crop in the world with an annual production of over 488 million metric tonnes. Nigeria as a Nation produced 7.2 million metric tonnes of Rice grain as of 2018 making them one of the leading producers in Africa. This has made this crop to be very profitable in terms of marketability. Also check out :10 Most Profitable Agricultural Business in Nigeria
Nigeria is blessed with land areas for the cultivation of this crop, according to African Rice Centre (WARDA), Nigeria has between 4.6 million and 4.9 million hectares of land area for rice production but the sadness behind this is that only 35 percent (1.7 million ha) are presently cropped for rice,soo sad.
I will always hold on to my words that without small scale farmers their is no Agriculture and to confirm my statement small scale farmers account for most of the rice production in Nigeria.
Before we begin you might also want to see this video ;

There are two main production ecology  of rice that can be found in Nigeria ;

  1.  Upland Rice and
  2.  Lowland Rice 

Upland Rice;

This is the rice that is grown on dry soils without being flooded with water, and it accounts for about 20 percent of our total rice production in Nigeria. Most of the time this rice are cultivated for household consumption and not for commercial purposes. Lately, their has been some improvements on farmers interest on upland rice due to the rising demand of rice in Nigeria. 

Major constraints faced in upland and lowland rice production are;

  • Insect pests
  • Weeds 
  • Diseases 
  • Nematodes 
  • Low soil Fertility (macro and micro nutrients deficiency) 
  • Drought/flooding 
  • Iron toxicity 
  • Soil acidity and erosion
  • Problems related to salinity in the irrigated lowland system. 

What time should I plant upland rice;

Knowing the time of planting upland rice is like knowing when your wife will give birth, it's that important and there are no two ways about it. I will encourage us to pick up the free rice manual from WARDA, it's detailed and easy to comprehend. Let's get back to business. 

Sowing time

  • Savanah agro ecology: May to June. 
  • Forest agro ecology: April to May.
  • Rains should be pretty much established before you should even think about planting. 
  • Seeds should be sown immediately after a good rain, that is when the soil is moist. This helps easy root penetration, don't be in a hurry to plant when nature hasn't decided yet.

What are the varieties of upland rice in Nigeria ;

As of the time of writing, their are many new varieties in the open market from renowned seed sources but I will mention the once that has been tested and trusted. 
  • Early maturing varieties ( < 90 to 100 days): FARO 1, 40, 45, 54, 55, NERICA 1, NERICA 2 e.t.c.
  • Medium maturing varieties (between 100 to 120 days) : FARO 48, 49, 53 and so on. 
  • Late maturing varieties (more that 120 days) : FARO 25

Lowland Rice

These are rice grown on a land that is flooded, for me this is the easiest way to define this term. This lowland rice has the largest land area (50 %) of rice production. This rice are mostly cultivated for commercial purposes but as usual it is hit by many constraints such as insufficient rainfall, drought, low quality of seeds to mention a few, this alone limits its optimum production.

What time should I plant lowland rice;

Sowing time

  • Forest zone: March to April 
  • Derived savannah : May to June 
  • Guinea savannah: June to July 
  • Sahel savannah : WARDA made mention that planting can be done at anytime in this region depending on the availability of water. 
  • Don't say I didn't tell you but planting should be done when their is enough rainfall establishment in that region. 

What are the varieties of lowland rice in Nigeria ;

Like I said earlier this Varieties are chosen because they have been tested and trusted with testimonies coming from farmers, their are more than many varieties in the open market from reliable sources. 
  • Early maturing varieties (<90 to 100 days) : FARO 44 (SIPI) and 'etumbe' (local). 
  • Medium maturing varieties (100 to 120 days) : FARO 21, 26, 29, 52 (WITA 4), 57 TOX 4004-43-1-2-1, and others. 
  • Late maturing Varieties (>120 days): FARO 10, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19, 24, 28 to mention a few. 
  • Areas with a dominance of Gall midge: Use Cisdane (FARO 51). 

What type of land should I choose for Rice farming ;

  • It is recommended that you choose your land in an area with at least 14 to 20 mm of rainfall during the growing cycle. 
  • You will do yourself good by choosing fertile soil with good water retention capacity. Clay soil that are rich in organic manure are well recommended 
  • Finally do seek the help of a reputable soil testing company. This is like an Hiv advert that will say get yourself tested today, free yourself the headache tomorrow but in this case you are testing your soil. 

What type of Seed should I choose for Rice farming ;

The choice of seed matters a lot and it can very well affect grain yield during harvest so;
  • Before purchasing any seeds, do well by checking if the seed is of mixed varieties, and if they are, please do avoid them like a plague. 
  • Do not get seeds from illegal sources instead source your seeds from reputable sources e.g of some reputable sources are River Basin Development Authority, WARDA Nigeria as so on. 
  • Please take your time by choosing seeds with no insect damage. 
  • Another important point to mention is that you should choose seeds that has high percentage of viability (>80 %). 

Some extra tips to consider before going to the field;

  • Spacing should be done by dibbling method at 30 by 30 cm or better still at 20 by 20 cm. 
  • Applicable seed rate is 50 to 60 kg/ha. 
  • Carry out some seed treatment. 
  • For lowland rice establish a nursery, this can be a dried bed nursery or a wet bed nursery. 
  • It requires about 1000 metre square of seedbed nursery of lowland rice to be transplanted to 1 hectare of field. 
  • For lowland rice, seedlings should be transplanted within 14 to 21 days after sowing. 
  • Gap filling is really necessary to maintain plant population. This is the process of filling empty spaces with seedlings within 7 to 10 days after transplanting. 
Agronomic practices are the white hat practice of any successful farmer, i will make this as short as possible to save our time. 

Land Preparation 

All farming practice requires land Preparation and as a farmer it is something that you really need to take seriously. This is the bed in which your plant will stay until harvest. And if it is not well laid there will be lot of bed bugs and other not so good diseases. Having said this we should quickly run through some land Preparation techniques. 
  • The first thing you need to do is to plow the the field and if you want to go with lowland rice it's recommended to flood the field for about 2 weeks so as to kill weeds. 
  • After the above has been done you can then mark out your field into basins with hand hoes , that is after the water has been removed. 
  • This is then followed by the construction of bunds (these are those things that looks like ridges around a lowland rice field) to retain water and suppress weeds. 
  • Make sure the field is well leveled so that water will not only accumulate in a particular area of the field. 

Fertilizer Application 

This is a whole new topic on its own and I can't go through every part of it in this post, do check the Agro Tech category for the post (coming soon). 
  • Fertilizer should be applied based on soil test recommendations 

Related resources on rice farming (hit links to learn more) ;

While on the final topic 

  • Harvest and processing of Paddy rice 
This topics are so wide and I can't cover them all in one post but do follow us by email to receive fresh updates on the go as they are posted on this blog, you can also check back for post completion.


AgroReader am happy that we made it these far don't hesitate to hit the Share button and also comment on the post. 

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