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Greenhouse technology is an innovation that is gradually making inroad into the Nigerian agricultural sector.  

Although it is viewed as capital intensive technology, locally replicated greenhouse technology has been proven to work too. But first, what you need to know about the technology.  

For many farmers who have been in the greenhouse business for years, it is much more than a frame covered in polythene, polycarbonate or nets. It is an organised system that works together to produce the results the farmer desires.  
A greenhouse is a structure like dome or square shape that allows a farmer to grow crops, especially vegetables -tomato, sweet pepper, strawberry, broccoli, cauliflower cucumber, green beans, etc, in a controlled environment.  

In the greenhouse, the farmer controls the elements of production under partial or full controlled environmental conditions to get optimum growth and productivity.  
The key elements which the farmer may control include the greenhouse temperature, the amount of light, the system of irrigation (drip or rain gun, or sprinkle), fertiliser application, and the atmospheric humidity. In greenhouses, you can plant all-year-round under high intensive cultivation.  

Locally constructed or modern industrial design  
In Nigeria, some farmers who locally construct their greenhouses cover it with transparent or white polyethylene while wrapping the sides with nets, others use only nets (for dry season) while some farmers use only white polyethylene.  
The locally constructed greenhouses might cost 50% to 60% less, depending on the size the farmer chooses.  

Alhaji Murtala Shi has spent many years building greenhouses for farmers across Abuja and Plateau State, using local materials. He told Daily Trust that the temperature of the area usually determines the kind of materials to be used.  According to him, it will cost between N250,000 to N300,000 for the 100 by 50m size, using “bush poles”, nets, and a micro 200 polyethylene bags, which prevent the rain from getting access to the greenhouse during the wet season.  

He said the biggest size of a locally constructed size is 150m by 60m and it costs a farmer N500,000 to 600,000, adding that there are other sizes that cost less.  The major challenge with locally constructed ones, according to him, is that termites might weaken the poles and woods and collapse the greenhouse. Other challenge includes strong winds, which can pull down the structure. But if properly constructed, it can last for three to four years, he added.  

Daily Trust visited a farm on the outskirt of Bwari Area Council of the FCT where a farmer is reaping the benefit from a locally constructed greenhouse. The farm workers confirm that good harvest was recorded during the dry season, using hybrid seeds sourced locally.  

However, farmers who have the resources can acquire modern greenhouses designed by various companies.  

Samuel Aende is the director of Terjimin Farms in Jeun, Masaka, off Abuja-Keffi Expressway, one of the farms that embraced large scale commercial greenhouse farming for about four years now.  

With over 15 greenhouses networked with drip irrigation and soluble nutrients that supplies evenly to the crops, he produces tomato all-year-round. Each of the greenhouses, he said, “can last for about 15 years.”  

He  said that it cost about N1 million to acquire each of the greenhouses, adding that there are other types that cost between N500,000 and N900,000, depending on the size, where you are buying and the company selling.

Asked if he makes gains, he said: “Certainly, if you’re not making gains, you will not remain in business. This is a business. I have decided to grow tomato because the demand is high throughout the year.”  

Aende uses indeterminate tomatoes seeds, which can grow and reach the heights of up to 12 feet, although six feet is normal. The indeterminate tomatoes require substantial staking for support and it is produced throughout the season.  He harvests twice in a week with each greenhouse, 476 tomato plants, giving him an average of 300kg to 400kg. Aende sells the tomato in ‘kg,’ not ‘basket,’ as locals do.  

Other manufacturers  
Dizengoff Nigeria is one of the companies selling greenhouse technology in the country. Currently, it has 28x8 metres greenhouse size, which goes for N1.5 million and it comes with a set of kits.  

The set of kits include fertiliser and agro chemicals, nursery set, Jacto sprayer, drip irrigation system, quality seeds and health and safety kits.  

However if a farmer buys up to nine sets of greenhouses, the company gives him an agronomist for up to one year for effective farm management.  
In the greenhouse

To set up a greenhouse, you must note key steps that will determine the success of the project or otherwise.  

Do soil tests or analysis: this is very crucial to success in greenhouse farming. The soil analysis will enable the farmer to determine the pathogens or bacterial, fusarium wilt and nematodes that could be potential threat to your crops.  

Limit human traffic: Like poultry houses, a farmer must regulate the numbers of persons who enter the greenhouse because they ‘might carry bacteria, especially on their shoes into the facility.  

Control of pests and diseases: the fact that greenhouse minimizes the chances of disease and pest attack does not mean the system is immune to such attack. Applying pesticides and other chemicals should be tactically done. Otherwise, the plant can suffer severe damage.  

Water supplies: Although greenhouse farming utilises lesser water compared with the other farming systems, good amount of irrigation water is required but must not be allowed to over-supply the farm.  

The seeds: as a farmer, you must know the varieties of seeds that will do well in the greenhouse. There are seeds designed for the open farming and, on the other hand, there are seeds for greenhouse cultivation. Getting good hybrid seeds will be rewarding.

Good Attention: Greenhouse farming requires regular attention to enable you track any emerging development like infections, picking weeds and regulating the temperatures which often changes.

 

Source: Vincent A. Yusuf (Publish May 5, 2016)

https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/agriculture/greenhouse-farming-what-farmers-must-know/145399.html

12th February 2018