Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Entomology and Agriculture - (Uchechukwu Agidigo)

What’s your first reaction to insects on your farm? - (Uchechukwu Agidigo)

There are thousands of insects living on your farm. If you can identify these insects, it would inform your reaction to its presence on your farm.

 Based on observation from different farmers around Roguwa community, the reaction of farmers to insects on their farms would be classified into three:

The first category of farmers wants to squash them all. Immediately they spot any insect whatsoever, they stroll to the store and purchase the strongest chemical pesticide to kill them all. IS THAT CORRECT?

The next category of farmers don’t really care about them, after all, they are tiny creatures who can’t hurt anyone or thing. Well, it’s really not his fault, he doesn’t know better. OR DOES HE?

The final category observes the insect type after which he decides whether to kill them or let them go free. WISE FARMER?


Contrary to popular belief, not all insects want to eat your vegetables or become a pest to your animals. So what insects can be classified as the ‘good guys’?

Harmless insects 


The honey bee is a harmless and helpful insect on the farm because it pollinates the farmer’s crops while gathering its food. Pollination allows the plant to create its seeds, such as grains of wheat or kernels of corn. Many farmers keep beehives on their farms to ensure the pollination of their crops because there are very few honeybees left in the wild. The plus side to this is, the farmers could still harvest, honey and bee wax which is healthy and also extra cash for the farmer.


The ladybug is not just a lovely sight but also feeds on harmful insects like Aphids, Whiteflies and Colorado potato beetles in their larvae and adult stages. This ensures the safety of the farmer’s crops in the nursery and on the field. The ladybug goes for around ₦9,000 today at insect stores, the farmers should appreciate what they have.


The spider is an amazing hunter, it will patrol your garden catching and eating insect pest according to Hartung. However, not all spiders are hunters, some are web weavers. Examples of spiders that hunt include, wolf spiders and crab spiders. Spiders feed on aphids, leafhoppers, caterpillar, spider mites and grasshoppers to mention a few. Studies have shown that spiders are the most efficient at controlling insect best on the farm. They are however not referred to as insects because of their eight legs but rather called arthropods. Even though the web of spiders can trap beneficial insects, its efficiency in insect pest control outweighs the harm it could cause.


 Other beneficial insects to a farmer include ground beetle, praying mantis, braconid wasps, damsel bugs, green lacewings, minute pirate bug, soldier beetles, mealybug destroyers, to mention a few. These insects contribute in their own way as a medium of biological control of insect pests. 

Harmful insects

There are millions of insects that are harmful to crops. Some of them include grasshoppers, aphids, scale insects, caterpillars, spider mites, thrips, and leafhoppers, to mention a few. These insects can cause devastation to your crop from its early stage. They feed on leaf, stem, and root of plants. When there is an outbreak of insect pest on your farm, actions to rid yourself of these pests must be initiated immediately because if these insect pests are in their numbers, your farm could lose everything green in just two days. Some insect pests on the farm hosts on your animals which could cause discomfort, injury and ill health to the animals. Some of these insects include lice, fleas, bugs, tsetse flies, ticks and mites. They have biting or piercing and sucking mouthparts, this allows them to feed on the blood of the host animal. The loss of blood can make the farm animals unhealthy and irritable which could make them nervous and hence, reduce their productivity. 

Every farmer should find out which of these biological methods works well for his farm. Note that, the introduction of an insect to your farm to control insect pest should not be the first option. Before you introduce beneficial insects to your farm, here are some important things to consider.

Regulations and permits – you may potentially need a permit if you are importing certain species of insects

Neighbors – have the courtesy to tell and educate your neighbors on introducing beneficial insects to your farm. The last thing you want is for your neighbors to be spraying chemical pesticides all over the place, which would have a knock out effect on your farm. Besides, your neighbors might just want to invest in insects too.

Optimal environment – make sure the climate and vegetation is a suitable habitat for insects. Also, ensure there is a low to a medium population of the targeted insect pest on your farm. Otherwise, the insects might just leave for an area with a more reliable source of food.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Future of Nigeria is a Wholesome Agriculture - (Theodora Obianime)

The Future of Nigeria is a Wholesome Agriculture - (Theodora Obianime)

Maslow once said that “You either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety”. Nigeria has reached the juncture whereby we have to make the crucial choice of either stepping forward or staying in our destructive safe zone.
‘The Giant of Africa’, our undisputed title largely due to the fact that we host the largest population in Africa and blessed with many natural resources in Africa as well, in the good old days when we had the matching political and economic sprout to back that up. This is not to allude in any way that we do not anymore.  Agriculture was the economic mainstay of the country during the 1960s marked by a booming economy which can be compared amicably with the oil boom of the 1970s and thereafter. Before the shift to oil, Agriculture was the backbone of the country’s economy accounting for about 57% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) as well as 64.5% of its export earnings. It was regarded as one of the most promising agricultural producers with history marking that we were the number one globally in the exportation of palm oil and exported 47% of all groundnuts. To put it simply, we were a ‘self-sufficient’ country who held their own. 

However, this power wheel was soon replaced by oil which saw a shift in the country’s major focus from agriculture to oil. A mono-economic dependency which failed to translate this economic boom to the agricultural sector in order to further boost sustainable growth and dependency. This caused a downward spiral from being the country which provided 18% of cocoa production to now 8%. While this shift made the country even more economically buoyant contributing to the biggest chunk of its GDP and also makes up for the bulk of the federal government revenue and foreign exchange reserves since the 1970s, it had negative impacts to agriculture. This shift in focus neglected everything else including agriculture keeping us largely dependent on the importation of goods causing a pivotal shift from being major exporters to major importers. Shocking to note is that while we produce 65% of tomatoes in West Africa, we are the largest importers of tomato paste. We thus produce solely to export in order to re-import after going through the process of processing and packaging. A mentality that has cost and is still costing us gravely. Nigeria spends approximately 501 million dollars on the importation of rice and palm oil. Same products that are homegrown and can be produced, processed and packaged properly for sales and distribution if we put our mind and resources to developing ourselves to be manufacturers. This has changed a structure of demand for food and agricultural products by replacing it with the importation of major agricultural products.

Reviving the agricultural economy becomes an enormous and vital task to the country. However, this change starts with exploring the options that we have long neglected and pushed to the back. The business of agriculture is a large and enormous multi-billion dollar market waiting to be tapped into. Economic diversification thereby becomes a necessity to ensure sustainable growth and development, especially with a rapidly growing population. It becomes important to turn to a sector that was designed to ensure national food security of its population as well as going further to investing in agricultural production and food-processing industries to rejuvenate an existing sector that has been neglected for so long. Lastly, bridging the gap created by importation and focusing more on exportation should lay in the major purview of the country. Imperatively, we ensure a modernized, productive and competitive agricultural system which will create wealth, job opportunities as well as a market for these producing farmers. It will further prevent the rural-urban migration problem of move in search of non-existing job opportunities. Furthermore, ensure that this teeming population is guaranteed national food security. Right now, there is an imbalance in the increase of demand without a matching correspondence in production increase. The population keeps on increasing while the food supply does not match this rapid growth. The National Bureau of Statistics states that 60.9% of Nigerians in 2010 were living in absolute poverty.

With this rapid increase and the rising poverty situation, continued reliance on Oil as the major focus of the country’s revenue stream becomes detrimental for the country especially when this robust growth is not directly linked to the agricultural sector. It is not enough that the country makes money but that it is being utilized to ensure sustainable growth and development. In comprehending the boundless opportunities and an enormous revenue stream of this sector, China made the bold move which is the deed of tapping into this market making it dominate on a global scale. Agriculture has become a major part of its country and economy as a whole.

The willpower and capacity to drive this successfully abounds in the country, wherein lies the largest population with a greater percentage of its citizens 35 years and below who are more than fit to work as well as be consumers of such products. Our youth with untapped capabilities and genius ideas for driving the future of our nation remain pushed to the side and left to redundancy. Youths willing to undertake such businesses but lack the financial assistance or opportunities, lands left fallow and infrastructures left to dilapidate. Thus, we are talking capacity, resources and partnership, and a local, regional and global market to drive this sector. Nowhere in the world has it been said or seen that the people do not live and thrive on food hence this is a continuous demand of a lifetime. This is a local, regional and global demand. It has and will continue be a dumb and unfounded decision to not tap into this opportunity from agriculture to agro-allied businesses such as food processing to everything that lies from there down the food value chain lying right in front of us. What excuse do we then have? There is no excuse why we cannot supersede the agricultural glory of the 1960s. No excuse for continued food scarcity and the rising poverty level. Why continue focusing on just one revenue stream when you can have multiple revenue streams? 

Laozi, a Chinese philosopher quoted ‘A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving’. This is just to say that our goals should not be our destination rather there are limitless continuous opportunities even after such achievement to pursue. Many times we get comfortable when things begin to fall in place and forces align. We wallow and bask too long in our achievements and forget that the sky has no limit and that there are other horizons to explore and surpass. It’s not about getting to the top but staying at the top and that we can only achieve by constantly working and thinking two steps ahead of others. The opportunities with agriculture are boundless and we may have fallen along the way but we need to rise up, make the necessary changes and do what has to be done. We may not be able to control the past but we can control where we go next. The future is agriculture. A wholesome agriculture that is modernized, productive and competitive.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Keeping Snakes Away: Advice from a Wildlife Biologist

Keeping Snakes Away: Advice from a Wildlife Biologist

For many, the sight of a snake in or around the house is the stuff of nightmares. Unfortunately, many companies take advantage of people's fear of snakes to sell products or services that are ineffective, and in some cases, they may even recommend the use of products that increase the danger to family members and pets.
First off, the likelihood of a snake showing up on your doorstep depends on several factors, including your location; surrounding landscape (urban vs. rural); presence of a water source (ponds, lakes, rivers); and your lawn and garden design and maintenance schedule. If you are finding snakes in or around your home, keep calm and follow the tips below:

Mow grass often and keep it short: Snakes are less likely to hang out and move through the short grass because it increases their exposure to predators (e.g., coyotes, hawks). Short grass also makes snakes easier to spot by you and your family members.
Avoid watering your lawn: Watering of your lawn and garden may attract prey species (e.g., worms, slugs, frogs) which may attract snakes seeking a meal. 

Keep trees and shrubs trimmed: Trim trees and shrubs away from your home and garage, and keep branches away from the ground. Creating a 24-36" space under trees and shrubs will reduce snake use and will make snakes easier to spot if present.

Move the bird feeder: Birds are messy eaters and often leave seed scattered below their feeder. Seed on the ground attracts rodents which may attract snakes seeking a meal. Move feeders away from the house or stop feeding altogether. Store bird seed in a metal can with a tight fitting lid.

Install a perch pole: Hawks and owls are natural snake predators that can be attracted to an area with the aid of a well-placed perch pole. Poles should be placed in open areas so the hawk or owl has a good view of the yard and surrounding area. Learn more.

Feed pets inside: Feeding pets outside can attract insects and rodents which attracts snakes. If feeding outside is necessary, be sure to cleanup uneaten food right away. Store pet food in a metal can with a tight fitting lid.

Move your woodpile: Store firewood, excess lumber, and other types of debris away from your home. Stacks of lumber and firewood, and other piles a debris are perfect places for snakes to hide.

Think before you landscape: Avoid using mulch and large rock in your landscaping. These materials attract snakes and their prey and can create breeding and overwintering habitat. Instead, use smaller tight-fitting rock such as gravel or river rock. Avoid water gardens and Koi ponds as these water features attract snakes.
Seal the cracks. Seal cracks and crevices on the house, sidewalks, and foundations to prevent snakes from using these areas. Consider getting an energy audit. Energy audits can be a great way to identify cracks and crevices that allow air conditioning and/or heat to escape the home - these same cracks and crevices may be used by snakes and other small creatures.

Fencing: There are no sure-fire ways to keep snakes away, but when all else fails fencing may be worth consideration. Fencing should be buried a few inches into the ground, be constructed using 1/4" or smaller rigid mesh or solid sheeting, and include a bend at the top to prevent snakes from climbing up and over. Several companies make wildlife-specific fencing to save you time

Do not use mothballs: The active ingredient in mothballs is naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. These chemicals are toxic to insects and mammals but are not effective against snakes (San Julian, 1985). Naphthalene may cause illness in humans, and have been linked to death in children. Using mothballs outside your home violates product labels, and puts your family and pets at risk.  Do not use mothballs.

Do not use sulfur: Many snake-away products claim that sulfur in their products will keep snakes away. Unfortunately sulfur is not effective at deterring snakes and is a waste of money (San Julian, 1985).

Do not use ceramic eggs or golf balls: If having issues with snakes in your chicken coop, using golf balls, or ceramic, glass or wooden eggs are not the answer. Snakes that eat these artifical eggs die a slow and painful death over many weeks, and new snakes will just show up to take that snake's place. Instead, focus on improving your coop to prevent snakes from entering and follow the deterrents recommended above. If using ceramic or other artificial eggs to encourage a brooding hen to lay, be sure to glue the eggs down to prevent snakes from eating them. Note: The loss of few chicken eggs here and there is a small price to pay for natural rodent control. Snakes eat lots of rodents, and rodents pose a significant risk to human and livestock health.

Do not release kingsnakes, racers, or other snake predators: Capturing and relocating animals is rarely successful and may even be against the law. Please focus on the deterrents listed above. To learn more about wildlife relocation see (coming soon).

Do not use sticky traps outside: Traps placed outside capture all sorts of non-target animals and result in a slow agonizing death. Here's a short video showing how to properly release an animal stuck a sticky trap.

Do not bring out the guns, shovels, or other weapons: Bringing a gun or other weapon to a snake encounter increases the person's risk significantly. Discharging a firearm toward the ground can result in bullet ricochet, and even trained police officers have accidentally killed innocent bystanders when trying to shoot a snake. If needing to get a snake to move on, use a water hose to spray the snake which will encourage it to find a new place to hang out.

Last but not least...
Learn: A fear of snakes often stems from a simple misunderstanding. Take the time to learn more about snake identification and biology. Two great groups on Facebook are Snake Identification and Wild Snakes: Education & Discussion. If on Twitter, be sure to follow Dr. David Steen (@AlongsideWild) for snake facts and identification tips.

Use your water hose: Opt for a non-lethal way to encourage a snake to move along. A blast from a water hose is usually enough to get even a stubborn snake to hit the road.

Visit a nature center or park: Many local parks & nature centers display native wildlife, including snakes. Getting an up-close view of snakes, from within their glass cage, is a safe way to work on your fear.

Attend a meeting or join a club: Many areas around the world have societies focused on amphibians and reptiles. These groups are a great way to meet local snake enthusiasts and take the next step toward conquering your fear. 

Respect the snake: It's important to understand that snakes play an important role in the ecosystem, and are good to have around the lawn and garden. Dekay's Brownsnakes, for example, feed on garden pests such as slugs and snails. Ratsnakes feed on rodents that can spread the disease to people, pets, and livestock. Even venomous species of snakes are important to keep around, recent research has found that having a healthy rattlesnake population can benefit people by keeping Lyme Disease in check.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Cattle Ranching: A Multi-million Naira Agribusiness

Businesses like Cattle Breeding/Ranching, not on the list of favorite businesses for most people are really lucrative. Why? The reason is that even though fewer people consider cattle farming when looking for good businesses, a very high percentage of people consume beef and a lot of other cattle products daily.
Cattle production involves keeping bulls and cows for meat (beef) or milk (dairy) purpose. Cattle feed on grasses, legumes, roughage. That is why they are called herbivores and they are also known as ruminants (because they have one stomach with four compartments).
In Nigeria (West Africa), commercial beef cattle production is very common especially in the Northern part of the country, but with innovation, one can have a ranch or breed cattle in any part of Nigeria profitably both in and out of rain season.
Cattle farmers are not just limited to selling meat or milk; there are tons of other products that they can sell.
In fact, no part of a cattle’s body is a waste product, from the horns down to the hoofs. Let me show you some of the products that can be gotten from cattle which you can sell to make money.
•Meat •Cow dung’s for organic fertilizer production   •Milk •Cheese• Cowhide• Cow Bones •Cow Hooves •Cow Bladders •Cow Horns
Starting A Cattle Farm
Farmland-: The most important thing that you would need for this business is a large piece of land that can be used as a farmstead.
The land should have good green pasture because the grass is the staple for cows. You can look for a land whose owners are not currently using and lease it for use as a cattle farm or you could consider purchasing your own land which is the best. Then, you should fence it to protect the cows from being stolen or wandering off.
Land Preparation: Prepare the land for cattle farming, you may call it a ranch, the preparation of the land is necessary by planting high yielding pasture (grasses, legumes, roughage) which you can source within Nigeria which the cattle’s will feed on.

Research has shown the pastures sourced within Nigeria are better than the imported because our climate and breeds of cattle’s are considered. 
Acquire the Necessary Facilities-:
The first facility you would need for your cattle farm is a good fence to serve as security for your farm. Then, you would need a good source of water may be a borehole, well or an artificial stream to provide a steady supply of drinking water for the cattle.
You may also need to construct a small farmhouse to serve as a store and living quarters for anyone you employ to take care of the cattle. You may also need to construct a shed for the cows in case of harsh weather or plant trees.
Feeding the Cattle-:
The largest percentage of expenses you would incur on your cattle farming business will be on feeding. Although cows feed on pastures, by-products from maize, cassava, a fruit etc, but with the availability of cattle feed now in the market it can have a balanced diet, as a result, it becomes a health and fattened.
According to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, if you haul cattle from Kano down to your ranch, by the time you take them, you fatten them and, in less than three months, you will make money. If you are able to do that, the people will buy a cow that is healthy, well-fed and big, rather than the one that trekked from Sokoto or Kano. That is to say, it is a business to venture.
Monitor your livestock regularly. Contact a proficient veterinarian who takes care of immunization.
Mating and Reproduction-: When stocking your farm with cattle, to begin with, you would need to stock up on both female and males.
The males would be used mainly for reproductive purposes. Just like other farm animals, cows have their heat period and you would have to monitor your female cows to know when they are on heat so that they can mate with the male cows.
Most cattle farmers don’t rely on natural reproduction because it doesn’t produce fast results like artificial insemination. With artificial insemination, your herd can grow bigger faster. Before you embark on this method of reproduction, ensure that you consult experts to put you through on the right procedure and as soon as a female cow gets pregnant, you should separate it from the rest and care for it specially, with the right nutrition and comfort to reduce stress and a risk of abortion.
Diseases: Diseases such as Tick damage and tick-borne diseases, Gallsickness, Tuberculosis (TB), Cattle measles, Anthrax, Diet-related problems, Lumpy-skin disease (LSD) etc. But can be prevented through early vaccination.
• Cattle Rustling: This has been a big challenge in Nigeria cattle business that is why adequate security should be made to before starting this business, such as fencing etc.
• Capital: Capital can be a very major challenge in this business but with availabilities of Agric funds from the government this is becoming less challenged. Forming of a cooperative society among breeders or ranchers will make fund sourcing easier.
• Feeding: With the planting of high yield pastures now available in Nigeria through research institutes and availability of water supplies it will be addressed.
Just like every other business venture the profitability is high because of the high demand for beef and it’s by-products.
Leading Example Of Cattle Breeding/Racing Business
OWONIKOKO Ranch and Farm is a leading cattle breeding and fattening company involved in upgrading and multiplying cattle breeds/herds with local adaptability and improved performance and yield, the innovative breeding technology of artificial insemination and careful selection.