Cereals Crops. (Definition And It Examples)


The major cereal crops grown in West Africa include: maize; rice; guinea corn and millets; including finger millet and small millets.

Maize: (Cultural and environmental requirements)

This crop is widely grown in West Africa, particularly in areas which have too low a rainfall for rice cultivation. It is grown for both the fresh cobs and the dried seeds. The three main types of maize grown in West Africa are:

Flint maize: (Zea mays var. indurata) which has a hard endosperm. Dent maize (Zea mays var. indentata) which has a groove at the flattened end of the seed, and Sweet corn (Zea mays var. saccharata) which has a soft endosperm which becomes much wrinkled when the seeds are dried.
This is normally seed in the fresh cob stage.
A fourth type (Zea mays var. amylacea), Flour maize, is less widely grown.

Some maize is grown for making silage or for feeding to farm animals in a fresh state.
Traditional cultivars of maize are widely grown in many parts of West Africa but some of the recent introductions of new cultivars, in addition to those which have been produced by Research Stations, have been of considerable value in raising the level of production. Examples include Bende Local, Calabar Local, NS-1, NS-4 and Lagos White.

Maize is sown on ridges or on flat land, sometimes as an intercrop with yams or other crops, in soils which have a good moisture retaining capacity and which are fairly fertile. Several seeds are sown per station, the seedlings are later thinned to leave one or two of the most vigorous seedlings. Nitrogenous fertilisers are normally required, except on very fertile soils or when maize follows a leguminous crop in a rotation. Weeding is required until the crop is well established and weed growth is reduced due to the shading effect of the plant leaves.

The maize plant has separate male and female flowers, the male tassels emerging from near the growing point about 8 weeks from sowing. The female cobs are produced on the main stem in the axils of the leaves, the number per plant varying with the cultivar and level of crop management. Two crops per annum can be produced where two periods of rainfall occur during the year. Routine spraying to control pests and diseases is normally required. In storage, maize is liable to attack from weevils and other insects and dusting the containers with insecticide is usually required. Only grain which is being kept for seed should be treated with chemicals.

Rice: (Cultural and environmental requirements)

Rice growing areas: Swamp rice
inland swamps, mangrove swamps (fresh water), low land areas with irrigation (flooding). Upland rice - high rainfall areas. Recommended varieties Include BG 79 (Swamp rice) and Agbede, Oshodi and OS6 (Upland rice).
Soils which are fairly high in organic content and, for swamp types particularly, with a good clay content river flood plains, are necessary for successful cultivation.

For upland rice, a long period of rainfall is required and, for swamp rice, a period of flooding is necessary. For large scale rice production, waters control is required so that the irrigation duration and level can be adjusted to the crop requirements. Upland rice may be sown either broadcast or in drills. Swamp rice is sown in a nursery and transplanted about 6-8 weeks later when 22-25 cm in height.

Sowing of both upland and swamp rice is normally carried out at the beginning of the rains. Nitrogenous and phosphoric fertilisers generally promote rapid and healthy growth and increase yields, depending on the existing level of fertility of the soil.
Weeds should be controlled by hand weeding or the use of herbicides on large scale holdings. Diseases and controlled by spraying. A knapsack sprayer is normally adequate for this purpose. Bird damage can be very severe in some areas, this can be reduced by employing birds carers, and the use of devices which disturb the birds when they are either moved by wind or operated by hand.

Harvesting is usually by hand, the heads being removed with a sharp knife with a length of stalk about 15 cm attached. They are tied in bundles and exposed to the sun for several days before being hung in a dry place awaiting threshing.
Before being used or placed into store, the rice grains are threshed and winnowed. Hand threshing consists of beating the heads with a stick until the Grains separate from the head, these are then winnowed by throwing the grains into the air and allowing the wind to separate out the chaff or unwanted dust and residues. These operations are carried out by mechanical threshing and winnowing on large scale farms.

The husks of the rice may be removed by pounding pests should be in a mortar or by parboiling prior to less vigorous pounding. De-husking machinery is also available for this operation which is usually followed by polishing during which the outer layer or bran is removed. Rice may be stored either in the husk or after pounding but a longer period of safe storage can be obtained by storing it in the husk stage.

Guinea corn (Cultural and environmental requirements)

This is grown mainly in northern Nigeria and several types and cultivars are in general cultivation, some reaching a height of up to 4 m. Species closely allied to Sorghum Guineans which are also grown in northern Nigeria include: S. caudatum (Feterita) and S. durra (Durra or Masakwa) which is a rapidly maturing form, reaching maturity in from 12 to 20 weeks. New cultivars are regularly being produced by Research Stations.

Seeds of most types of sorghum are sown at the beginning of the rains, often on ridges. Some kinds are transplanted after being raised in a nursery. Seeds are sown 3-4 per station and later thinned to 1-2 vigorous seedlings. The application of nitrogen, super phosphate and fym normally produces increased yields.

Weeds should be controlled during the early stages of growth. At harvesting, plants are often cut at ground level and allowed to dry for about one week, the heads are then removed and made into bundles for drying. Stock may be fed on the leaves which are removed for fodder immediately before harvesting.
The heads are threshed by beating them with sticks, the grain is then stored under dry conditions after dusting containers and sacks with insecticide to reduce damage by storage pests.

Millets (Cultural and environmental requirements)

Millets are widely grown in northern areas where rainfall is low. Soils which are relatively sandy and well drained are suitable for this crop which is often interplanted with cowpea or  groundnuts. Seeds are sown at a rate of 5-8 per station and the seedlings are later thinned to leave 1-2 vigorous plants. Nitrogen and phosphate may be added but the value of the crop does not usually justify the use of fertilisers.

At harvest, the stalks are cut close to ground level and the heads removed by cutting with about 15 cm of stalk attached when they are dry. They are then stored by hanging them in bundles in a dry place, or they may be stored in pits until being threshed by pounding in a mortar.

Finger millet (Tamba) : This vigorous annual grows from 40-100 cm in height and seeds are sown broadcast in well drained sandy loam soils, it is generally considered to require slightly more fertile soils than acha. The whole plant is harvested when mature and tied in bundles to dry before threshing. The seeds are not liable to damage by storage insects and can be stored in good condition for long periods.

Small millets: Several different plants are included under this main grouping and are: collectively referred to as acha. They are annual grasses, up to 45 cm in height with small, soft, yellow seeds. They will survive well on fairly dry soils in low rainfall areas. The seeds are sown broadcast and manure or fertilisers are rarely used. The is harvested with sharp knives and the plants are crop made into bundles for storing until being threshed.


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