How to Grow Onions Profitably in Southern Nigeria


Introduction

Onions is usually costly in Nigeria during the dry season because it is only grown in the North. Planting in the South according to Southern seasons, will be able to supply to the market at the times onions are usually scarce and costly. This makes planting onions in the southern Nigeria profitable. If want to start onions farming in Southern Nigeria, this article will walk you through.

Site Selection

The first thing to do in onions farming, like in farming of any other crop, is to select suitable farmland. Land where onion is to be planted should be a well-drained  level land. As a shallow-rooted plant, it does not require waterlogged. Onions do well on a sandy-loamy, loamy-clay, slightly acidic with 6.0-7.0 pH, fertile soil in full sun.

Variety Selection

There about five main onions varieties grown in Nigeria. They are:

Red Creole: This variety is a brilliant reddish, medium-sized flattened bulbs onions. It is the most popular variety in Nigeria due to its size and longer shelf-life. It usually produce one onion bulb per plant.

Alt: = "Red Creole Onions Variety"
Red Creole Onions Variety


Bombay Red: This variety originated from India. It survives both dry and warm weather conditions. It is globe shape, purplish red and pungent. It does not mature quick.

Alt: = "Bombay Red Onions Variety"
Bombay Red Onions Variety


White Creole: It is a short day (white) onion variety that produces onions with exceptional great keeping quality. It has small to medium bulb sizes with pungent smell. It is good for dehydration, suya and salad preparations.

Alt: = "White Creole onions variety"
White Creole Onions Variety


Red Tropicana F1 Hybrid: This is an improved breed. It’s resistant to common fungi diseases, and does well in dry weather condition. It is high yielding, produces many bulbs per plant. It is the largest with pungent flesh compared to other varieties. It requires special farm management practice, and it has short shelf life, therefore, requires special storage.

Cherry Mountain F1 Hybrid: Cherry Mountain F1 Hybrid is a large, brilliant coloured, dark red Grano onion with excellent storage capabilities. This variety produces round bulbs that are uniform in shape with a refined neck. Highly single centered. Ideal for fresh market. It is planted before the rains set in.

Alt: = "Cherry Mountain F1 hybrid onions"
Cherry Mountain F1 Hybrid Onions Variety


Land Preparation

Clear the land, cut any tree that can shade the sunlight. Onions require long hours of daily direct sunlight. Prepare the beds and integrate organic matter like compost to improve the soil fertility prior to planting.


Planting Season

Geographical location and indices determine onions planting seasons. So the growing seasons in the North, which is in Savannah are different from the growing seasons in the South, which is located in the Tropical Rainforest. One of the reasons many fail in farming onions in Southern Nigeria is because they follow the same planting seasons in the North. 

Generally, onions requires long hours of daily sunlight, and the Southern Nigeria doesn’t have long photoperiod (day sun) like the North especially during rainy season. Therefore, to successfully grow onions in Southern Nigeria (Southeast, Southwest and South-South), plant during the dry season — November to December — or early in the year — February to April — before the rain is established.

Integrated Soil Fertility Management

Incorporate the soil with organic matters like compost when making the beds to improve the soil fertility before planting. Apply NPK 10:10:10 before planting (if there was no incorporation of organic matters), and 4-5 weeks after planting. The fertilizer should be applied about 4 to 7cm away round the base of the onion.

Nursery

Onions are not directly planted on the field. You need to first of all nurse them for about 2 weeks before transplanting. 

  • Use nursery beds or trips of polythene bags or other materials (impermeable layer such as banana leaves, plastic sheets) which keep the root system on the surface.
  • Mix the soil with organic fertilizer like animal dung.
  • Make small hole on soil and place the onions seeds at about 3cm x 6cm space gaps.
  • Cut the seedlings with little soil.
  • Water the nursery every day before 7am and after 6pm
  • Seedlings will be ready for transplanting in 14-21 day.

Bedding

  • Onions are usually planted on beds
  • Make beds of 90cm wide and leave 60cm in between beds
  • Apply NPK10:10:10 fertilizer on the beds before transplanting the onion seedlings

Transplanting:

  • Onion seedlings should be ready for transplanting 2-3 weeks after nursery planting or when the sprouts begin to turn green and producing leaves.
  • Transplanting is carried out in the evening time.
  • Plant seedlings at spacing of 15cm x 30cm on each bed.

Weed Management

Weeding of onion farm is done at least two times. Weeding can be done with hands or use of herbicides. Appropriate herbicide is the selective and should be applied when the onion plants are up to four weeks. Weed two weeks after replanting (hand weeding is recommended). Second weeding should be done when the plants are about  4-5 weeks before applying fertilizer.

Pests Control

Insects and pests that commonly attack onions are Whiteflies, Thrips and Aphids. Thrips are mainly aggressive during the dry season. Appropriate pesticides should be used to control pests on the farm. Weeding also help in pests control as some weeds act as hosts to these pests.

Fungi diseases like Pink Rot, Purple blotch and blights. They usually attack the stems and the bulbs. Spread appropriate fungicides on the affected stems and bulbs.

Maturity, Harvesting and Storage

Maturity: Onions matures between 90 – 150 days depending on the variety and farm management practice.

Harvesting: Harvest after 90 days and the leaves has started turning yellow and fall over. Harvesting is done by pulling the onion plant out of the soil. Shake off the soil and keep the bulbs to cure with the top still attached.

Alt: = "onions field showing harvested onion bulbs"
Onions Field with Harvested Onion Bulbs


Storage: Store in a warm, airy place free from direct sunlight. As the onions begin to cure, the tops will begin to dry, clip off the tops after about 10 to 15 days.

Alt: = "Harvest onion bulbs in storage"
Harvested Onion Bulbs in Storage


Marketing

There is ready market for marketing of onions in the Southern Nigeria. 75% of onions produced in Nigeria is consumed in Southern Nigeria, and 99% of these onions is produced in the North and transported down to the South. Producing in the South increases proximity to the market, thereby reducing marketing cost and wastages. This means more profit. Also Southern produce matures before the Northern produce comes (Northern off-season). At this period, onion is usually scare and costly. 

Onions are easy to sell. You can sell to off takers, distributors or sell at fresh farm produce retail markets scattered across the localities in South.

Conclusion

There you have it. Now that you know that it’s possible to grow onions profitably in Southern Nigeria. The interesting part is that it is very cheap to cultivate and has short maturity period. It can be grown in small qualities in sacks or backyard. So if you are looking for profitable crop to grow in Southern Nigeria, Onion is very good one to pick.


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