Managing a farm business is one of the important roles farmers must be wary about before the commencement of cultivation. As a farmer, you really need to understand some fundamental knowledge and principles about any farm business you wish to explore. It very easy to till the soil and plant any crop of your choice, but it is not so easy to manage a farm to attain its potential yield.
Management practices in managing a farm business
What are pre-planting operations?
Pre-planting operations are series of activities carried out in a farm management system prior to planting the seed or planting material. They are those operations you carry out before sowing the seeds. Pre-planting operations are very important; they are the foundation on which you build the success and survival of the crop. Most farmers experience crop failure because of the failure in the pre-planting operations.
Examples of pre-planting operations are:
- Seed procurement
- Land preparation
- Soil pH determination
- Seed treatment
- Seed viability test
- Plant population determination
Now let me enumerate why these pre-planting operations are paramount to the success and survival of your farm business.
- Seed procurement:
Firstly, where and how do you outsource your seeds or planting material?
This is where most farmers get it wrong. You are expected to get your planting materials or seeds from a reputable agro-allied store. The word “reputable” is very important here; because, when your seeds or planting materials are bad, automatically you are going to experience crop failure. Not only crop failure but also huge losses of investments because the pre-planting operations you had carried out are no longer useful.
Imagine planting on large hectares of land, where you have spent handsomely to diligently prepare your land as best as possible, test your soil condition to ascertain the efficiency of the soil, plant using huge numbers of laborers or pieces of machinery and after some weeks you noticed your seeds did not germinate. It is very traumatic.
This is why you should get your seeds or planting materials from a traceable and reputable agro-allied store.
- Land preparation:
This is another important pre-planting operation that most farmers get wrong from inception. Land preparation aims to provide a suitable environment from your seeds and crop.
It provides a suitable environment for the seeds or planting by allowing easy percolation of water and movement of air into the seeds or planting material to aid quick germination.
For your crop, it ensures a sterile environment where crop pests and disease pathogens are eradicated. It also provides anchorage and support for the crop. The best form of land preparation technique is conventional land preparation practice.
This method of land preparation eradicates weeds; distort the breeding sites of crop pest and diseases. Irrespective of your scale of production, ensure you prepare your land using the conventional land preparation method.
- Soil pH determination:
I am sure you know that crops also select the type of land they grow on; you need to check the compatibility of your soil with the land you intend to use by running a Soil pH test. The Soil pH meter ranges from 1 – 14; most crops thrive best in soil with pH reading within 5.5 – 6.5. Soil pH can be carried out in two ways:
- Mechanical analysis: This is carried out in the laboratory. Here, the exact soil pH value is gotten after carrying the test.
- On field test: There are ways you test soil pH without going to the laboratory. This can be achieved using a material such as litmus paper. (You can open the link later to read more about it)
When the value you obtain from soil testing falls below or above these values, 5.5– 6.5, you need to correct the soil pH through liming.
- Seed Treatment:
Even after buying your seeds from a reputable agro-allied company, it is essential you treat your seeds or planting material. Seed treatment serves two purposes:
- It hastens germination.
- It protects the seeds or planting material from pest and diseases.
There are different ways to treat seeds or planting material; seed treatment for plantain suckers is different from that of maize seeds. To hasten germination, the seeds can be bruised mechanically to aid water imbibitions; hence, quick germination is achieved.
This is commonly used for large seeds.
In addition, soaking seeds in hot water or extremely called water (moist chilling) is very effective in hastening germination. They are used for small sized seeds.
To protect the seeds from pest or diseases; the seeds or planting materials are soaked in the pesticide solution (Seed dressing). An example is soaking maize or plantain suckers in copper fungicide to protect the seeds or suckers from fungi attack.
- Seed viability:
It is very imperative you test the viability of the seeds before planting to determine if the embryo of the seed is alive or dead. Although, in most cases, the manufacturer of the seeds would have indicated the viability percentage; but in cases where this is devoid, you can carry out a very simple viability test using water. Just pour the seeds in water, leave for about 20 minutes, the floating ones are dead while the ones below are good for planting. It is as simple as that.
- Plant population determination:
If you are planting, you should be able to predict your yield. It allows you to estimate your profit and assists in making farm management decisions. There is a formula to calculate the plant population.
Plant population formula is: Seed rate × Land size
You should adopt these pre-planting operations if you are managing a farm business on crop production. Now let us see the post-planting operations.
What are post-planting operations?
Post-planting operations are the series of activities carried out in a farm management system between the period of planting and harvesting. They are necessary to achieve a reasonable yield.
Examples of post-planting operations are:
- Crop protection
Of course, weeding is the most important post-planting operations. If you do not weed your farm on a regular basis, you are likely to have a very low and suboptimal yield. Weeds are unwanted plants that grow alongside with your crop.
Weeds are genetically more viable and aggressive than your crops; they compete with your crops for nutrients, air, and water. They also harbor pests that can reduce the quantity and quality of your crops. Your crops may find it very difficult to outwit the weeds if you do not intervene; your intervention is in the form of manual or mechanical weeding or using herbicides. Herbicides are used to control weeds.
Weeding should be done 2-3 times before harvesting. First weeding should take place 2-3 weeks after planting while the second weeding should take place 6 weeks after the first weeding.
You want your crops to grow bigger to control good market price, isn’t it?
This can only be achieved through fertilization. Fertilization is done using fertilizers; it could be natural, organic, or synthetic.
Either way, you need to be very careful. If you are using a natural or organic fertilizer such as compost manure, you should apply a fully decomposed one. Why?
Because some natural fertilizers, especially the ones of animal origin contains pathogens which may cause disease or harbor pests. However, fully decomposed manure is devoid of pathogens. Similarly, you need to take some precautions when applying synthetic fertilizers. Ensure the fertilizer particles are not trapped on the leaves. Why?
Because synthetic fertilizers are hygroscopic in nature, hence, they tend to absorb moisture from any material they come in contact. They can cause necrosis or burns on your crop leaves.
When to apply fertilizers
Apply fertilizers after every weeding. It gives your crop the full access to the fertilizer, thus, enhancing efficiency.
- Crop pest and disease protection:
Aside from weeding, another important post-planting operation is pest and disease protection. Pest and disease have the ability to reduce your crop yield; pest reduces the quantity while diseases reduce the quality. You can control pest in various ways; you can go organic using natural materials such as Neem oil or inorganic by using synthetic pesticides like Laraforce.
You should apply pesticides as soon as you observe the activities of pests. However, you should stop the application of synthetic pesticides at about 5 weeks before harvesting; this is to avoid food poisoning. Organic pesticides like Neem oil can be applied indiscriminately, but it should also be controlled for economic reasons.
Harvesting marks the end of cultivation. This is the period farmers look forward to seeing. Harvesting period varies with the gestation period of the crop. As soon as the crop reaches the peak of maturity, it can be harvested. The method of harvesting also differs; the way you harvest roots crops like yam and cassava is different from the ways you harvest non-root crops like banana and tomato. Irrespective of the method of harvesting, it should not inflict any damage to the crop. This will increase the shelf life of the crop during storage and maintain the quality.
If you want to earn more in your cultivation, then you should implement these farm management practices when managing a farm business of any capacity; they would not increase your cost of production, instead, they would improve your cultivation process. You can organize them in any of the farm management software.
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