Unfavourable weather and climate conditions can be quite a challenge to achieving maximum yield in crop production. Weather and climate conditions play an important role in determining the pace of crop production. However, during times when the global food security strongly depends on crop production, like what we have presently, there should not be room for any limitation or setbacks. This situation brought about the search for solutions which resulted in farm management practices that involve farming in a controlled environment.
Thus, the game-changer “greenhouse” is birthed. Greenhouse farming is one of the basic variations of farming in a controlled environment.
A greenhouse is a building or part of a building with glass sides and roof or polycarbonate structures in which plants that need protection from or are sensitive to weather are grown. It could be small structures or quite big as the case may be. Considering the variety of structures, the term “Greenhouse farming” also includes:
Glasshouses: structures covered with glass.
Shade houses: covered in woven or other material with gaps that allow sunlight, air, and moisture to pass.
Screen houses: covered with screening material that provides protection from pests and severe weather conditions, mostly practiced in hot or tropical areas.
Crop top structures: structures without walls, covered only with a roof.
A greenhouse is different from a typical farm which consists of an area of land used for growing crops or keeping animals. Greenhouses are enclosed spaces used for growing crops only. Greenhouses make it possible to regulate the temperature and humidity of an enclosed space therefore making it possible for certain crops to grow and thrive regardless of the external weather conditions.
Greenhouse farming in Nigeria
In greenhouses, three factors which are very critical to the growth and development of plants are taken into consideration, namely; ventilation, the amount of light that gets through to the plants and retaining the heat generated from the ground.
These considerations determine the choice or type of materials used to construct a greenhouse. Two materials are majorly used in greenhouse construction: Glass and Plastics (Moldable Polymers) resultant of the above considerations.
Why use glass and plastic?
Glass has a higher light transmission value (97% to 98%) compared to plastics (80% to 96%) so a glass greenhouse allows more light to get to the plants. However, light passing through plastic diffuses therefore making light penetrate more areas of the greenhouse.
Plastics are lighter than glass so they require less construction work and materials when used for greenhouses. Although plastics like twin-wall polycarbonate (TWP) can be more expensive than glass, they are more durable and last longer.
Also, plastics have a good thermal insulation value which makes them suitable for retaining the ground-generated heat inside the greenhouse.
Ventilation in greenhouses are well catered for as the greenhouses are oriented so that the vents are open towards the direction of wind flow of the greenhouse site or location
Types of Greenhouse
Based on the type of material and automation processes involved, greenhouses can be classified or grouped into three main types:
Domestic: This type of greenhouse is built using glass, usually of 3mm thickness, which is known as Dutch Light or Horticultural glass grade. It’s the cheapest type of greenhouse.
Plastics: This type of greenhouse is built using moldable polymer materials such as polyethylene (or polyethene) film or polycarbonate materials. It is more durable than the domestic greenhouse.
Commercial: This type of greenhouse is a full-service, stand-alone unit with built in screening, heating, cooling and lighting equipment that can be remotely controlled via a mobile device or computer.
Greenhouse farming in Nigeria is the business of working on and managing the growing of crops and plants inside a greenhouse. Greenhouse farming technology makes it possible to grow tropical crops (pineapples, tomatoes, peppers) in the cold regions such as Russia and France. And in the reverse direction, temperate crops (apples, cabbages, blackberries) can also be grown in hot regions of Nigeria, and Dubai greenhouse farming technology.
Greenhouse farming is gradually finding its footing in Nigeria too. For example, Taraba State is in the process of setting up a very large greenhouse farm which is going to employ over 300 youths. Also, many individuals and private organizations are embracing greenhouse farming.
The most powerful advantage of greenhouse farming is that it enables effective management and reduces risks caused by unfavorable weather conditions. Discreetly, greenhouse farming optimizes growing conditions and protects the crops from extreme weather events.
Additionally, some types of greenhouse farming (greenhouses with managed heating) extend the growing season or even allow farmers to grow the crops outside of the typical season. Greenhouses that are additionally equipped offer the possibility to take complete control of the crop production, which leads to faster growth and higher yields.
Cost of building a greenhouse in Nigeria
You can choose to build a greenhouse farm in Nigeria instead of purchasing a commercial greenhouse. You can also build Plastic greenhouses with wooden frame. Building or constructing your greenhouse gives you flexibility because you can build according to the size of land you have. It’s also less costly when you construct or build your greenhouse. Building a local plastic greenhouse in Nigeria with a dimension of 10 meters by 25 meters (250 square meters) with all the growing inputs (seed, fertilizers etc.) will cost you a minimum of N2,000,000. You can also choose to build smaller sizes which will cost much less.
Maximum yield in crop production is the goal, and greenhouse guarantees that. Therefore, greenhouse practice is a viable investment.