Orange and Lemon farming is a guaranteed money maker for serious farmers. These fruits belong to the citrus family. The cultivation of these fruits is a long term investment. Because they are tree crops, they require a longer waiting time. This can take upwards of 3 to 6 years before they start to bear fruits. However the length of time it takes depends on the variety. There are several varieties of oranges and lemon. These also include genetically modified ones which have been fairly recent. Also these trees range in sizes.
Typically there are those that range from 17 to 23 feet tall as well as the dwarf varieties. These reach a height that ranges from 8 to 12 feet. Our focus here is to guide you on how to start orange and lemon farming in Nigeria.
These have a high market value in Nigeria. They are rich sources of Vitamin C which is a water soluble nutrient that improves body immunity. Orange and lemon are consumed in a variety of ways. They can be consumed fresh by peeling off the skin or pressed for juice. They are also used to make lemonades as well as marmalade. A good news about these citrus fruits is that you can cultivate them anywhere in Nigeria.
The weather makes it very favorable. Cultivating them for economic purposes requires a sizeable land. This is to ensure adequate spacing for the trees. Orange and lemon trees grow best on sandy-loam soils. Therefore this should be one of the criteria to look out for when selecting a land.
Economic Value of Citrus Fruits
Nigeria has been rated as the 9th citrus producing country in the world. This 2007 ranking by the Food and Agricultural Organization places local production at 3,325,000 tonnes. Although this has been the case, little is done by way of value addition. Thankfully a lot has changed since then. Demand has grown for more investments in this sector.
This is due to its several economic benefits. These include its pulp being used as livestock feeds, and its peels used to make vinegar, lactic acid, citric acid and feed yeast among others. The rind oil which comes out from the peel is a valuable oil in the international market. Furthermore, the leaves and bark of citrus are known to have medicinal value. Growing a plantation is a good way of harnessing its many benefits.
Your Choice of Land is Important
Choosing a suitable land should come first. It is advisable to take your time when doing this. This is because it can significantly impact on how well your trees grow. As mentioned earlier, sandy-loam soils are an excellent choice. A clay content of 10 to 40 percent is ideal. However an easier way to know how good a soil would be is to observe other trees around. If surrounding trees look well nourished, then such land is likely to be good for this purpose.
Soil drainage is another important consideration to make. Citrus trees thrive on well-drained soils. Therefore you should avoid water-logged areas. While some water-logged areas are visually evident, others are not.
How then do you ascertain the drainage capacity of the soil? An easy way to do so is to simply dig a hole 2 meters deep and 1 meter in diameter. The hole should be filled with water and observed. The land should be avoided if it takes more than 48 hours to drain. The ideal time frame should be from 24 to 36 hours. This internal drain test forestalls the likelihood of your citrus trees being affected by the soil drainage structure. In addition to the above, purchasing a land for this venture would be cheaper in remote areas. Going for lands located in the city would be significantly expensive.
Planting Your Trees
There are two ways to do this. You can either decide to buy young trees from nurseries or grow the plants from the seeds. This takes a longer time, however it saves you from mistakes of buying unwanted varieties. If you choose to plant the seeds yourself, you should buy your desired citrus fruits consisting of oranges and lemon. You should also choose your preferred varieties. These can be the dwarf or standard varieties. After harvesting the seeds, they should be soaked apart in water.
You need to separate these into 2 categories for easy identification. These should be left in the water overnight. A nursery should be prepared and the seeds planted half an inch deep. You can use polythene bags as the nursery.
Sandy-loam soil rich in organic matter should packed into the bags. Each of these should hold a seed or two. The polythene bags should be punctured to allow for easy drainage of water. After planting your seeds half an inch deep, it should be watered daily. Orange seeds will typically germinate 14 days or two weeks after planting. Optimal conditions are necessary for germination. This include availability of water, a well-drained soil and the right temperature. Luckily the temperature in Nigeria is ideal for germination. The young tree should remain in the polythene for up to 3 months after which it should be transplanted.
Transplanting and Spacing
The next step to take is to transplant you young trees to their permanent location. It is necessary to have your farm fenced before this step. This is necessary to keep animals at bay. Without this provision, your trees may be damaged by goats, sheep or cattle. For the long term, a fence is necessary to avoid unauthorized access from people. The soil should be dug half a meter deep and rich organic matter mixed with the soil removed from the hole.
The young tree should be lowered and the polythene torn from around the tree. The compact earth should be covered/filled at the bottom and sides by the soil mixed with organic matter. A little depression at the top should be created for holding water.
Spacing should be such that it allows for maximum allowance for blossoming of the plants. Dwarf citrus trees require lesser spacing than standard sized trees. Dwarf trees are spaced 6 to 10 feet apart while standard trees require a spacing of 12 to 25 feet apart. This is necessary because as they grow, they take up more space.
Caring for Your Trees
The waiting time for your trees to mature can be significant. This normally takes years; from 3 to 10 years depending on the variety. By providing proper care, chances of realizing maximum production capacity are significantly increased. Orange trees do not attain maximum production immediately. It starts with a few and increases over time. There are diseases which may attack your trees and would require urgent treatment.
Some common ones include citrus canker which causes lesions on the fruits, citrus mold; responsible for blackening and wilting of leaves, and citrus tristeza which causes stunted growth. There are several other types which require urgent treatment such as spraying of insecticides. For detailed information on treatments, the Federal Ministry of Environment under the Department of Forestry will be of immense help.
Orange and lemon farming requires significant investments. Land will take up a major part of your expenses. However if you have a land, then you would have saved yourself a significant expenditure. For land located in the cities, you may have to spend upwards of N2,000,000.00 to N10,000,000.00 per plot. Those located at the suburbs are significantly cheaper and may cost from N200,000 to N2,000,000.00 per plot. Fencing the farm and sinking a borehole are expenses that can range from N7,000,000.00 to N12,000,000.00 depending on the size of the land.
If you prefer to buy young trees, they can go from N800 to N1,500 per stand. Multiplying these by the number of stands you need will give you a figure. Other expenses you may incurs for treatment and care will range from N2,000,000.00 to N5,000,000. The best part to this investments is that it is a one-time investment needs not be repeated unless you want to plant more citrus plantations.
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Profit Potential for Orange and Lemon Farming
Orange and lemon farming can be highly rewarding if done properly. Ideally you can plant up to 45 to 50 orange stand per plot. Maximum production is only attained after your trees must have produced over 4 to 5 times. Each tree can produce over 2 50kg bags at peak production. Each of these goes for over N6,000 depending on market forces.
Multiplying these by 50, a plot of orange and lemon plantation can generate N300,000. With more emphasis on value addition, and with the establishment of more fruit juice companies, there is a greater chance for more earnings from citrus plantations. This is a worthwhile venture to consider as it has long term benefits.