Greenhouse farming is an innovative technology that is gradually making its way into the Nigerian agricultural sector. It is usually seen as the exclusivity of big time farmers who have the means to fund it because of its – technology and the management skills required. The good news is that there are low-cost greenhouses which are well constructed with locally available materials and the durability last up to 4-6 years. Interestingly, after construction which accounts for its major cost, the turnout in production is enormous with management.
A greenhouse is a structure with walls and roofs made mostly of transparent materials, such as glass and plastic in which plants requiring regulated climatic conditions are grown. These structures range in size from small sheds to industrial-size buildings.
A miniature greenhouse is known as a cold frame.
Glass greenhouse is used when a long-standing structure is required and for commercialization, and most of them are high-tech production facilities for vegetables. They are filled with equipment including screening installations, heating, cooling, and lighting, and may be controlled by a computer to optimize conditions for plant growth.
Plastic (polythene) greenhouses are more commonly used in small and medium-scale production by farmers and considered when mobility is favourable because these are lightweight and easier to move to new locations.
The interior of a greenhouse exposed to sunlight becomes significantly warmer than the external ambient temperature, protecting its contents in cold weather. Depending upon the technical specifications of a greenhouse, key factors which may be controlled include temperature, levels of light and shade, irrigation, fertilizer application, and atmospheric humidity. Greenhouses may be used to grow more varieties of vegetation as compared to the conventional outdoor field because of the ability to precisely control climate during off-season months to ensure proper conditions are maintained throughout the year and resulting in more food production and supply.
A greenhouse offers the added advantage of controlling pests and diseases because of its confinement and management. However, pests and diseases, extreme heat and humidity, have to be controlled, and irrigation is necessary to provide water. Compared to outdoor fields, a greenhouse can be of high maintenance such as cold installing insulation against temperatures and strong winds. It also requires hand weeding as opposed to mechanical methods used to control weed in outdoor field. Also, greenhouses are more drought resistant than the outdoor field but can build up temperatures quickly because of confined spaces.
However, there are things to consider before embarking on greenhouse farming. These key things will determine the success of the project or otherwise.
Soil testing/analysis is crucial to the success of greenhouse farming and enable the farmer to know if the location is suitable and if not, what can be done before investment is made.
Skill is vital in owning and managing a greenhouse. Asides from construction which is important, what type of greenhouse you are going for and knowing what it involves, maintaining one isn’t an easy task and shouldn’t be dabbled into if you don’t know the fundamentals. It’s one thing to invest, and another to manage the investment for profitable result.
Human traffic should be limited into the green house and farmer must regulate the movements and numbers of people going into it because bacteria can be carried into the farm especially from their shoes.