Environmental Factors Affecting Agricultural Production


Environmental Factors Affecting Agricultural Production

These articles will emphasis mostly on the environmental factors affecting agricultural production, especially in Nigeria. The environment in any particular place determines the types of soil that can be formed in the place, the type of crops and animals that thrive in the place and their rate of multiplication or decrease.

As a result of the limited resources available to Nigerian farmers, farming business is affected, to a greater extent, by the capacity of the soil to provide nutrients and to hold water. Nigeria falls within the area designated as tropical region and it is characterized by high temperature and heavy rainfall, throughout the year.

3 Main Environmental Factors Affecting Agricultural Production

Environmental factors that influence the extent of crop agriculture are terrain, climate, soil properties, and soil water. It is the combination of these four factors that allow specific crops to be grown in certain areas.

Below listed are the environmental factors affecting agricultural production:

1. Environmental/Climatic factors

2. Soil Factors (Edaphic)

3. Biotic Factors

Let look on details


1. Environmental/Climatic factors

The environment factors affecting agricultural production in Nigeria can be grouped into climatic, soil or edaphic factors and biotic factors.

Climate is the average weather condition. Its factors are insulation, temperature, pressure, wind and rainfall.

Each of these factors has its own influence on agriculture.

i. Temperature: This is about the most important factor influencing the physiological functioning of plants. Variation in temperature influences agricultural practices in different parts of Nigeria. The average monthly temperature varies between 210c and 350c. The range is increasing from the coast towards the interior, but the northern part has hotter days and cooler nights giving rise to higher yield of some crops like tomatoes in some areas of the north than in the south. Tomato thrives more in a condition of hot days and cooler nights.

Also with increase in altitude, temperature becomes cooler and this is the cause of excellent performance of tea and Arabica coffee on the Mambila Plateau, in Nigeria. As a result of high temperature, some temperate crops that thrive in Nigeria cannot flower because they need a period of exposure to cold to induce flowering.

The low productivity of our livestock is mainly blamed on the effect of high temperature; while poultry could still be comfortable at 350c, the cattle can no longer cope at a temperature above 32.20c.

High temperature may give rise to all or some of the following conditions in farm animals:

a. reduced feed intake or loss of appetite

b. decrease in productive processes of growth, rate of egg laying, rate of milk yield etc.

c. reduced body weight d. embryonic death and dwarfing e. reduced fertility in exotic male animals. Attempts have, however, been made to modify the environment of crops and animals to the extent of the level of our technology.

For instance, shade treatment is given to our crops from nursery through all the juvenile stages of the cocoa plant. Grazing animals are also provided shade in their paddocks and are also sheltered at night. Grazing pattern also designed to ensure that the animals are under shelter in the afternoons.

ii. Relative humidity: This is the amount of moisture in the atmosphere; low humidity can cause heat, while high humidity reduces evapotranspiration. The effects on crops and animals include change in rate of heat loss and decrease in water consumption, in spite of increase in frequency of drinking.

The effect of situation is increase in heat loss which can disorganize the metabolic system of the animal. Changes in temperature aggravate the effect of relative humidity.

In low humidity areas of Nigeria, evaporation takes place rapidly such that evapotranspiration balance is in jeopardy. Similarly, in hot humid areas of the country, evaporation takes place slowly, hence, the rate of heat loss in both plants and animals.

All these have some serious effects on agricultural productivity in Nigeria.

a. Day Length: Short-Day Plants There is almost a constant day length phenomena, throughout the year, in Nigeria. However, the little difference that exists has more remarkable effects on plants and animals. Plants are therefore classified into (1) Short-day (2) Long-day and (3) Day neutral. Short-day plants are those that starts flowering when the length of day is short e.g. okra (Hibiscus esculentus). The short-day variety is the early maturing ones which complete their life cycle within 60-72 days.

b. Long-day Plants: These are plants that will start flowering when day length is long- e.g. a variety of okra which stays in the field for about 270 days before flowering (i.e. the late maturing variety).

c. Day Neutral Plants: These are plants which start flowering at any period, irrespective of day length- i.e. non-photosensitive plants e.g. tomatoes (Iycoperiscon esculentus).

Farmers are advised to take advantage of the photoreaction of our different local crops while planning for their farming activities.

iii. Rainfall: Rainfall has the greatest control over agricultural production activities in Nigeria. The types of crop grown in different ecological zones of the country are direct response to the pattern of rainfall in these parts. As we move from the southern part to the northern part of the country, the amount of annual rainfall decreases, and becomes more unevenly distributed. Associated with this change is the gradual transition from rainforest vegetation, through wood land to savanna vegetation.

The wettest parts of the country have two rainfall peaks separated by a short period of insufficient rainfall (usually, August) for crop growth and this interval demarcates the early and late starting seasons. To the northern part, especially the far north, unevenly distributed rainfall per year lasts 3 months which (baring supplemental irrigation) allows only one planting season per year. 

The crops with short life span, especially small grains are suited for this zone. Cashew can, of course, grow well in many parts of the North; while other trees crops which require a lot of water are better suited for the southern zones.

The effect of rainfall on land productivity is highly remarkable in all the ecological zones of the country. In the rain forest zone of the south, the soil tends to be infertile because of the impact of heavy rainfall which causes leaching and erosion, thereby resulting in low yield. In the North, insufficient and irregular pattern of rainfall also makes crop yield unpredictable.

For example, except sorghum and millet are planted with the first rains, the resultant establishment problems may necessitate replanting or reduced plant population; both of which may lead to reduction in yield or total crop failure if rains cut off abruptly at the critical reproductive period of the crops. The seasonal pattern of rainfall in Nigeria also affects livestock production activities.

Rainfall pattern affects ultimately the amount of feed that can be produced for livestock, the length of time forage will maintain high quality, the grazing pattern to adopt, and the requirement for stored and supplementary feed supplies.

In all, the southern part of the country experiences an average of 7 months of rainfall and about 5 months of fairly dry season, while in the northern part the opposite is the case.

To reduce these adverse effects of environmental factors, Nigerian scientists have continually reviewed the requirements of crops and animals in a bid to modify the existing production systems, so as to attain self-sufficiency in crop and livestock production.

iv. Air movement: This is air in motion; and the rate affects evaporation of transpired water droplets from plant leaves. At moderate temperature, the more rapid the movement of air is, and the more effective it will be in reducing heat load of animals when moisture is present on the skin. It also influences the amount of radiant energy that plants and animals receive by altering the temperature of surrounding objects. To ensure free flow of air movements through tree crop plantations, cultural practices like weeding, pruning and spacing suitable for each crops is adopted.

v. Solar radiation: Solar Radiation is very important in agriculture; this is because it is the source of energy used by plants during photosynthesis. The amount of this energy received on the earth surface (isolation) tallies with the latitude of the area and season of the year.

It affects the rising and roosting of animals and also accounts for the opening and closing of the petals of certain flowers- e.g. sunflower. It is, as well, necessary for the maturity and germination of seed. Lack of solar radiation leads to etiolating as plants will become yellow and thin.

In Nigeria there is sufficient solar radiation throughout the year. However, the amount of solar radiation received on the earth surface each day depends upon:

i. The intensity of the radiation

ii. The amount of the cloud cover

iii. The length of day.


2. Soil Factors (Edaphic)

Soil is the home of crops. Crops get their food from the soil in form of solution. The nutrients in the soil are dissolved by water and thereafter picked up through the roots of plants. Without the soil therefore, there cannot be agriculture. The type of soil, its richness or otherwise and the type of minerals available in it determine the crops that grow on it.

The soil has different qualities. For example, there are differences in texture, structure, nutrient content and even content of poisonous and harmful materials. There are differences in soil-pH; crops will grow on soils that have qualities that they can tolerate. In the same way, animals including man, feed on the plants that they can tolerate, and survive more in places where those things they want abound.

In general, the soil may be acidic (pH less than 7), neutral (pH is 7) or alkaline (pH higher than 7) poor crop growth obtained in acid soils may be due to aluminum toxicity, calcium and magnesium deficiency or manganese toxicity. Liming of such soils reduces the toxic effect.


3. Biotic Factors

The biotic factors influencing agriculture include pests, diseases and soil micro-organisms that exist in the neighborhood of plants and animals. We have micro-organism that lives in the soil and the air. These are predators i.e. organism that feeds on other organisms. There are parasites and saprophytes. Parasites are living organisms that depend on other living organism for their food, while saprophytes are living organism that lives on dead and decaying remains of other living organisms.

There is competition among living organisms for all the necessities of life. The success or failure of any crop or animal in any particular place is affected by its relationship with the other organisms that live in the same place and interact with it.

Conclusion on Environmental Factors Affecting Agricultural Production

Climatic factors influence agricultural production in Nigeria, while rainfall distribution, more or less, determines the rate and distribution of agricultural products. Hence, adequate presence of these factors definitely leads to a bumper harvest. 

You have been exposed to the environmental factors influencing agricultural production in Nigeria. These factors determine production and yield during the season, especially for both crop and animal production.

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