Cassava (Manihot Esculenta) is the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics after rice and maize. In this post, we will highlight the comprehensive guide on how to start a cassava farm.
Accordingto Wikipedia,the origin of cassava can be traced back to West-central Brazil whereit was likely first domesticated no more than 10,000 years BP. It washowever introduced to Africa by Portuguese traders from Brazil in the16th century.
Today,Nigeria ranks first position as the world largest producer ofcassava. This is followed by Thailand, Brazil and Indonesia.
Cassava does very well in mostparts of West Africa like Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Benin Republic,and Ghana. No matter the location you find yourself, this cassavafarming processremains the same.
Except in some locations withweather conditions that do not adequately support the successfulgrowth of cassava.
Commercialprocess of cultivating cassavainvolves simple farmoperations such as; land preparation, planting, weeding,fertilization, and harvesting.
Thefollowing are steps involved in growing cassava plant from selectingthe suitable land for planting to the final stage of processing thecrop for edible or non-edible purposes.
Step 1: Selecting a Suitable LandCultivation of Cassava
The first step in the cassavafarming process is the selection of suitable land for cultivation.The crop can be grown on most soils; however, the best soils aresandy clay loams that are well drained without a fluctuating watertable.
Cassava is a tropical crop thatfinds the most favorable growing conditions in humid-warm climates attemperatures of between 25 – 29°C and precipitations of between1000 – 1500 mm which ideally should be evenly distributedthroughout the year.
Thetype of land to look out for is one with good soil texture,preferably loamy soils with good drainage. Do not plant in lands withsteep slopes, valleys and depression areas to avoid flooding issues.
Step 2: Land Preparation for PlantingCassava
After successfully choosinga suitable site for cultivating your cassava,clear all bushes in the area immediately.
The reason for clearing the bushesaround the area is to allow more sunlight to the soil and to removeweeds and undergrowth which might otherwise compete with the growthof your cassava.
By clearing the bush in theselected area using the burning method, you will destroy diseasevectors and other parasites present in the soil.
In addition, the layer of ashesleft after burning may help to increase the quantity of potassiumsalt in the soil available to the growing plants.
The best way to avoid depleting thesoil through bush burning is to rotate the method of clearing thevegetation in your cassavafarmwith other methods.
As you are preparing the soil forcassava farming, dried animal manure or compost can be incorporatedto increase soil fertility.
Theland should be cleared and tilled properly before planting starts.Tilling would help loosen up the soil drainage and encourage thehealthier development of the cassava root.
Duringtilling, dried manure from animals can be added and mixed with thesoil to increase its fertility.
Theridges or mounds for planting should be constructed at 0.75m-1mapart. The spacing and population is also determined by how theplanting wants to be done; either solely or planted alongside othercrops such as legumes, maize, vegetables e.t.c
Ridges or mounds which are 0.75m-1mapart are constructed depending on the availability of plantingmaterials and the fertility of the soil.
The cassavaplant spacing and populationalso vary, depending on whether cassava is planted solely or inassociation with other crops.
Some experiments have shown ridgingto produce relatively lower yields than flat cultivation, but thework of weeding and harvesting is greatly reduced by ridge planting.
For farmers in the rainforest andderived savanna zones where soils are prone to water-logging,planting on ridges or mounds is a general practice.
Step 3: SelectThe Best Cassava Variety
To geta good harvest, you would need to select the best cassava variety toplant. There are over 40 varieties of cassava different in theirtuber yields and ability to withstand pests and diseases. Whenselecting the best variety to plant, take note of the following:
- Ability to grow fast
- Ability to store well in the soil
- Ability to withstand pests and diseases
- Longer shelf life
- High starchy content
Step4: Planting the Cassava Stems
In planting stage of the cassavafarming process, the first thing to do is to carefullyselect a cassava variety that you will grow.
Select varieties with multiple pestand disease resistance, high and stable root yields, and acceptablequality.
Theoptimal cassava plant spacing is 1 meter by 1 meter apart alongeach row and across ridges or mounds.
Intercroppingcassava with other cropsreduces the danger of loss caused by unfavorable weather and pests byspreading the risk across several plants with differentvulnerabilities.
Ensure you are plantingcassava stem cuttingstaken from plants that are up to 8 – 18 months old. Use a sharpmachete or cutlass to cut the stem.
Take care not to bruise the buds orotherwise damage the stem. The cuttings should be about 20-25 cm inlength with 5 or more nodes.
Cuttings from the base of the stalkare better planting materials than those from the top in terms ofgermination and plant yield.
Methodsof Planting Cassava
There are three methods of plantingcassava
Plant cuttings are buried 5-10cmbelow the soil surface in dry climates and when mechanical plantingis used.
Cuttings planted horizontallyproduce multiple stems and more tuberous roots but they arerelatively smaller in size. However, in loamy and rich soils themultiple stems and roots are at an advantage resulting in highyields.
this is done during rainy days sothat cuttings will not rot if constantly wet. In contrast, under lowrainfall conditions, vertical planting may result in dehydration ofthe cuttings.
Cuttings are inclined at 45oin semi-rainy areas, leaving 2-3 nodes above ground level. Theinclination of the stem and roots provide a leverage which makesharvesting easier than in the other orientations.
Plant early in the morning or late afternoons when the sun is cool to prevent excess heat from heating the crop. Replace all cuttings which did not bud after two weeks of planting.
Step5: Weeding of Cassava Farm
An ancient Chinese philosopher oncesaid, “Plan for what is difficult while it is easy, do what isgreat while it is small.”
With this quote in mind;
- A thorough land preparation is a key to reduced weeding activity.
- Plant cassava cuttings early enough before weeds start emerging.
- Cassava requires approximately 3 months of weed-free condition for optimum yield. Use a contact and/or pre-emergent herbicide to control weeds for the first three months of growth.
- Apply post-emergence herbicides as soon as weeds begin to emerge after the pre-emergence herbicide treatment.
- Weed with hoes or adapted cutlasses 3 or more times depending on the type of weed.
- On a large scale, use tractor operated weeders.
Toweed, apply post-emergence herbicides to control weeds immediatelythey are spotted on your cassava farm. Pre-emergence herbicidesshould have been applied before planting to control weeds.
Forsmall-scale farms, usehoes or cutlasses to clear out weeds and tractor operated weedersfor larger farms.
Notethat, Land preparation needs to be done properly to control the weedsat least for the first 3 months to achieve optimum yield.
Step 6: Fertilization of CassavaPlantation
Thetype and quantity of fertilizer to use are based on the variety andnature of the soil.
Fertilizersshould be applied 8 weeks after planting and done 6 cm in width and10cm from the stems or leaves of the cassava plant.
Also,it is advisable to conduct a soil test to determine the type offertilizer to apply.
Applyfertilizer 4-8 weeks after planting in the ratio determined from thesoil test and 16 weeks after planting. You may not need tofertilize the farmland immediately after clearing vegetation.
If you have grown cassava on theland for several years in succession or in a rotation, the soilnutrients deplete. Therefore, fertilizer application becomesnecessary.
Most farmers use different kinds of organic manures, such as cattle dung or chicken droppings to improve soil fertility. Remains of leguminous plants, incorporated into the ground, also improve soil nutrients.
To further enhance the growth andoverall yield of your farm, you will need to apply fertilizers. Use agood fertilizer to improve soil nutrient.
Test a sample of your soil todetermine the fertilizer types and application rates that will besuitable for your farmland.
A fertilizer that is rich in potassium salt, favors the formation of starch in cassava. Nitrogen and phosphorus, on the other hand, are essential for growth.
If the soil contains largequantities of absorbed nitrogen, the result will be like theproverbial fig tree in the Holy Bible that Jesus Christ saw on hisway to Jericho, “having a heavy development of vegetative growthwithout a corresponding increase in root production.”
Apply the first dose of NPKfertilizer, in the ratio as determined by the soil test, 4-8 weeksafter planting.
Place fertilizers 15cm to 45cm fromthe base of the stem in drill holes – 10cm to 15cm deep. Placementof fertilizers in drill holes reduces fertilizer loss through runoffwater.
A second dose of Fertilization ofplants 16 weeks after planting significantly increases the yield ofroots and enhances tuber bulking.
For effective absorption offertilizer nutrients into the soil, do not apply fertilizer when thesoil is dry.
Step 7: Harvesting the Cassava Tubers
Cassava maturity differs from onevariety to another. You can harvestyour cassava 8 – 18 months after planting.
However, the exacttime for harvesting cassavadepends on the varietyof the cassava, the environment where it is planted, and theagricultural practices adopted.
Thebest way to harvest cassava is to do it manually.The stems of thecassava plant are first cut by hand, machete or machine.
When you are cutting the stems,leave a small portion of the stem at the base of the plant to serveas a handle to pull the storage root up.
Don’t damage the stems when youare cutting them. Keep the stems you will plant next season. Stackthem together in small portions as you move.
Theprocess involved after harvesting is based on what it would be usedfor.
Forexample, the process involved in making garri includes:
Peeling,grinding, Fermentation, Dewatering the fermented cassava, Drying,sieving, frying.
Step 9: Eat!
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