Want to start a cassava farm in Nigeria? From pre-planting preparations, to planting, and all the way to harvesting your produce, we have all you need to get you started and have a world -standard cassava farm.
Read through and be sure to check out more guides on Naija Farmers here.
Manihot esculenta is the binomial name of cassava. It is a woody shrub that grows from 1m to 5m in height. It is believed to have been cultivated for close to 9000 years, making it one of agriculture’s oldest crops. It is cultivated as an annual crop for its starch, a major source of carbohydrates.
Cassava is the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and maize. Cassava is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of growing on marginal soils. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava, while Thailand is the largest exporter of dried cassava.
It has served as a means of livelihood and food to Nigerians for many years and its demands grows as the population of the country grows. Cassava farming has proven to be one of the most profitable agribusinesses in Nigeria with the daily increase in the use of cassava products. Some cassava products include garri, tapioca, fufu, wheat flour, animal feed, commercial caramel, abacha and so on.
How to start cassava farming in Nigeria: from pre-planting preparation to harvest.
1) Select a site for your cassava farm.
It is important to carefully consider the location of cassava farm. There are some conditions necessary for cassava to thrive properly and yield optimally, you need to pick a farm land is predominantly loamy in nature. The climate in that environment should be one with adequate rainfall, along with moderate temperature and relative high humidity. It is quite easy to recognize a land with such qualities, it is a land with:
- A thick vegetation around it.
- Good soil texture.
- The topography is usually flat or gentle sloping.
Selecting the right location determines the growth of your cassava business. Make sure the locals and food scientists can verify the richness of the soil before you proceed to make a purchase.
2) Improve your soil to suit cassava production.
This is only important if you were not able to get a suitable farmland to grow your cassava crops. Below are a few farm practices that can be carried out to improve the farm land:
- Add manure to the soil.
- Prepare good farm beds.
- Introduce mixed cropping. This is a method of farming which involves planting two crops on the same land which do not necessarily need the same nutrients. This is advantageous because, while one uses up a particular nutrient, it is most likely to add another to the soil. The best mix is planting alongside leguminous crops as they help in fixing nitrogen and other important elements into the soil.
- Irrigation if the area lacks adequate rainfall.
In order to prevent unnecessary loss, it is of high importance that all these measures are carried out. However, it is best to purchase a fertile land from the onset.
3) Pick out the best cassava variety.
There are several varieties of cassava and each have their peculiarities relating to several parameters like fertility and productivity, resistance to diseases and pests, yield and speed of growth among others. There are some factors you should consider in making a choice of variety:
- Varieties with good food quality.
- Varieties with good cooking abilities.
- Varieties that yield within the shortest possible time.
- Varieties with great storability, meaning the varieties that can be left unprocessed for a longer period of time.
- Varieties tolerant to pests, diseases and weed attack.
- Varieties that are best suited to the prevalent climate in your location.
Picking the best location and variety will bring about great yield. It is also important to invest in the variety that is most consumed in your locality. You don’t want to produce a crop that people are not interested in consuming. It is advisable to carry out a feasibility study in order to find this out.
4) Select healthy stem cuttings.
Cassava stem cuttings are used to grow cassava crops. Selecting healthy stems is crucial to growing rich cassava crops that your market would quickly purchase. You can buy cassava stem cuttings in town markets and villages. After your initial purchase of the cassava stem cuttings, the best place to keep getting healthy cassava stem cuttings are on your own farm. Planting healthy stem cuttings is important because they’d help you to greatly reduce the spread of cassava pests and diseases. When getting cassava stem cuttings, this is the best guide to follow:
- Find healthy cassava plants.
- Stay away from cassava plants that have or have had a history of pest and diseases.
5) Prepare farmland.
To develop well, cassava roots need soil that has been loosened by the hoe or plough. So till deeply, to 20 or 25 centimetres, so that the roots can get well down. After tilling, at the beginning of the rainy season, make mounds or ridges. This breaks up the soil and it stores up water; the roots have plenty of loose earth in which to develop.
If fertilizers or manure are used, work them into the soil when it is tilled. Yields are high when the plant finds plenty of nourishment in the soil. Farmyard manure, compost, and green manure are the best fertilizers for cassava (excerpt from roots and tubers)
6) Plant the cassava right.
Before you plant your cassava crop products, you need to consider the land tillage method, the time of the year, the seed bed type, and the method of preparation, handling, and planting of the cassava stem cuttings. Planting the cassava within all the right conditions will ensure you reap a healthy harvest. It will increase chances of good yields, and would ensure you always have the cassava harvests just when a lot of buyers need it.
Cassava is a tropical root crop, requiring at least 8 months of warm weather to produce a crop. It is traditionally grown in a savanna climate, but can be grown in extremes of rainfall. In moist areas it does not tolerate flooding. In drouthy areas it looses its leaves to conserve moisture, producing new leaves when rains resume. It takes 18 or more months to produce a crop under adverse conditions such as cool or dry weather. Cassava does not tolerate freezing conditions. It tolerates a wide range of soil pH 4.0 to 8.0 and is most productive in full sun.
Before the development of national and international breeding programs with cassava there were relatively few cultivars. This is because cassava is propagated vegetatively as clones. Recent releases from breeding programs include clones with resistance to many of the major diseases and pests. Specific cultivar names are mostly regional, with the exception of introductions from international research centers, which carry with them an institutional code. This code is often retained as the name of the cultivar. Cultivar classification is usually based on pigmentation and shape of the leaves, stems and roots. Cultivars most commonly vary in yield, root diameter and length, disease and pest resistance levels, time to harvest, cooking quality, and temperature adaptation. Some clones require 18 or months of growth before they can be harvested. Storage root color is usually white. A few clones have yellow-fleshed roots.
Most clones were selected by farmers from chance seedlings in their fields. Each growing region has its own special clones with farmers growing several different ones in a field.
7) Harvest your cassava and market for sales
Most cassava is harvested by hand, lifting the lower part of stem and pulling the roots out of the ground, then removing them from the base of the plant by hand. The upper parts of the stems with the leaves are removed before harvest. Levers and ropes can be used to assist harvesting. A mechanical harvester has been developed in Brazil. It grabs onto the stem and lifts the roots from the ground. Care must be taken during the harvesting process to minimize damage to the roots, as this greatly reduces shelf life. During the harvesting process, the cuttings for the next crop are selected. These must be kept in a protected location to prevent desiccation.
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