Cassava is a white root tuber which grows in tropical areas like South America and Africa. It can survive with very little water and attention, making it very easy to cultivate and grow . It very nutritious and filling, making it an indispensable food option for Nigerians, as it makes one feel satisfied for longer periods.
Cassava has many health benefits which includes the following:
– It is a very good source of fibre which helps in digestion.
– It is also a good source of carbohydrate and carbohydrate is broken down to release energy.
-The end product of cassava can be processed into flour, garri or tapioca (Mexican food but very similar to garri), glucose, ethanol.
Starting a cassava farming business in Nigeria is easy, cost-effective and profitable.
The steps you need to take are as follows:
1. Select a site for your cassava farming: To start your cassava farm, you will need a site that is well-drained and accessible. It doesn’t have to be so big depending on your capital. You can take sample of the soil where you want to start your cassava farming to the any good soil analysis laboratory to help determine whether the soil is suitable for high yield cassava variety. This process is the best but it is long and expensive or you can ask the locals around the area. They will give an idea on how good or bad the soil is.
Another option is to ask the locals farmers in the area where you want to have your farm as they can verify the richness of the soil before you proceed to make a purchase. The best kind of soil is a well-drained loamy soil. But if you can’t get it, then you need to improve on the soil you have by adding manure.
2. Decide on cassava varieties: There are many species of cassava but the two main species with high yield as developed by the international institute of tropical agriculture are to be known as:
– UMUCASS 42 and
– UMUCASS 43 respectively.
These varieties are very resistant to pests and diseases that affect cassava like cassava mosaic, cassava bacterial blight, cassava mealybug and cassava green mite. They are good for high quality cassava flour, high leaf retention which is positively related to drought tolerance i.e they can survive in very dry regions and it has moderate levels of beta carotene for enhancing nutrition. Beta carotone is absorbed by our bodies and is converted to vitamin A which keeps the skin healthy and maintains the mucus membranes, our immune system and good eye health.
3. Land preparation: The land should be properly prepared to enable proper yield. Below are some steps you can take to prepare the land:
– At this stage, apply organic fertilizer like dried animal manure or compost to increase the soil fertility.
– Herbicide should be applied to the land before planting at the rate of 4-5litre per ha 10 days before land preparation.
– Ridges or moulds are constructed at 0.75m to 1m apart depending on soil fertility and the availability of planting materials i.e if cassava is planted solely or with other crops. Experiments have shown that ridges produce relatively lower yields than flat cultivation but the work of weeding and harvesting is greatly reduced by ridge planting. Generally, ridging is more cost-effective.
4. Planting Cassava is either planted alone or intercropped with vegetables, maize or other plants: Intercropping cassava with other crops reduces the danger of loss caused by unfavorable weather and pest by spreading the risk over plants with different vulnerabilities. The cassava stem to be planted is cut to lengths of 20 to 25 cm length with 5 or more nodes. The cassava stem (cuttings) to be planted should be taken from plants 8 – 18 months old using a sharp cutlass to cut the stem carefully so as not to bruise the buds or otherwise damage the stem. Cuttings from the base of the stalk are better planting materials than those from the top in terms of germination and plant yield.
There are three methods of planting cassava which includes;
a) Horizontal planting: Plant cuttings are buried 5-10cm below the soil surface in dry climates. Cuttings planted horizontally produce multiple stems and more tuberous roots but they are relatively smaller in size and also lead to high yields.
b) Vertical planting: This is done during rainy days so that cuttings will not rot if constantly wet. Conversely, under low rainfall conditions, vertical planting can cause dehydration of the cuttings.
c) Inclined planting: Cuttings are inclined at 45 degrees in semi-rainy areas, leaving 2-3 nodes above ground level. The inclination of the stem and roots has an advantage, in that, it makes harvesting easier than when other methods of planting are used.
Plant early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is cool to prevent excess heat from heating the crop. Make sure to replace all cuttings which did not bud after two weeks of planting.
Cassava requires approximately 3 months of weed-free condition for optimum yield. Weeding is done about 3 or more times using hoes or adapted cutlasses and tractor operated weeders are used for large-scale depending on the type of weed. The use of a contact and/or pre-emergent herbicide to control weeds for the first three months of growth is advised. A post-emergence herbicides is applied as soon as weeds begin to emerge after the pre-emergence herbicide treatment.
5. Fertilization: Fertilizers are applied to further enhance the growth and overall yield. A good fertilizer is used to improve soil nutrient. Fertilizer types and application rates can be determined by carrying out a soup test. Fertilizer which is rich in potassium salts helps the formation of starch in cassava. Nitrogen and phosphorus enables in growth.
Maturity and harvesting
Cassava maturity differs from one variety to another. Depending on the specie, environment and agricultural practices used, cassava can be harvested at 8 to 18 months after planting. Most of the harvesting tasks are done by hand. During harvesting, the cassava stems are first cut and a small part of the stem is left at the base of the plant to serve as a handle to pull out the root from the soil. Stem required for the next planting season are selected among the stems that were cut. The remnant can be sold out to generate more revenue or burned.
The leaves of cassava plants can be processed and sold as a vegetable. Also, the leaves and the young parts of the stem could be used as silage for animal feed. In light soils, the roots can be gradually pulled out from the soil simply by drawing the stems or using of a crowbar, and then the tubers can be cut off the stock. To prevent breaking or bruising the tubers in the soil during harvesting, care should be taken while handling the roots. Use a hoe when harvesting to dig up the roots before the plant is drawn out or you can pull it out straight with your hand if the soil is light
Cassava start to deteriorate, decay and rot within about 48 hours after harvesting. Therefore, it is recommended to only harvest roots when you are ready to process the roots or when you have an available market for the produce.
Capital estimate for cassava farming business
I will not give you any figures here. The reason is because, most cost are dependent on the location, quality of what you are buying and your bargaining power.
However, the main areas you will spend your capital are as follows:
– Purchase or rent of land.
– Labour cost for land preparation ( clearing, burning and remaking of ridges )
– Purchase of cassava stem cuttings ( Usually sold in bundles )
– Labour cost for planting.
– Purchase of fertilizer.
– Labour cost for weeding.
– Labour cost for harvesting.
Marketing your cassava produce
In Nigeria, cassava produce are mainly sold at local markets. However, you can look out for and sell to garri processing factories, who process the cassava into garri.
You may also consider having your own mini garri processing factory whereby, you can also convert your cassava produce into garri and sell in bags and make more profits. See how you can set up your own garri processing factory in Nigeria.
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