Potato farming is an agribusiness that has high potential of yielding great income when properly carried out. Potato is one of the most popular food in the world which contains zero cholesterol, low calories, vitamin A, B, C,E and K, potassium, iron carotene, thiamin, protein and other minerals. It is a root vegetable but contains lots of starch.
There are many species of potatoes. A few include red potatoes, white potatoes, yellow potatoes, purple potatoes, fingerlings, petite potatoes, etc.
Potatoes can be prepared by boiling, frying, mashing for salad, roasting and baking. Although, the most popular one is fried potatoes. They are used in the production of chocolates, cookies and pizza. Potatoes can also serve domestic and experimental uses like powering a light bulb, removing stains from windows, treating cardiovascular diseases, production of cosmetics, removal of warts, for shining silverware, to relieve burn, absorbs excess salt from a cooking pot, remove rust from metals, as a thickener for soups, for breeding fish, as a stabilizer in the production of ice cream.
Apart from all these mentioned above, potatoes can be exported to other countries as food crop and potatoes farming can provide employment when practiced on a large scale. They are also staple crop for the manufacturing of varieties of products such as starch, liquid glucose, ethanol, and can be substituted for wheat flour in the production of bread, etc.
Sweet potatoes adds natural sweetness, colour and flavour to meals in which they are added to. For instance, using sweet potatoes to prepare pap (grinding dry potatoes with the corn), flour for bread, will automatically reduce the amount of sugar you need to add to it because it contains large amount of sweeten.
Steps involved in potatoes farming
The first thing to do is to get a piece of land, large or small depending on your capacity. If a large piece of land is obtained, it might require the use of machineries like tractor, fertilizer applicators, cultivation equipment, tipping device, irrigation equipment forklift, etc. ,which can be hired or better still employ manual labourers. Whichever way, higher investment attract bigger income.
If the land is left fallow, there is a big advantage because land naturally regains it’s fertility and it will be free from disease. But when the land is already cultivated, the use of fertilizers or manure can boost crop yield. Excessive use of fertilizers causes damage to the soil. Organic manure is preferable.
Potatoes do well in a loose loamy soil, well drained but not water logged, deep enough since it is a root and tuber crop and should have full access to sunlight and good water supply or means of irrigation should be spotted out.
The second step after getting a land is to clear the land. It is best to start the cultivation in March at the beginning of raining season but if your irrigation equipments are ready, you are good to go.
Make ridges either using tractor or manual labour. The ridges should be high to attain maximum size. It should be higher than that of a maize plant.
The third step is planting. Potatoes have no seed like other crops. It is cultivated using stems from matured potato’s plant or seedlings which grows in length and crawls on the ridge. Choose a potato specie that has high demand in the market, disease resistant, high maturity rate, high yield, long storage lifespan and a good quality.
Dig a hole of about 10-15 cm in the ridges. Manure can be applied directly into the holes or when making ridges. Put the potato stem/seedling into the holes and there should be space of up to 12 inch among the potatoes stem/seedlings. The stems should be folded in circular form making the bulbs to face upwards.
After 3-4 months, the seedlings germinates. It can be cut and sold to farmers who wish to grow potatoes in their farm lands or allowed to rich maturity and harvested.
The best irrigation method for potato farming is drip irrigation. It manages the moisture content of the soil and can be used to apply other nutrients in a precise amount.
The fourth step is controlling pests and diseases. Strict measures should be taken to eliminate pests and diseases. Weeds should be removed once they sprout out in the farmland to prevent them from competing with the potatoes for water, sunlight, space and nutrients. Pests such as eelworm, wire worm and aphids should be eradicated using pesticides. Common diseases like bacterial soft rot, potato blight, rhizoctonia, black surf, etc.,can be prevented by using the best farm practices.
The fifth is harvesting. Depending on the weather condition, the growth rate, desired size, it is harvested between 13-20 weeks after planting. Harvesting starts off by desiccating the foliage especially when the crops are to be stored for a long period of time. Desiccating is not necessary when the crops are to be sold immediately. Wait for 2-3 weeks after applying desiccant before harvesting. This will enable the skin of the potatoes to be more matured and increase it’s chances of surviving rot as a result of damage or diseases at harvest or storage points.
In harvesting the potatoes, ensure minimal or no damage to the crop before storage to prevent damages when stored.
The sixth step is storage. If a proper storage facility is not available, it is not advisable to keep the potatoes for a very long time. Potatoes can be stored in plastic containers rather than a wooden container. It can also be stored by digging the ground under a cool shade and water free area and putting the potatoes. It should be covered with grasses if necessary.
Business opportunities in potatoes farming
Businesses involved in potatoes farming include:
1) Selling the matured stem after 3-4 months of planting.
2) Hiring farm equipments like tractor, fertilizer applicators, cultivation equipment harvester, forklift, etc.
3) Selling the already matured potatoes to consumers or industries who process potatoes to other products.
4) Open a shop where only potatoes meals are sold.
5) Invest in the processing of potatoes into other products like chips, cleaning agents, starch, ethanol, flour, etc.
6) Transport to other countries as export products.
From the above, you can see that there are numerous business opportunities in potatoes farming. Investing in potatoes farming is a viable business with high prospect of income. You need to start now to benefit from these opportunities. Don’t wait until you have a very large piece of land for cultivation. Start with what you have and subsequently, you can always grow and expand.
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About the writer:
This was written by Chiamaka Uduezue, content contributor at MyAfribusiness.com. She is a graduate of Environmental Management and enjoys learning new things and sharing knowledge with others.
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NB: Featured image credit : knowfarming.com