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 origin, benefits and step-by-step guide on how to start a cassava farm.
According to Wikipedia, the origin of cassava can be traced back to West-central Brazil where it was likely first domesticated no more than 10,000 years BP. It was however introduced to Africa by Portuguese traders from Brazil in the 16th century.
Today, Nigeria ranks first position as the world largest producer of cassava. This is followed by Thailand, Brazil and Indonesia.
Benefits Of Planting Cassava
There are a whole lot of benefits from planting and consuming cassava. They include:
- Cassava belongs to the class of drought-tolerant crops that provides reasonable yields where most crops cannot grow well. It can survive poor soils and less rainfall, thus act as a reserve in times of famine.
- Wikipedia states that “Worldwide, 800 million people depend on cassava as their primary food staple.” This means approximately that 1 in 10 families eats products made from cassava at least every day. Cultivating cassava plant can be a steady source of income since a large number of people depends on it.
- Cassava plays a major role in Agriculture in developing countries because of its ability to grow in almost any weather. Hence, its economic value rarely diminishes.
- It can serve as a subsistence or cash crop, which makes it very flexible for small-scale farmers.
- Cassava can be processed and made into different products such as:
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Cassava chips
- Can be boiled and eaten with any dish etc
- The cassava plant is a major source of carbs, calories, fibre, vitamins, minerals and smaller amounts of fats and protein. In addition, it is also a good source of energy.
- In countries like China, Cassava serves as a major source of ethanol fuel production. Under the Development Plan for Renewable Energy in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan in the People’s Republic of China, the target is to increase the production of ethanol fuel from non-grain feedstock to two million tonnes, and that of biodiesel to 200 thousand tonnes by 2010. This is equivalent to the replacement of 10 million tonnes of petroleum. As a result, cassava (tapioca) chips have gradually become a major source of ethanol production. (Wikipedia).
- Cassava can also be grated and dried to serve as animal feed as well as starch for laundry products.
Note that cassava should not be consumed raw as it is believed to contain cyanide compounds that can be poisonous.
Step By Step Guide on How To Start and Grow Cassava In Nigeria
The following are steps involved in growing cassava plant from selecting the suitable land for planting to the final stage of processing the crop for edible or non-edible purposes.
Step 1: Select Suitable Land For Planting
The first step before planting your cassava plant is to select a suitable and fertile soil. The type of land to look out for is one with good soil texture, preferably loamy soils with good drainage. Do not plant in lands with steep slopes, valleys, and depression areas to avoid flooding issues.
Step 2: Prepare Land For Planting
The land should be cleared and tilled properly before planting starts. Tilling would help loosen up the soil drainage and encourage the healthier development of the cassava root.
During tilling, dried manure from animals can be added and mixed with the soil to increase its fertility.
The ridges or mounds for planting should be constructed at 0.75m-1m apart. The spacing and population is also determined by how the planting wants to be done; either solely or planted alongside other crops such as legumes, maize, vegetables e.t.c
Step 3: Select The Best Cassava Variety
To get a good harvest, you would need to select the best cassava variety to plant. There are over 40 varieties of cassava different in their tuber yields and ability to withstand pests and diseases. When selecting 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
Step 4: Start Planting
There are three methods of planting cassava:
The plants are placed 5-10cm deep into the soil in dry climates.
Cassava cuttings are planted vertically to avoid rot, especially during the rainy season.
Here, cuttings are inclined at 45 degrees and planted leaving 2-3 nodes above the ground. This is practiced in areas with the least rainfall.
Note that, the stem cuttings measured at 25 cm in length should be planted at a spacing of 1m x1m and to achieve maximum yield, the dead stems should be removed and replaced when found.
The best time to plant cassava in Nigeria according to general practice is in April, it can, however, be extended to October. Also, planting is done either early in the morning or late afternoons when the sun is cool to prevent excessive heat on the crops.
Step 5: Control Weeds
To weed, apply post-emergence herbicides to control weeds immediately they are spotted on your cassava farm. Pre-emergence herbicides should have been applied before planting to control weeds.
For small-scale farms, use hoes or cutlasses to clear out weeds and tractor operated weeders for larger farms.
Note that, Land preparation needs to be done properly to control the weeds at least for the first 3 months to achieve optimum yield.
Step 6: Fertilization
The type and quantity of fertilizer to use are based on the variety and nature of the soil.
Fertilizers should be applied 8 weeks after planting and done 6 cm in width and 10cm from the stems or leaves of the cassava plant.
Also, it is advisable to conduct a soil test to determine the type of fertilizer to apply.
Apply fertilizer 4-8 weeks after planting in the ratio determined from the soil test and 16 weeks after planting.
Step 7: Harvesting
Cassava matures between 8 to 12 months after planting. Harvesting manually by hand is done by raising the lower part of the stem and pulling the roots out of the ground. The stem of the cassava plant is cut off leaving a small portion of the stem at the base of the plant to serve as a handle to pull the cassava root off the ground. Here, the stems are kept for reuse in next planting season or sold to other cassava farmers. The leaves can also serve as animal feed.
Step 8: Processing
The process involved after harvesting is based on what it would be used for.
For example, the process involved in making garri includes:
Peeling, grinding, Fermentation, Dewatering the fermented cassava, Drying, sieving, frying.
Step 9: Eat!
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