Cassava is a major staple in Nigeria and in West Africa. It is also a major source of carbohydrate in the world. Its popularity lies in the varieties of dishes that can be prepared in Cassava and how the roots can be further processed into ethanol, starch, garri, and flour.
Every part of cassava is also considered nutritional. The cassava leaves are considered to be high in protein and low in calories. Cassava peels is important in producing high-quality animal feeds which has been estimated to produce a 2-billion dollar a year industry (research proposed by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and International Potato Center (CIP), with the support of CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) on Root Tubers and Bananas (RTB), Humidtropics, and Livestock and Fish) Source: ilri
With the huge demand for cassava in Nigeria expected to hit 8.5 billion dollars by the Year 2020 according to the Project Coordinator for Cassava Transformation Project at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), it is apparent that every effort must be made to reduce losses in cassava; pre, during and post-harvest of the crop.
Losses can occur at different stages of the value chain, from planting to processing, but losses can usually be attributed to diseases, badly organized distribution system, ineffective storage and outdated farming practices.
Some diseases that can cause losses in cassava include Cassava mosaic disease, Cassava bacterial blight disease, Cassava anthracnose, Cassava bud necrosis, and brown streak diseases. There is also Post harvest root and Root smallpox diseases.
Here are some of the practices that farmers can adapt to reduce losses in cassava:
1. Plant Disease Resistant Varieties of Cassava – Farmers should ensure that they plant the disease-resistant variety of cassava so they can delay or totally eliminate losses that are encountered during harvest. Farmers must keep a close eye on their crops to note when diseases develop resistant to a particular variety so a new variety can be cultivated in the next farming cycle.
2. Destroy Root Causes – you can take other measures to control diseases but they remain temporary measures if root causes are not dealt with. A root cause of diseases on your cassava farm can be as a result of other crops on the farm. Crops like yam and avocado can host fungus that causes diseases in cassava. Get rid of all infected roots of other plants that can spread diseases on your farm.
3. Remove Diseased Plants – Cassava plants that are already diseased should be removed so they don’t spread diseases to other plants.
4. Land Fallow Measures – The Continuous planting of the same type of crop on the same piece of land can deplete the soil of certain nutrients, hence the need to let your land lie fallow for a period of time. During this period, the land is left uncultivated in other for it to regain its nutrients. You will reap a healthier harvest since the soil would have been replenished during the fallow period.
5. Quarantine Measures – Culled from the Ecofriendly Pest Management for Food Security, plant quarantine is defined as the legal enforcement of the measures aimed to prevent pests from spreading or to prevent them from multiplying further in case they have already gained entry and have established in new restricted areas. It is important you impose restrictions on pest so they don’t spread to other uninfected areas in your farm.
6. Take Care of Your Farm – Caring tips like scheduling a regular visit with your plant care specialist can prevent the growth and spread of diseases. other ways you can care for your farm include:
- Applying fertilizers at the right time in the right quantity
- Maintaining soil organic content by manure application
- Using improves cassava stem cuttings
- Regularly checking the planting area for pest control
7. Harvest Early – delayed harvest increases the chances of a root infection. It may also affect the freshness of the crop and the length of time it can spend in storage.
8. Have a Ready Market – the major reason why cassava will stay long in storage is that there are no ready off-takers. Start sourcing for off-takers at the end of your last farm cycle until the end of your next cycle so there can always be demand for your product.
Increasing cassava production while reducing losses will encourage its growth, consumption, and export to other countries. Reducing losses will also increase the income potential of farmers, particularly thousands of small-scale farmers whose primary focus is growing cassava.