As cassava becomes increasingly diversified in today’s world, cassava farming becomes more lucrative to farmers.Cassava has always been a source of income and food for thousands, if not millions, of Nigerians and Africans. A whopping 90% of Nigerian households eat a cassava product every day,ranging from garri to wheat flour. As the population in Nigeria and Africa grows, the demand for this farm produce grows too, leading to higher income for cassava farmers.
So, we ask ourselves—why haven’t more people ventured into farming cassava? The answer in most cases is the absence of capital. Another reason is that the prospective cassava farmers have no idea on how to start.
In this article we will take a at the basic requirements to start a cassava farm. We are going to run down some basic steps on how to begin a cassava farm.
STEP 1: PICK A GOOD SITE FOR THE FARM
Cassava thrives in thick loamy soil, good rainfall and a warm climate. Picking the right location for your cassava farm is the first and most important part of owning a successful cassava farm.
STEP 2: SOIL FERTILITY
The soil fertility should be high. A fertile soil will inadvertently lead to a very good harvest. If you choose a good and fertile soil in step 1, you won’t have to worry about this step.
STEP 3: SEED VARIETY
Choosing the right variety of cassava can be as tedious as finding the right farmland. The hack is to know what the cassava is going to be used for after harvest. Is it going to be for human consumption? Do you want it to grow fast?Do you want it to be highly resistant to pests and diseases?
Knowledge of the combination that you desire will lead you on the path to finding the perfect variety to cultivate.
STEP 4: PLANTING THE CASSAVA
Planting the cassava within the right time frameand perfect conditions will significantly increase the quality and quantity of harvest.
Nigeria is one of the leading cassava producers and exporters in the world. Nigeria contributes 21% of the total cassava production globally. However, the supply is still too low to meet the demand; this is due to an ever-rising population. It is estimated that Nigeria needs 28.3 tons of cassava planted on 1.2 million hectares of land to meet the country’s market and demand for the cash crop.
The cost of cassava production per hectare is 82,055 naira, and cost analyses have shown that the profit realized off one hectare of cassava is 123,745 naira. This shows that cassava farming is a feasible investment, from an economic perspective.
For cassava to grow properly, you need to plant it at the right time, and in the right soil type.
Cassava will survive on a broad range of soil, but cassava is best suited for a properly drained, light-textured, deep loamy soil. Its optimum ph should be at 4.5-6.5.
The ideal farm location for cassava farming is a location with humid/warm climates. This is where cassava grows best. In preparing the land for planting cassava, the land has to be sufficiently drained, since cassava can’t abide by a waterlogged soil. The soil would have to be ploughed thoroughly and drained. Flat planting can be carried out for lighter soil types, while ridging would be a must to facilitate drainage.
In planting cash crops, the varieties with the highest yield must be coveted. Cassava with high yield includes TME419, TME582, TMS1632, and the vitamin A fortified yellow cassava. These four different varieties of cassava can give off an average of 25-40 tons of cassava.
Furthermore, in order to get these high-quality cassava varieties, the farmer would either visit seed entrepreneurs or visit websites that offer up these high quality cassava stems for sale. Cassava stem sourcing has become a whole lot easier.
HOW TO PLANT CASSAVA
To start planting cassava, after the land preparation has been done, you begin planting by:
Pushing the bottom of the cassava stem to the ground.
Planting the stems in mounds and/ridges.
Ensuring the stems are planted while the soil is wet—preferably at the start of a raining season.
Planting the stems either vertically or slanting.
Pushing the stem deep into the ground, leaving 2 buds above ground level.
Pressing the ridge around the stem. This will make the roots to be developed and properly nourished.
Maintaining the proper cassava spacing,which is usually 1.5 meters.
The best month to begin planting cassava is in October, at the beginning of the short raining season.
Subsequently, cassava matures rather quickly. Early-maturing high-yield varieties are harvested 6-7 months after planting, while the late-maturing variety can be ready for harvest after 12months.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR CASSAVA FARM
The recommended schedule for weeding a cassava farm is at the 4th, 8th and 12th week. This is after planting in the first growth phase.
It has been recorded that the best way to control weeds on a cassava farm is to combine hand clearing, with the use of herbicides like atrazine and diuron.
Although cassava can withstand long levels of drought, it is hypersensitive to a deficit in the soil’s water level during the first 3 months after planting. Cassava is mostly a rain-fed cash crop, but during the first few months after planting, the crop would have to be watered, in the case of an unexpected drought.
Cassava yield would skyrocket if the farmer has access to mineral fertilizers. At first, cassava should be fertilized with equal amounts of potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen. This is easily done by using mineral fertilizers that are low in phosphorus but high in nitrogen and potassium.
Mineral fertilizers will help boast yield, but they can’t do it on their own. Green manure and animal manure are also needed to boost the overall quality and quantity of the harvest.
Fertilizer should be applied 8 weeks after planting. It should be applied in a ring around a ridge. The fertilizer should not touch the stem or the plant.
DISEASES AFFECTING CASSAVA AND THEIR PREVENTION
Diseases affecting cassava are either caused by viruses or fungi. The major diseases include:
-African cassava mosaic disease.
-Cassava anthracnose disease.
Symptoms of these diseases
Wilted leaves in the wet season.
Large brown patches on leaves.
Select healthy stems for planting.
Select disease-resistant varieties for planting.
Avoid low-fertility soils.
Do not use the top part of the stem as planting material.
Destroy infected plants.
Harvesting cassava is mostly done by hand. It involves lifting the lower part of the stem and dragging the roots from the earth. Ropes may be used to assist in the harvesting process.
Again, cassava is a multipurpose cash crop, used for almost every meal we eat on a daily, both man and animal.
Freshly harvested cassava can be easily preserved by the following:
Buying cassava in straw-lined trench, protected from water. In this position, the cassava can be preserved for up to 12 weeks.
Storing in woven bags like rice and garri bags. This method guarantees preservation for only 7-10 days.
Keeping the tubers in cold storage at less than 4 degrees.
Storing tubers in wooden crates containing damp sawdust to serve as an absorbent material.
CASSAVA FARMING CHALLENGES
The highest source of risk in cassava farming as told by cassava farmers are as follows:
Inadequate loan facilities.
Pests and diseases.
No market for the sale of produce.