The opportunities in Cassava farming cannot be overstated. Farm Crowdy reports that at least 1 in 10 families all over the world consumes products made from cassava daily. Cassava, now grown throughout the tropical world, is second only to the sweet potato as the most important starchy root crop of the tropics.
The areas now used for cassava cultivation are increasing rapidly because it grows easily, has large yields and is little affected by diseases and pests. The plant is grown for its edible tubers, which serve as a staple food in many tropical countries and are also the source of an important starch.
Why is this farm product in high demand? Well, here are some of the benefits:
- Cassava is drought tolerant, which means it also does reasonably well in poor soils with low rainfalls, hence, can be a reserve product in times of farming. It has an extensive root system that makes it access nutrients other crops can’t.
- Due to the above, its economic value rarely diminishes! This is why over the years it has become a priority for the Nigerian government to aid the production of cassava.
- It is a flexible crop as it can serve as subsistence or cash crops. So, while poor farmers can use it as a food crop, entrepreneurs can also use it as a cash crop.
- Cassava products are used for starch, flour, chips, ethanol, glucose syrup, and bread.
- The cassava plant is a good source of energy. It is rich in carbs, calories, fibre, vitamins, minerals and smaller amounts of fats and protein.
- It can be dried and used to make starch and feed animals.
- According to Acta Scientific, despite being the highest producers of cassava in the world, Nigeria has a mediocre total export of 1.25 million dollars compared to Thailand which hast has the highest export value of 1.19 billion dollars in 2017. This provides an amazing opportunity in the export market for entrepreneurs.
With all these benefits in mind, let’s examine the steps required to start a profitable cassava enterprise.
- Select a suitable land: While Cassava can grow and thrive in most soils, the best kind of soil is one with a good texture. Loamy soil with good drainage comes to mind. Ploughing and harrowing are necessary before planting cassava stems. Although, some farmers prefer to plant on ridges depending on the type of soil. These operations should be done when the soil has enough moisture. The ploughing should be done at least 6 inches deep into the soil.
- Select the Cassava Variety that suits your needs: Seed Tracker gives details on the numerous varieties of cassava available. But before you choose, you should keep in mind its shelf life, growth speed, starch content, the purpose of cultivation (whether for Industrial starch, stem multiplication, or food) and ability to withstand pests and diseases prevalent in the region.
- Planting: For agricultural purposes, cassava is propagated exclusively from cuttings. Only physiologically matured fresh healthy stems should be used for planting. A healthy stem is free from insect and diseases, with diameter not less than 1.5cm. The stems should be measure and cut at 25cm length each. You can plant them horizontally which is highly recommended for dry climates. It should be placed 10cm deep in the soil. You can also plant vertically which is advisable for rainy seasons. This will help avoid rot in the floor. Also, the spacing should be 1m x 1m to achieve maximum yield. A cutting or stake should have at least seven viable nodes. Cuttings are planted by hand or by planting machines on flat soil or ridges or hills.
- Control of Weeds: Herbicides are good for large scale farms. You can apply pre-emergence herbicides before planting and when you spot weeds, try post-emergence herbicides. There are so many post-emergence selective herbicides for cassava in the market, the most common one is Diuron.
- Applying Fertilizers: Cassava prefers good soil but also grows in poor soil where other crops fail. It can tolerate low pH as well as a higher level of soluble aluminum and low available phosphorus. The crop removes a considerable amount of nutrient from the soil, depending on the yield level. Hence, continuous production of cassava on a particular land needs fertilizer application.
On soil with depleted nutrient, fertilizers should be applied 8 weeks after planting and should be applied 6cm in width and 10cm from the cassava plant. Also, make sure the fertilizer does not touch the stem or leaves.
- Harvesting: Maturity differs from one variety to another. For food, the tubers can be harvested at almost any age around 12 months. Cassavas are due for harvesting when the leaves start turning yellow and when they start falling off. This usually happens 8-10 months after planting for early maturing variety. It can be harvested by cutting the stem off, leaving the part close to the ground so you can grab and pull out the roots.
There you have it. If the above practices are followed to the latter, the yield can be up to 25 tons per hectare and up to 60 ton/ha for hybrid varieties. With this, you can tap into a thriving market!
Click All You Need to Know About Cassava Farming to read more.