Cassava is a very popular root vegetable staple food grown in about 26 out of 36 states in Nigeria. It is a tuber crop and was first discovered in West Central Brazil but today, Nigeria is the highest producers of cassava in the world followed by Thailand and Indonesia.
Also called Manihot esculenta as its botanical name, Cassava is grown in many tropical areas with adequate sunshine, humidity and rainfall. It yields more bigger roots in deep alkaline sandy loamy soil than in rocky soils.
Because of its high demand, Cassava farming can be done in a small scale for just family consumption or bigger scale for commercial purposes.
Stats has it that 1 out of every 10 Nigerians consumes cassava and its by-products on a daily basis irrespective of regional locations. In fact, Cassava is the third highest source of carbohydrates in this part of the world after rice and maize. In the global stage, about 80 countries now grows cassava while over 800 million people eats cassava and its components.
Cassava farming in Nigeria has become a way of life because virtually all farmers in Nigeria cultivates it and it can be grown together with other cash crops like Oil Palm, Yam, Cocoyam and so on.
Health Benefits Of Cassava
- Cassava is a very high source of carbohydrates which therefore means, enough energy when eaten.
- Cassava consumption limits cancer in the body.
- It enhances the digestive system in your body.
- The root is a source of Calcium.
- The root of cassava is a source of manganese.
- It is also a source of phosphorus
- The root is equally a source of iron, Potassium and other minerals and vitamins.
- Cassava contains fibers which helps in fighting constipation.
- Diarrhea and rheumatic diseases can be treated with cassava.
- The fluid help in stopping bleeding and healing wound.
- It is a local remedy for curing fever and headaches.
- It lowers blood pressure.
- It boost ones immune system.
- It boosts brain and nerves condition.
- Cassava contains small amounts of Protein especially from the leaf and fat.
Local Names Of Cassava In Igbo Yoruba & Hausa
“Cassava” is the English name but the three popular regions in Nigeria has other local names for it as listed below:
- The Igbo name for Cassava is “Akpu”
- The Yoruba name for Cassava is “gbágudá”
- The Hausa name for Cassava is “Rogo”
Benefits of Cassava Farming
Cassava is useful in many ways apart from the health benefits discussed earlier. Check out some advantages you get when you grow this popular staple food below:
- Cassava can be grown in many environments and can withstand a decent period of drought unlike other cash crops.
- Cassava can be grown together with other crops in the same farmland.
- Cassava products is in high demand so you can easily sale them locally or internationally if it’s been produced in a very large quantity.
- Steady cassava farming is a good source of income to many families.
- This crop has changed saved many families from malnutrition.
- Cassava can be processed and made into this useful foods and products; Fufu, Tapioca, Flour, Garri, Bread, Alcoholic beverages, Cookies, Cassava cakes, Cassava chips.
- Cassava Farming reduces unemployment rate in developing countries like Nigeria, Tanzania, Madagascar, Senegal, Ghana etc.
- Cassava is processed and refined into ethanol fuel in China which has helped in the country’s development plan for renewable source of energy.
- Cassava has a high concentration of starch so it’s used for laundry services as well.
- Cassava leaves, stems and roots is used as animal foods for especially Goats and rabbits.
- It is used for making fabrics
- It’s used in making coconut sauce.
So now that you know what Cassava is, it’s benefits and uses, let’s see the steps required to grow cassava.
Guidelines On How To Start Cassava Farming
Before going into cassava cultivation, you must follow the best practices to produce better yield and not run into loss. Just follow these steps:
1. Locate Ideal Land for Planting
The first thing to consider before going into growing of cassava is to identify and select the ideal land suitable for Cassava planting. Of course, the land must be fertile, loamy, has good drainage and soil texture for your cassava to grow well and yield bigger tubers.
However, you should avoid planting cassava in flood-prune land, sloppy land and valleys. This is because the crop doesn’t perform well under flooded land.
Also, the atmosphere in the environment is very important when selecting the best land to plan your cassava crop. You should grow the crop in a warmer atmosphere with moderate humidity free of frost. The best temperature for growing cassava for commercial purposes is between 23 °C to 33 °C. Ensure the land area between has 500 mm to 35000 mm annual rainfall in order to achieve high productivity.
So selecting a suitable land for your cassava cultivation is the first feasibility study you should carried out.
2. Prepare Your Land For Planting
Land preparation involves bush clearing, burning, raking, fumigating, tilling and applications of manure.
Tilling is necessary to loosen the soil to aid planting and growth. To further increase soil fertility, manure from animal drops and decomposed leafs can be added while tilling.
You can make round mounds and ridges which is spaced 0.8m-1m apart.
The crop grows better in acidic soil so you can manipulate the soil PH level by adding about 50kg of lime per hectare to control the soil PH to between 5.5 to 6.5.
3. Select The Best Cassava Variety/Specie
You need the best varieties of cassava for bountiful harvest. For now, there are 40 varieties but the most widely planted are:
- TMS 92/0326
- TMS 96/1414
- TMS 96/0023
- TMS 92/0057
- TMS 92/0067
- TMS 98/0505 TMS 98/0581
- TMS 30572
- NR 8082
- TME 419
- TME 7
These are the improved cassava varieties in Nigeria developed by IITA, Ibadan and so on.
The qualities of a good Cassava variety includes:
- Ability to yield bigger tubers
- Ability to withstand tough weather conditions
- Ability to withstand disease and pest attack
- Ability to grow fast
- Ability to survive longer than 11 months without decomposing
- Ability to produce high starchy contents
- Stems ability to reproduce when replanted
How To Plant Cassava Appropriately
Cassava can be planted in several ways. You will first cut the stems 25cm to 30cm each and making sure there are about 7 nodes visible in each stem you cut. The nodes are where the new cassava will germinate from after planting. There are three majors methods of planting the stems:
Horizontal Planting Method
In this method, the Cassava stems are placed 5-10cm deep into the soil in dry humid climates.
Vertical Planting Method:
In this method, Cassava cuttings are planted vertically to avoid rot, especially during the rainy season.
Inclined Planting Method
Here, the stems are inclined at 45 degrees and planted leaving 2-3 nodes above the ground. This is practised in areas with the least rainfall.
The best month to plant cassava in most states in Nigeria is April which is the beginning of raining season. But it can be extended till October.
While the best time of the day to plant it is early in the morning or in the evening when the weather is cool to avoid heat affecting the cuttings.
How To Take Care Of Your Cassava Farm
Just like other crops, you need time, manpower, machineries and financial commitments to adequately take care of your cassava farm if you are planting for commercial purposes but if it’s a small scale farmland, you manpower, time and commitment is required.
Below are the things you need to do to properly grow your cassava and enjoy a better harvest when it’s due.
Weeding or Weed control is compulsory in your farm because it helps you remove unwanted crops which are there to occupy space and drag nutrients with your useful crops.
First weeding is done after 8 weeks of planting the cassava while the second weeding is done in the sixth month. The third and final weeding is optional.
Weeds can be removed with hoes or cutlass.
Anytime the weeds are removed, you should see a good improvement on your crops growth.
Application of Fertilizers
The next thing to do after weeding is applying of fertilizer to your cassava farm because it helps double its productivity.
The quantity of weeds required is different for every farm because it depends on soil fertility. A more fertile soil requires a little amount or fertilizer or no fertilizer at all while a soil that lacks nutrients requires more fertilizer applications.
It is best applied two months from the day of planting.
The following are the recommended fertilizers for better cassava yield.
• NPK 15:15:15–12 (50 kg) bags
• NPK 20:10:10–9 (50 kg) bags
• NPK 12:12:17–15 (50 kg) bags
This means you should apply 50 kg of Nitrogen, 50 kg of Phosphorus and 50 kg of Potash at time of land preparation per hectare land.
It is also a good practice to add farmyard manure and animals droppings to your farm. In fact, this manure is a suitable alternative to the fertilizers if you don’t have the money to buy the fertilizers.
The manure method is commonly used by subsistence farmers.
Irrigation is the process of channeling and supplying water to the farm to maintain moisture good for the perfect plant growth.
In some environments, rain rarely falls so the soil usually dries up because of lack of water. In this situation, irrigation is required if there is a nearby river or bore hole.
Some farmers even carry out irrigation by taking gallons of water from their house to the farm and spreading it on the crops.
Disease and Pest Control
Common cassava pests includes Locusts, Beetles, Aphids, caterpillar and Ants while common cassava diseases are Root rot, Anthracnose, Mosaic disease, Bacterial blight, etc.
These pests and diseases can be controlled by fumigating the farmland or manually picking and killing the pests (especially in small farms).
Other enemies of Cassava in the forest are birds, rats, goats, rabbits and other rodents.
How To Harvest Cassava
Cassava is ready to be harvested between 11 to 12 months of planting it. It is harvested by cutting the long stem and uprooting the tubers.
To uproot, you have to lift the base of the stem and then pull it out. It’s easily done in soft soil but requires certain skills when the soil is harder. You may eventually need a cutlass to dig out the remains that broke inside the soil while uprooting.
For big farms, you need to employ more manpower to help in harvesting.
After the tubers are harvested, you need to arrange and store them for marketing or prepared for consumption.
How Cassava Look Like
A fully grown Cassava has a stem, leafs and tubers. The length of the stem is different for different cassava varieties but most species grows between 1 to 3 meters in height. It is hardy which enables it withstand some tough conditions.
A healthy Cassava leaf is hand-shaped and greenish in color.
While the tubers are brownish and sometimes look like yam tubers while some resembles potato shape. The bigger the tubers, the bigger the economy value. The outer brownish part of cassava tubers are removed to reveal the white part which is the very useful and valuable part of the crop.
Cassava can be easily marketed locally in any market in Nigeria or exported outside the country. The demand for the crop is very high so there is no problem finding buyers whether you are selling a raw cassava or a processed one.
Byproducts of Cassava
- Alcoholic beverages
- Cassava cakes
- Cassava chips.
Capital Needed To Start Cassava Farm
There is no fixed amount of money needed to start and take care of your cassava farm because it depends on the quantity of crop you are cultivating.
But be that as it may, it will require more money to start commercial cassava farming than it will cost to start small scale farm.
For the basics, you need at least N300,000 to start, maintain and grow about 7 hectares of cassava farm.
For small scale, it will cost you about N20,000.
This includes the money to buy fertilizers, pay laborers and so on.
You see, Cassava farming is very lucrative and important for your own family and for its economic values. If you have any question, don’t hesitate to use the comments section and I will attend to you.