Cassava is one of the most important crops in the world; it is widely cultivated in Nigeria and other parts of the world. Cassava has lots of benefits, industrially and economically. It is widely consumed across the world in different forms to enhance palatability.
Cassava is now used to make flour for bread production and other fast foods, aside from the normal products derived from cassava like the flakes, pasta, etc.; also, it is of great industrial benefits as it is used in making ethanol, starch and other industrial products. Cassava is indeed a valuable crop with a large return.
Cassava production is not really technical; it is a capital intensive investment that requires little of your time, all you need is to plant and let nature does the nurturing for you.
Unlike other crops, cassava is a hardy crop that tolerates virtually all types of soil and climatic condition but commonly grown in the tropics; it can withstand drought for a short period especially at the latter stage of the cultivation.
Cassava is an annual crop that matures within 9-10 months with reasonable yield provided the planting conditions are favorable.
To make a cassava farm successful, there are several agronomic practices a farmer must adopt. These practices enhance the soil conditions and provide a favorable condition for the growth and development of the cassava plant from the point of planting to harvesting, thus, bringing about high yield.
They are stepwise foundations that remain supportive from the stage of planting until harvesting; their benefits are unfathomable. These practices are:
Choice of soil for cassava farming
Many cassava farmers failed in their operation because they failed to select the right choice of land for their cultivation. Though, cassava is a hardy crop that can thrive on most soil; but a farmer must not capitalize on this because anything worth doing at all is worth doing fine.
All crops have preference for a particular soil type; Cassava requires a sandy loam soil rich in organic matter; this soil is a well-drained soil that does not allow the waterlogging situation, it allows free flow of water and air. The presence of the organic matter in the soil helps to build the soil structure to enable it retains moisture. Also, it supplies plant nutrient for the growth of the cassava plant.
How to know a sandy loam soil
There are two ways you can know this; they are:
- Qualitative analysis: This is the use of the physical properties of the soil to determine the nature of the soil. This can be done on the field by simply collecting a small sample of the soil, moist it and try to make it form ball by rubbing it between the palms. If it forms ball, try to make it form ribbon; if the ribbon is about 2-2.5cm long before breaking, then, the soil is a loamy soil. It is a sandy loam soil if it feels gritty or coarse. This is just a simple test you can use to know the nature of your soil; it takes less than 1 minute and it can be done anywhere.
- Quantitative analysis: This is a detailed analysis of the soil type; it is commonly done in the laboratory. From it, you know the nature of the soil, soil pH, and nutrient composition of the soil. It is expensive but reliable.
Selection of cassava stem cuttings:
There are different means of crop propagation, the use of seeds is very common but for cassava, the stems are used to propagate the plant. The seeds can also be used but this is not common because it takes a longer period for it to germinate as compare to the use of the stems that make cassava ready for harvesting at about 9-10 months.
Cassava stem cuttings are of different nature owing to the manipulation of their genetic makeup to induce some productive features like resistance to diseases and pests, addition of certain minerals like TMS 419 that has been fortified with vitamin A.; all these are to improve productivity and solve nagging problems facing farmers like pest and disease attack, ultimately to make farmer has the best experience in their practice.
Improved cassava variety stem cuttings are TMS 419, TMS 30572, and TMS 92/0326; they are hardy and have good production potential.
There are different types of land preparation method but the most beneficial and widely accepted is the conventional land preparation method; this involves the use of a plough and a harrow on the land before planting is done; these two implements are used to perform two different operations at different time on the field.
The Plough is used to pulverize or turn and mix the soil; by doing this, it exposes the lower region of the soil subjecting pests to unfavorable condition, thus, reducing their population greatly or eradicating them completely.
The Harrow is used to smoothen the land and making it free from weeds and other contaminants, thus, making it suitable for planting. This is done two weeks after the ploughing operation has been carried out. These two operations help greatly as they soften the soil to ensure good root and tuber formation of the cassava plant.
Aside from these, they help to control weeds and add fertility to the soil through ploughing of other materials back into the soil. A conventional land preparation method has to be adopted to enhance good cassava plant yield.
After proper land preparation method has been implemented and the improved cassava stems have been purchased, then, planting sets in. Planting cassava stems requires a cautious approach; stems are planted in a slanting orientation of about 45 Degrees and not erect.
The stem contains nodes; these nodes are the growing point of the cassava where new cassava shoot comes up. A stem cutting must have at least 5 nodes. The stems are slanted into the soil exposing about 3 nodes to initiate growth.
Cassava stems should be planted early in the morning or late in the evening to prevent evaporation and evapotranspiration.
Spacing is very important; the space between a plant and the other is the feeding area of the plants; cassava plant requires a spacing of 1m by 1m to ensure a good yield. To eradicate weeds, apply post-emergence herbicide like glyphosate to help kill weed seeds and surviving seeds immediately after planting.
This is done to keep the plant free from unwanted competition with the cassava plants for 3 months after which the cassava plants form canopies with their leaves; this suppresses weeds and removes the cost of weeding from the total cost of production.
Pest and disease control on cassava farm:
Pests and diseases are common threats to the productivity of any crop. The most effective measure to control pest and disease is the use of resistant cassava stems for planting. Other ways of controlling are the removal of the infected plant from the field immediately the disease is noticed. The cassava plants can also be sprayed with chemicals like insecticides, fungicides, bactericides; depending on the causal organism of the disease.
Applying fertilizer to plants has been a very good way to increase yield; fertilizers replenish the soil nutrient, thus, providing adequate nutrient for crop growth. The type of fertilizers to be applied is determined by the type of crop grown. Different crops have different fertilizer requirement.
Cassava is a tuberous crop; the tuber is the fruit, thus, fertilizers that encourage large tuber growth should be applied. Cassava needs more phosphorus and potassium to enhance good yield. Nitrogenous fertilizers should not be used as it only encourages the growth of the vegetative parts like leaves and delays maturity.
A compound fertilizer like NPK 15:15:15 should be used at the first stage of growth as the presence of nitrogen helps to build tissues and aid cell development. At the latter stage of growth, fertilizers rich in phosphorus and potassium should be applied. This enhances the growth of the tubers and increases the size of the tuber.
These fertilizers are applied using a ring method, where a round small channel is made around the plants to input the fertilizers. However, organic fertilizers like, compost manure, can also be added; it should be added fresh during ploughing, this helps to incorporate the manure into the soil before planting.
Harvesting period is always a gleeful period for farmers; it is the end of the past labor. Harvesting of cassava comes up after about 9 months of planting. Harvesting can be done manually by uprooting the whole plant and separating the tuber from the root or mechanically using a combine harvester; the latter is fast but expensive, it is only done in a mechanized farming system. Also, it could be injurious to the harvested crops, thus, attracting pests during storage thereby reducing the quality of the cassava.
Storage of cassava crops
Storage is also very crucial in any crop cultivation. At times, freshly harvested crops have to be stored for some time before disposing to the consumers. Cassava is among these plants; however, care must be taken to avoid any form of mechanical injury on the harvested cassava crops; this attracts pests especially the rodents; harvested cassava should be stored for a short period before disposing to various markets. Cassava is stored in pits lined with dry leaves or barns made with local materials for a short period.
Cassava cultivation can be very lucrative and at the same time fruitless; these two conditions are functions of the agronomic practices adopted. The above practices discussed are the basic agronomic practices needed to plant cassava successfully without much ado.