Steps in Cassava Cultivation – Part 2

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Stem cuttings

This is what you plant to yield your cassava tubers. There are many varieties, but I simply like to break it down into two.

There is the local one and there is hybrid, the hybrid is also called “agric”.

Benefits of the local one includes that it can stay in the ground for well over a year, even after the growth and maturation of the cassava tubers. In other words, if by the time your cassava is ready for harvest, the price crashes, you may decide to leave the mature cassava in the ground. It dies and regrows way bigger than the initial one. Price crash happens a lot by the way…one year, cassava sells so well, say ₦160,000 per truckload (this still happened in early 2017, happens usually when there is scarcity of cassava), and is followed rapidly by a period of plenty, which forces the price down (by August 2017, cassava was already selling for ₦50,000. It gets as bad as ₦19,000/ truckload of 30 tons sometimes).

So, this variety (which I only know as local cassava, and is characterized by visibly darker stems) can be left in the ground when prices crash, hoping for when prices pick up again. If it dies underground, it rebirths itself in a larger form.

This isn’t possible with the hybrid, which matures in 6-9 months and if you don’t harvest, it decays underground.

Also, the local breed has way less water content than the hybrid. So, buyers would love to get their hands on those, especially those who make garri (not pharmaceutical companies though, which tend to prefer the one with higher water content).

The hybrid has a much quicker turnover and really, these days, who wants to wait? From experience, even the “advantage” of the local breed doesn’t come in handy because even after waiting for almost two years, cassava prices are still down and we are still forced to sell anyway. And if that doesn’t happen, consider the extra expenses on weeding.

Now, if you’d rather opt for the hybrid, I’d say consult at any agricultural organization for which breed is suitable for your land e.g. IITA (Moniya, Ibadan), IAR&T (Apata, Ibadan).

If you are cultivating in a farm settlement, find out which ones are predominantly planted there, and get your stem cuttings from them, it will cost you less.

Usually a bundle contains 40-50 cuttings of 25cm stems and the price ranges from ₦350-700 depending on your location. In farm settlements, they sell at ₦5000/pickup truck, but if you have a good relationship with the farmers, they allow you pack the cuttings for free and you are just left with getting a vehicle to transport them to your site. As much as stem cuttings can fetch you money (sale of same), try to picture a settlement with about 100,000 farm holdings (of 25 acres each); even if only a quarter of those are involved in cultivation, and only 50% of that quarter cultivate cassava, there is cassava everywhere and not everyone has the capacity to take the stem cuttings to town for sale, considering the extra cost and stress involved, not forgetting the risk factor of not being able to sell after all the stress. So, the farmers on settlements will be open to giving you freebies, but they value relationships a lot! So, please, drop any attitude you have back home before you approach farmers, local or not.

Each 25cm stem cutting should have about ten nodes (which translates to 10 probable viable plants), and 60 bundles are required for a hectare of land (24 bundles for an acre). It is advisable to buy a little more than required so that you can replace any failed planting material, to ensure uniform planting, which allows proper calculation/projections.

 

Planting

So, the land has been prepared and planting materials sourced, you are ready to plant. Ideal spacing for planting cassava is 1mX1m.

 

 

Cassava planting can be done almost any time during the year, as long as it receives a few downpours of rain. Actually, many farmers prefer to cultivate cassava any time from October so as to reduce cost of weeding (dry season). By the time the rains resume, the cassava would have been established and most likely formed canopies – weeds hardly thrive under canopies, so you will only need about two clearings either manually or with chemicals, till harvest. In essence, it is not that weeding will be phased out totally, but it will be minimal, compared to planting during the full blast rainy season.

At this point, I will like to say I long for the time when irrigation systems become commonplace in Nigeria. With established irrigation systems, one can plant anything at any time during the year.

Planting of cassava stems should be done at an angle, with your nodes facing up (see image).

If your nodes face down, the crop will fail because the leaves are expected to shoot out from the nodes. There are specialized people for this job, who over the years have gathered experience from routinely planting certain crops, and they do the planting with less drudgery than newbies. It is better you contract it out therefore, if cultivating from 1 acre upwards. In farm settlements, planting should be about ₦5000/acre

 

Fertilizer

Fertilizer should be applied eight weeks after planting by forming a 6cm X 10cm ring around each plant. Be sure the fertilizer does not touch the stem or leaves as it may burn. Basically, cassava requires the macro nutrients Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium and the rate of application depends on which nutrient ratio you are applying, so please be sure to make enquiries (the higher the number, the more concentrated the nutrient is in the fertilizer). The types include NPK 15:15:15; NPK 20:10:10 and NPK 12:12:17. Find the rate of application for each below (each bag comes in 50kg):

  • NPK 15:15:15, applied at 12 bags per hectare (4.8 bags/ acre)
    NPK 20:10:10 at 9 bags/ha (3.6bags/acre)
    • NPK 12:12:17 at 15 bags/ ha (6 bags/ acre)

*(All prices quoted are for farm settlements. Prices within town may vary)

TO BE CONTINUED

 

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