Before now Lettuce farming was only practiced in Plateau State, Nigeria because their weather and land is favourable to the plant. But now the story has changed, planting of lettuce is gradually spreading all over the country. Many people now know that it can be grown in any region when every condition regarding its establishment has been satisfied.
Lettuce is a popular vegetable used in the preparation of salad. People also use it in decorating food. It is crispy and has green or red crimson leaves, contains essential nutrients which are beneficial to man-health wise.
It is eaten all over africa and in all the globe, most continental dishes are made up of lettuce.
This plant belongs to the family Asteraceae, the botanical name is lactuca. Lettuce farming was first done by the Egyptians who turned it from being a weed to a seed plant. Planting of lettuce is done for its succulent leaves, which can be consumed raw.
Lettuce farming is not advisable in the tropics, however you can plant it during cold weather between May-August.
Me and my sisters uses it in cooking ekpang nkukwor in place of cocoa yam leaves. Lettuce serves better in place of waterleaf that is why some Africans in foreign countries uses it to cook soup such as edikang ikong and affang soups.
Clear the land and level the ground, apply organic manure while preparing the land. Raise a nursery bed of 1m in length and about 10-15 cm high. The plant should be 3-4 cm in-depth. This will help the small seeds to grow uniformly and very fast.
Transfer the seedlings between 3-4 weeks (the pencil thick stage). Treat the soil with insecticides 2 weeks before planting to make sure nothing will stand as a hindrance to their performance (growth). Give a spacing of either 45 by 30cm or 30 by 30cm.
They can grow in any kind of soil but for optimum growth sandy-loam is preferable, soil that can easily absorb and drain water.
Planting can be done in two ways; by the use of seed or through stem. the same way waterleaf stem are cut and replanted so also lettuce can be done. The cutting will in turn help the standing lettuce to grow very fast and also help in the development of the shoot.
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The seeds should be sown 1 foot apart and the stem ½ inch deep. The stem should be cut and not pulled in other not to disturb the roots of the parent plants. Spread the seeds in a row, the seeds are so tiny like that of carrot at such you may not get a uniform planting. You have to thin them after growth, thinning should be 2-3 inches apart then thin again when half-grown.
Plant them under shades, although every plant needs the sun to do well, for lettuce it should be reduced because the can easily be burnt-of. The reason being that they have shallow roots and have to stay in a moist soil to survive.
How to start Lettuce Farming In Nigeria
Transplant them when they are big enough to be handled. Be very careful in handling them in other not to disturb their roots and also to avoid shock.
Lettuce needs water to survive so you have to provide adequate water for them to do well. Water them in an interval of 3-4 days but daily during hot weather. Never allow stagnant water in the farm create erosion avenue so water can pass by during heavy rainfall.
Lettuce grows very slow at the beginning and can easily be overpowered by weeds. Therefore weed should not be allowed in the farm at any point. They harbours or host pests/insects that can easily destroy plant this is another reason to deal with them before the deal with the plant so badly.
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After the first mixing of manure before planting, apply manure 3-4 weeks after transplanting. Apply again 2-3 and in another 2-3.
Before you start lettuce farming buy insecticides down because lettuce are easily attacked by pest and diseases more than any other vegetable. The plant can be attacked by so many pest and disease.
The commonest diseases are dumping off (pythuim spp), plytophthora blight etc, the attack them during nursery.
The common pests are aphis, whiteflies, leaf miner and cut worms while downy mildew, black rat attack the adult plants.
Lettuce takes about 6-8 weeks to mature or 5-6 weeks after transplanting, depending on the variety. You have to harvest them quickly to avoid bolting (a situation where it doesn’t make leaves but seeds). Late harvesting can also make them bitter.
Cut lettuce plant an inch above the soil surface or remove the outer leaves leaving behind the centre leaves to continue growth. Another way is by uprooting or digging up the whole lettuce crop.
Don’t bother to start lettuce farming when you have not already sourced for buyers down. Lettuce has a short life span maybe shorter than that of waterleaf. That is why it is necessary to know your target market before planting.
Here is what to do, meet the sellers of lettuce and tell them you have started a lettuce farm. And will like to be supplying them directly from your farm. Reduce the amount from what others sell in other to buy their heart first. After that you can increase it when you must have built a relationship with them.
Also advertise to hotels, restaurants, shops etc that you want to be supplying them lettuce directly from your farm to them, they will be very pleased to buy fresh lettuce from you.
WHY YOU SHOULD START LETTUCE FARMING
Lettuce farming is profitable; you make more than the cost of establishing the farm, if you observed good agronomical practices.
It is not yet saturated since many people are not aware that it can be grown any where.
Farming lettuce is very easy, it does not entails complicated techniques. Ir you can be successful in waterleaf farming then you can succeed in that of lettuce.
As it is the demand far outweighs the supply. Also the demand is growing by the day because people are now aware of their benefits.
You can plant it as an ornamental plant around your compound while still getting economic value out of it.
The farm can be raised for festive season when you can make more money as the price is always high at this time. Especially during Christmas celebration.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF LETTUCE
It has low calories content which is good in shading weight.
Lettuce is high in fibre and cellulose which is good in keeping the heart healthy.
This vegetable contains vitamin C, a beta carotene that prevents cholesterol oxidation.
There are many varieties of lettuce, some has; big round leaves, small leaves, light green, dark red, narrow leaves, freckled wide etc.
Oakleaf (Darwin lettuce) variety, they are resistant to heat but good for commercial purpose.
Criphead lettuce, they have a few loosed leaves with densely compacted head.
Butterhead (buttercrunch) variety, they have loosed heads, very tender flavoured leaves.
Romaine (cos) lettuce, their leaves are of different shapes which are loosely arranged around the stem.
Stem lettuce variety, they have elongated bitter leaves and are mostly preferred by the Chinese.
A hectare of lettuce will require 2-4 kg of seeds for planting. Lettuce needs shades but not canopy that will prevent them from having access to sunrays. The plants to inter-crop which can also serve as shades are; eggplant, pepper, tomatoes etc.
Lettuce can be grown all year round but for commercial lettuce farming you have to test the soil to know their P.H. The recommended P.H. is 5.5-6.5.
For lettuce to have a good taste, it has to grow fast to achieve this irrigate and apply nutrients regularly.
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