Sweet potato is increasing in demand every day. Thereby widening the space for agricultural investors to expand in commercial sweet potato farming. Even though we have many people going into this area of farming the gap between supply and demand is still yet to be filled. The main reason is because of our increasing population. Sweet potato is more affordable than other tubers such as Irish potato, yam etc. An indication you have a viable marker at hand. And can be used for flour, chips, crips and other new innovative cooking.
It is a tropical creeping crop, unlike Irish potato that grows well only on temperate region. Sweet potato can grow both in the temperate and tropical regions. Planting is between March-April during early rains but can also be planted with irrigation during dry season October November and late rains August-September. Sweet potato farming needs annual rainfall of 750-1000mm and a temperature of 24°C for optimum growth.
There are over 400 varieties in the world but you have to plant the one that is widely eaten in your locality; that suit your soil best. Find out from those who are into sweet potato farming in your area to know which variety they plant and how you can properly grow it. In this post you shall learn how to plant to cultivate sweet potato, water it, apply fertilizer, weed, control pest and when to harvest.
STATES THAT GROW SWEET POTATO IN LARGE QUANTITIES IN NIGERIA
Sweet potato is planted in Benue, Kogi, Plateau (Bui), Taraba (Mambilla Plateau) and Borno in large quantities. Others are Zamfara, Bauchi, Katsina, Gombe, Sokoto, Jigawa, Kano and Kebbi although most of them is through irrigation.
Plough the land and loosen them up for aeration and water penetration. Use glyphosate with paraqat on the land and allow it for 2 weeks before planting in other to suppress the effect of the drugs. Make good ridges or beds for planting it is advisable to cultivate sweet potato on bed for proper tuberization. Give 1m spacing between the field an any adjourning farmland to prevent rodents feeding on the tubers.
It can grow in a wide variety of land, however for optimum yield use sandy loam soil rich in organic matter. Whereby the land is short of nutrient you can add manure when preparing the land. A PH of 5.5-6.5 is ideal for optimum growth.
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Sweet potato is planted from stem and vines cuttings from the parent plant. The vine cutting should be between 20-30cm in length with about 2-3 nodes in each vine. Sow the vine below the soil 4-6cm deep while leaving part of it above the soil. Spacing 25-30cm on ridges; 60-75cm apart. Depending on the spacing distance you can plant up 27,000-50,000 vine cuttings in a hectare. And 11,000 vine cuttings in an acre.
Read Also: How To Start Plantain Farming In Nigeria
Sweet potato growing can be done in sack bag, container and bucket. It makes movement around the farm easy and for proper management.
Weeding should be done very early after planting so that the sweet potato young plants will not have any competitor, maybe 2 weeks after planting then another 2 weeks after. But as the plant crawls and cover the soil weed will not be able to germinate well.
Potato farming can be done purely on organic manure, however if you must use inorganic fertilizer then use NPK 10:10:20.
IRRIGATION/MULCHING IN SWEET POTATO FARMING
Mulch the young plant after germination in other to conserve moisture and allow for proper root formation.
It can tolerate drought for sometimes but when it becomes too long maybe up to 6 weeks their yield will reduce.
Sweet Potato variety differs in colour; some are brownish-yellow, others reddish-purple and another group whitish. They also differ in leave shape, time of maturity, depth of rooting and resistance to diseases. Hybrid sweet potatoes are very resistant to pest and diseases, offer good yield and early maturity.
HERE ARE A FEW HYBRID VARIETIES
- OLUKOTA: good for flour because it contain weight of dry matter good such
- NSRP/05/20: produce a very high yield due to their numerous branching
INTER CROPPING IN SWEET POTATO FARMING
Potato can be inter crop with maize or guinea corn especially if you are planting on ridges or mounds.
The major pest that attacks sweet potato is weevils; while the adult feeds on leaves and stem causing thickening and cracking of the vines; the larva bores into the storage roots producing bitter substance.
Aphids and white flies (viral disease) causes dwarfing, yellowing of vines in young leaves and excessive branching.
Sweet potato matures between 3-4 months; the white variety matures fast within 3 months. While the popular variety matures within 4 months. Harvest sweet potato when the leaves turn yellow in colour. Use spade, hand fork, pick axe to dig the tubers out from the soil and be careful not to damage the tubers because it won’t stay long.
The Yield of sweet potatoes depends on:
- The soil type used
- Climate condition
- Variety used
- Management practice.
A hectare will give between 6-20 tonnes. An acre can yield about 50 big bags.
After harvesting potatoes keep them for about 2 weeks to cure before storing in a cold dry place. However it shouldn’t be too long in other not to tie down your money unnecessarily.
Sell to market traders who are waiting for the potatoes. Others are livestock farmers, flour producers and food industries. You can add value to it by setting up your own flour mill company where you can be processing the potatoes into powder. It will give you more money than selling whole.
WHY YOU SHOULD START SWEET POTATO FARMING
- Potato is a low risk crop
- More than 100 tubers can be gotten from one stand
- It is not costly to set up potato plantation
- Very easy to manage because it is a creeping crop and will suppress weed growth
- Potato farming can be done in sack and containers
- They mature fast between 3-4 months, meaning you can lease land for potato cultivation if you don’t have one.
- Highly profitable
PROFITABILITY IN SWEET POTATOES FARMING
Sweet potato farming is very lucrative. Assuming you planted a hectare and gotten 250 bags. A bag of sweet potato goes for #7,000 depending on location. Lets see you sold yours #7,000. So 250×7000= 1,750,000. The expenses for the planting is very little.
HEALTH /IMPORTANCE OF SWEET POTATO
- Sweet potato is a good source of excellent fibre
- It can prevent cancer
- Contains vitamins E, B6 and C
- Sweet potato is good for heart
- Controls blood sugar due to low glycemic index
- It helps in relieving stress and good in digestion
- Sweet potato has strong Immunity and anti-inflammatory properties which are very good to the body.
- Used for boiling, frying and mashing for baking and salads.
- Apart from being a staple crop, potato is also a good source of raw materials for the manufacturing of wide range of industrial products including starch, liquid glucose, ethanol, and can also be used as a substitute for wheat flour in bread production.
- It can be grown for livestock feeds (fodder)
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