Ugu farming (pumpkin leaf) has turned out to be a money spinning business quite recently in Nigeria. Before now majority of people were planting ugu as a subsistence farming only. But those who have wide eyes have long discovered the business opportunities in ugu farming and have delved into it big time. They are already making reasonable money out of it.
Ugu is the name Igbos’ gave to pumpkin leave in Akwa Ibom State it is called nkong ubong. It is a vegetable gotten from the planting of ugu seeds. Ugu is mostly used in cooking soup and pottage foods although some people extract fluid from it (mixing it with other things such as milk, malt drink, tomatoes etc.) to drink for health reasons.
There is a ready market for ugu like pepper because it is widely consumed; any vegetable that is a day-to-day food is a worthy venture to do.
WHY YOU SHOULD START UGU FARMING BUSINESS
Vegetables generally are highly demanded because of its rate of consumption. Ugu leave is the most consumed vegetables followed by waterleaf etc as such the market for it is very high.
- It is a short-term plant meaning you can easily get your money in the shortest possible time.
- You will always sell irrespective of the season you plant your ugu.
- It requires little experience to start.
- You will make good money because you can plant 3times in a year.
LAND PREPARATION IN UGU FARMING
Ugu farming does well on a sandy-loamy soil. Clear the land you are using from every stump and debris. Till the soil if it is hard for easy penetration of roots, good aeration and proper germination of the seed. Pour organic manure on the soil if that is what you are using (cow, goat, chicken, pig dung etc.).
Some people make bed for ugu this is also equally very good. The manure should be the ones that are already treated; you can check my post on ‘pepper farming’ to know how you can treat dung.
HOW TO PREPARE UGU SEED FOR PLANTING
Cut the ugu pod, bring out the seeds and dry them under sun for only a day or two, do not allow them to be over dried in other to preserve the viability of the seed. The drying of the seeds helps them to be resistant to pest which could have eaten them off in the soil, it also prevent them from decaying.
Don’t dry the seeds that have already sprouted, the sun will kill them.
PROPAGATION OF UGU
After dressing the sol the next thing to do is to plant. This should be done very early in the morning or late evening, you can also plant when the weather is cool and calm. Plant 2-3 seeds per hole.
Dig the hole 4-5cm into the soil and plant the ugu by standing it with the mouth buried to the soil. Cover the hole with a little sand; be sure the ugu is well covered in other not to expose it to the sun. The seed spacing should be 500cm-1m. A hectare will require 10,000 seeds while an acre will require 4,000 seeds.
How to get four seedlings from one ugu seed
You can get four seedlings out of one ugu seed. Here is how to do it;
Take a pocket and filled it with compost manure mixed with saw dust put in the ugu seeds and cover bring them out after 5-7 days break the seedlings into 2 sides each and further cut them into 2 with knife but make sure each has roots in them.
Plant them again in the pocket and then transfer them to your farm on the 8 day after they would have germinated.
IRRIGATION IN UGU FARMING
After planting the seeds, start irrigating the ugu farm and its surroundings every two days morning and evening. Except there are rains then you can stop to irrigate but during dry season or drought intensive irrigation is required.
This means you need a source of water either well or bore hole depending on the resources in your hands. But if your farm is close to river this is an added advantage to you. Drip and sprinkler irrigation is good for use.
WEEDING/PEST CONTROL IN UGU FARMING
Early weeding is the best thing to do, when you delay weeding the leaves will turn yellowish because the weeds are feeding on the nutrients on the soil too. Most times when ugu leaves is deficient of nitrogen they change their colour from green to yellow.
The ugu will become a safe haven for insects and pests that are on the weed.. I will advice the use of manual because the use of herbicides may not be successful due to the crawling nature of ugu, it always covers the ground.
Care must be taken not to trample on the ugu plant because during the second weeding you will have to be lifting the ugu up to weed.
Most diseases that affects ugu are airborne and most of the insects are boring ones example is caterpillar. Mix fungicide and insecticide in small quantity and use for pest and insects control, examples of such insecticides to use are sharp shooter, maxi-force, scorpion etc.
Organically, use neem oil mixed with water to spray on your ugu plant or you soak neem leaves in water for 10 or more days and sprinkle on your farm.
Apply livestock dung on the farm before planting, after 4 weeks and after 6 weeks. For those who wants to use inorganic fertilizer, NPK 15 15 15 and urea is good to use. But organic fertilizer has proven to be the best and safest.
Since harvesting is done frequently there is need to give the soil enough food to eat so that the ugu can keep growing well.
PROFITABILITY IN UGU FARMING
- You may be tempted to ask, is ugu farming profitable as said? The answer is a capital ‘YES’. Believe me it is a very lucrative business if proper farming management practice are put in place. You can make 100 times over in this business on investment returns.
- For an acre of land if you spend #300,000 in raising ugu farm you may realise about #800,000 all things being equal. You do the planting once after that you will be harvesting every 3 days or 3 times a week for about 3 months.
- You can make the money you invested in about a month excluding land and other properties. Everything about ugu is money, the fresh leaves are harvested for sale and the hard leaves can be used for cooking soup as well. This kind of soup is mostly cooked by Akwa Ibom people. The strong ugu is cut, pound and washed with water, leaving only the leaves for cooking. Ugu seeds are boiled and eaten as food
- The pods are sold for money. You can bring the seeds out and sell it that way. A seed is sold for #50 or more depending on location and season. Imagine realizing 10,000 seeds from your pods. A pod contains averagely 58 seeds; the big pod can be up to 100 seeds and the small pod 40 seeds.
- In case you are restocking your farm or expanding you won’t have to spend money again on buying seeds you can only take out from your harvested pods.
- For more profits dry season ugu farming is the best you will make 3 times more than the amount you would have made during raining season. That is why most ugu farmers always prepare themselves for aggressive dry season ugu farming.
WHEN TO CLEAR UGU FARM
Some people plant ugu for only the pods if this is your intention then the harvesting of the ugu should be reduced to only 3 times. For others who are still harvesting even when the pods are out should be careful not to destroy them. At this time you can only cut the ugu which flowers because they will never fruit. You can clear the place after the pods are matured.
Start harvesting two weeks after planting or when the stems are long; use your hand to cut the stem a little distance away from the bottom of the stem position your hands where you have the nodes and cut.
You can use sharp object like knife to cut if you are not experience on hand cutting. The pod is ripe for harvest when the tendrils are dried; sometimes the fall off on their own on the other hand you have to cut them off.
A stem of ugu can produce more than 1 pod and if the pollination was well done there are chances that about 75% of the stem will produce.
MARKETING OF UGU
People will come looking for you to buy because the demand is 10 times higher than the supply. Meanwhile you can locate market women, restaurants, hotels, bukas and eateries to sell to, they buy in bulk.
Feed your ugu plant to grow well because consumers prefer ugu that are fresh, dark green with wide or big leaves.
OTHER VEGETABLES THAT CAN BE PLANTED IN UGU FARM
You can plant waterleaf, scent leaf, curry leaf, spinach etc. on ugu farm this will give additional profits because it doesn’t command different treatment other than the ones given to ugu plant.
If you are planting the hybrid kind of seed you don’t have to trellis the ugu plant because they are well positioned to grow underground but for the local breeds you just have to trellis them if indeed you need the pods.
The pro of the local breed is that they are very resistant to pest and diseases.
BENEFITS OF UGU LEAVES AND SEEDS
Ugu increases haemoglobin concentration in the body, that’s why some people call it ‘blood tonic’.
It contains antioxidants which is very good for the body and also reduces cholesterol.
Ugu contains properties that lowers glucose as such can prevent diabetes.
The oil extracted from the seeds is good in semen improvement.
Some people don’t bother to raise beds which is not bad depending on the kind of soil and environment. In a place like Akwa Ibom State beds may not be necessary. But for proper management and good statistics raising of beds will be very useful.
For instance there is a woman who has 30 beds, she makes #8,000 from a bed in 3 weeks. This is because she carries out her harvest every 3 weeks, 30 multiply by 8000 is equal to #240,000 you too can achieve that even more if you determine.
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