Potentials of sweet potatoes in the areas of food security, poverty alleviation and job creation are often underestimated. FEMI IBIROGBA writes about how to cultivate the harvest of roots and tubers commercially to create jobs and ensure food security, among others.
You are thinking about going to agriculture, but do not know which way to go? Is your goal to minimize risk by optimizing yield and income from agriculture with less capital? Do you also think of a crop that you can sell and feed yourself and the family? Think of sweet potatoes!
Why sweet potatoes?
The sweet potato, botanically called ipomoea batatas, is a starchy and delicious root vegetable, with an outer, with a thin, brown, purple or yellow skin with colored flesh inside, most often orange, white and yellow. The nutritional value of sweet potato includes being a rich source of fiber, and also contains a large amount of vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium and selenium. One of the main nutritional benefits of sweet potato is that they have a high content of antioxidant, known as beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A, once consumed. Consequently, harvest is a potential tool in the fight against micronutrient deficiencies among millions of Nigerian children and women.
There is evidence that eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of developing cancer. Studies have shown that antioxidants in the skin of sweet potato and purple sweet potato, in particular, can help reduce this oxidation process, thereby reducing the risk of cancer. A study in Asia also showed that diets high in vitamin A, including sweet potato leaves, can provide potential protection against lung cancer.
Apart from the basic culture, sweet potatoes are an important source of raw materials for the production of starch, glucose and ethanol, and can also be used as a substitute for wheat flour in bread, as Nigeria uses cassava flour. Beneficial sweet potatoes require loamy soil or a good soil texture, adequate cleaning and land preparation, appropriate plant vegetation per hectare, manure or fertilizer application, if soil fertility is low and effective control of weeds and pests. In addition, a marketing plan must be prepared and implemented. It is necessary to carry out research on where, when and how much to sell products when harvesting.
Cleaning and preparation of lands
Sweet potatoes respond well if the land is well-processed, prepared and oxidized. To clean the earth, cutting, packing and threshing bushes are required. This can be done mechanically or manually. After cleaning, the land must be plowed, bogged and bent. Sweet potatoes thrive on ridges than on flat ground.
Plowing, harrowing, ridge and sprinkling of arrows with herbicides per hectare of land is about 45,000. At the same time, the land will be adequately prepared mechanically. Similarly, weed control begins with soil preparation. Combined pre-emergence (application before germination of weeds) herbicides are always applied on the ground, and harrowing and ridge. If at this stage it is good to process, there is no need to weed the farm, because sweet potatoes are a cover that suppresses weeds if the density of plants is recommended. Infections are observed, the experts of the project on weed management of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (ITA), Ibadan, said, can reduce the crop by 50% or more if the infection is not prevented and well managed.
Planting materials / population per hectare
Small potato planting materials are the cheapest of all entrances to the farm. Wines can be obtained from existing farms or bought at a ridiculously cheap price. Wines are cut to a shorter length of about 25 cm and harbor on well-prepared ridges at the beginning of the rain in March or April. The cost of vines per hectare is from zero bunk to N10,000. Zero naira, because the farmer could get free grapes from other potato growers.
However, improved varieties, especially biofuels, by research institutes may be slightly more expensive at first purchases. The number of planted vines also determines the cost of weed control and yield. If the farm is sufficiently filled, the harvest will be maximum, the weed will be minimized, and the cost will be moderate.
A study conducted by J.T. Ambe in Cameroon using three improved sweet potato varieties has recently shown that the density of 20,000 plants per hectare yields the highest average tuber yield of 29.6 metric tons per hectare, and 10,000 plants per hectare, the researcher said, recorded the largest infection with weeds and which reduced the yield to 17 tons per hectare. He recommends a density of 20,000 plants per hectare for maximum yield, low weed infestation and high return on investment.
Economy of sweet potatoes
One abdul Qadir, a potato farmer in Athos, Kvar, said that the average crop size (about 80 kg) is sold between N3,000 and N6,000 depending on the harvesting time. In the period from March to June, when most farmers always start planting, a bag of sweet potatoes will be sold at an average of N5,000, but from September to November it can be reduced to N3,000.
The average of 250 bags of medium size from sweet potatoes could be collected on one hectare of land. He said that from now on between N750,000 and N1.5 million could be done from one hectare of farmland in three months. However, the deepening of crop production is still very limited, since little or nothing has been done to study the industrial use of sweet potatoes in Nigeria, forcing farmers to continue to struggle with natural production.
However, large-scale production should be conducted with an adequate marketing strategy to avoid oversupply. The shelf life of sweet potatoes is short after harvest, although much longer than cassava. To date, Nigeria does not have any sweet potatoes or industrial processors, which makes it difficult to expand.
Sale of sweet potatoes should be planned adequately even before production. In rainy periods, covering the period from August to November, most farmers harvest. Consequently, there is always a price crisis, as the supply tends to suppress demand, at least in production areas.
Expansion of labeling plans in urban centers with high population density will always be reasonable and economical during these periods. Thus, penetrating urban markets should be an integral part of the business plan.
Nevertheless, large-scale production in the dry season through irrigation would create more economic sentiments with little stress in marketing. One very good thing about agricultural products is that if they are produced in off-season, they become hot, naturally obeying the law of supply and demand. The monopoly on the off-season offer will provide good prices and eliminate the stress and costs associated with excessive marketing.