Do you know that you can make money from Yam farming?
Yam is considered the most important food staple in West Africa, which produces 65% of all yams produced worldwide. Every year, festivals and rituals are held in various parts of the region to celebrate the arrival of the new yam. Aside from these festivals and rituals, there is a lot of money to be made in the yam farming business, as discussed in the previous article here. A farmland of 499 by 490 meters in size could yield 51,000 tubers of yam, which is worth N15 million ($37,000 at $1=N410 exchange rate).
This is a fantastic opportunity for any serious farmer who wants to take advantage of the current season to cultivate yam in large quantities. Aside from local sales, yam can be exported to the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and even Japan. While Nigeria is the world’s leading yam producer, followed by Ivory Coast, Ghana is the world’s leading yam exporter, accounting for more than 90 percent of total yams exported from West Africa each year.
Why have Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon not been fully involved in yam exportation, leaving only Ghana with the opportunity? I believe ignorance played a role in this. Yam farming is important, but so is exporting.
I’m curious as to why we continue to overlook this vital farming business opportunity. For those who are serious about doubling their investment this year through yam farming, here is a step-by-step guide on how to begin yam farming anywhere suitable land can be found. This article focused on the popular species cultivated in West Africa, “White Gunea Yam” (Dioscorea rotundata).
LAND LOCATION AND PREPARATION
Yams prefer an upland environment and should be planted in a well-drained field. Although clay loam soils, particularly those high in organic matter, produce acceptable yields, sandy loam and silt loam soils produce the highest yields. While some yams do well in stony soil, it is not recommended to plant yams in stony hard soil.
Most tropical forest lands provide an ideal environment for growing yam in terms of soil quality and climate conditions.
Clear the bush properly and burn the grasses with fire at the appropriate time. Yam is best planted between February and April, when the rainy season is just getting started. These are the best times to prepare your land.
Make hips of loose soil about one meter high and one meter apart after the bush has been cleared. Ridged beds are also ideal for yam planting. When using the latter, the ridges should be built one meter apart. To reduce soil erosion in sloping or rolling fields, ridges should be built along the contour. This is critical in the cultivation of yams.
It is critical to remove any hard objects that could obstruct the growth of the yam tuber while creating the ridges.
Setts Buying and Preparation
Setts are whole tubers or tubers cut into pieces that are used for planting. If the tuber is small, it can be planted whole, but if it is large, it must be cut into 60g to 100g pieces. As a general rule, the larger the sett used, the higher the expected yield, but it should not be too large, or you will waste resources.
Setts should be collected from healthy tubers of healthy plants. Appropriate sett sizes are not sliced, whereas larger tubers are sliced into the desired sett size to ensure that each sett has enough skin surface area. As a result, four types of setts are obtained and named after their positions on the tuber, as follows: middle setts, and head setts.
The cut sides of the setts are treated with ash or fungicide before being air dried. Setts are either pre-sprouted or planted directly after air drying.
Because most freshly prepared setts in the field have an emergence period of three to twelve weeks, it is preferable to pre-sprout the setts before planting. This procedure ensures sett emergence when planted and reduces weeding costs prior to sett emergence.
A shallow ditch is dug in a clear shaded area under trees, bananas, or a shed built for the purpose to pre-sprout a sett. Setts are placed in the ditch side by side and covered with dry grasses or dry banana leaves. In the absence of a ditch, the setts can be placed side by side on the ground.
Setts are classified based on their type. The orientation of setts cut from large tubers is either skin up or crown sideways. Setts can be covered with a thin layer of soil and watered once a week until all of the setts have sprouted.
Because setts do not sprout at the same time, it may be preferable to stagger planting and land preparation with sett pre-sprouting. In general, whole setts and head setts sprout before other types of setts. Planting pre-sprouted setts, on the other hand, can be done all at once.
Preparing pre-sprouted setts for single planting
The procedure for single planting is essentially the same as for preparing setts for staggered planting. The former is only done after most, if not all, setts have sprouted. Before planting the setts, some sprouts that have grown quite long should be trimmed.
Preparing pre-sown setts for staggered planting.
Setts that have already sprouted are removed from the pre-sprouting seedbed and placed on a platform in a shady location to prevent sprouts from becoming too long. Every week, the process is repeated until the desired number of sprouted setts is obtained. Water is not applied to the sprouted setts on the platform. Setts should be planted before the sprouts grow too long. The same procedure is followed for setts for the second and subsequent plantings. This is especially true in West African yam farming.
The typical planting season for white yam is March to April, depending on when the tuber dormancy is broken, as indicated by the sprouting of tubers in storage and the start of rain in a specific area. This means that you must begin the pre-sprouting process at least three weeks before planting.
As previously stated, the spacing between the planted yams should be 1m x 1m and at a depth of about 10cm. Setts are planted in any orientation about 15 cm deep when planting coincides with a dry spell if the field will not be mulched. One hectare of farmland requires between 20,000 and 27,778 setts.
Setts that have been pre-sprouted. If the field cannot be irrigated or will not be mulched, setts are usually planted at the start of rain. For non-pre-sprouted setts, the same planting distance and depth are used. Setts should be planted with the sprouts facing up. To accomplish this, the cut surface must face the ground.
The field is divided into four to six sections for staggered planting, each with a batch of ready-to-plant setts. The rate of sprouting of setts determines the size of each section and the time it takes to prepare each section.
Weed Management in a Yam Farm
The frequency with which a yam farm must be weeded is determined by the use of pre-sprouted setts, the application of mulch, and the rate of weed growth. If non-pre-sprouted setts are used and the field is not mulched, two to three weeding operations are required before the yam canopy partially suppresses weed growth. If pre-sprouted setts are used and the field is mulched, only two weedings two months apart are required. The only method I recommend is using handtools. Other methods, such as using animal-powered plows, are hazardous to the plans because the vines may be damaged in the process. Herbicide use may be permissible in some areas.
The Ridges’ Mulching
It is preferable to mulch the field where the yams are planted in order to reduce soil temperature, conserve soil moisture, and suppress weed growth. Mulch can be made from dry coconut fronds, corn stalks, rice straw, and other similar materials. If rice straw or another rot-prone material is used, the mulch should be thick (about 10 cm) so that it does not rot completely within four or five months. Mulching tends to add some nutrient to the soil from the decaying materials used in yam farming and to further protect the soil from excessive moisture loss.
Planting new setts (Replacing Dead Yams)
Sett mortality is to be expected, especially in while Guinea yam when non-presprouted setts are used for planting. As a result, replanting occurs, usually about two months after the original planting. Hills with no sprouts are checked to see if there are any rotten setts that need to be removed and replaced. Unsprouted setts that did not rot should not be replaced because they can still sprout later.
Plants are staked before the vines begin to crawl on the ground. Stake lengths of five to ten meters are recommended, with one stake per plant. Bamboo poles are the preferred staking material; however, any material that can support the yam vines for at least seven months can be used as stakes. Staking can be done in a variety of ways, but three of the most common are as follows:
The pyramid method: This staking method combines the benefits and drawbacks of the modified trellis method. Furthermore, it requires fewer, but stronger, materials for stake construction and requires less labor to construct. However, it has an additional disadvantage in that yams grown using this method typically yield less than those grown using the modified trellis method of yam farming.
Trellis method with a twist: Ground spaces under the stake arch do not need to be weeded as the foliage grows dense with this method. Furthermore, stakes formed in this manner provide consistent support. Weeding and hilling up operations that use animal-drawn implements, on the other hand, are not permitted under the arches.
The trellis method: This stake configuration is not very stable and necessitates the use of additional materials to support the stakes (posts and tie wire). However, weeding and hilling up operations with animal-drawn implements are simple with this setup.
Application of Fertilizer
A hectare of water yam can remove 128 kg of nitrogen, 17 kg of phosphorous, and 162 kg of potassium from the soil. This roughly represents its fertilizer requirements. There is no information available on the amount of nutrients that white yam can remove from the soil. However, its fertilizer requirements, like those of other yams, should be similar to those of water yam.
Soil samples can be submitted to any agricultural institute or to IITA for analysis to determine the level of soil fertility in the field and the amount of fertilizer that needs to be added. In this case, the assistance of the local Farm Management Technician should be sought.
Inorganic fertilizer is used. The recommended amount of fertilizer is divided in half and applied about one month after emergence, with the other half applied about two months later. The fertilizer is applied using the band method, with the fertilizer placed about 10 cm away from the plants.
Composting application Yams respond well to organic fertilizers such as compost, which is a decayed organic matter mixture made up of plant parts and animal manures. Compost is mixed into the soil as the field is prepared, or it is placed just below the spot where the setts will be planted.
The Vine’s Training
Water yam vine (Dioscorea alata) twines to the right, while white Guinea yam vine (Dioscorea rotundata) twines to the left. Vines are trained to climb stakes when they begin crawling on the ground. They are retrained when long branches begin to cross the rows or when a weeding operation is about to begin.
Exposed Tubers Should Be Covered
Because tubers elongate rapidly near the end of the plant’s growing period, some tubers heave, exposing them to the sun. The tubers are also exposed when it rains heavily. To keep exposed tubers from turning green, cover them with soil. In some cases, greening may render it inedible.
Harvesting Methods And Times
Yams are ready to harvest when the foliage begins to yellow or dries up. The yellowing or drying up of the foliage typically begins in late November and lasts until February of the following year. Tubers, particularly those intended for use as setts for the following season’s planting, are harvested later in the season. Tubers intended for consumption or sale are sometimes harvested earlier, even before the foliage yellows. To loosen the tuber from the soil, a hoe or similar handtool is used to dig around it. The tuber is then lifted and any soil particles that cling to it are removed. To complete the harvest, the vine is cut at the base.
A sturdy stick sharpened at one end is sometimes used to dig out the tuber in sandy soil. Other specialized harvesters, such as a shovel, may be used for clay soil and varieties with deeply buried tubers. Whatever tool is used to harvest the tubers, care must be taken not to injure the yam while digging, as this may reduce its market value and hasten its decay.
Tubers are collected and placed in rattan baskets, bamboo or wooden crates lined with soft materials such as banana leaves, paper, or grass straw after they have been cleaned. Tubers that are healthy and tubers that are diseased are separated in separate containers. Depending on tuber size, the tubers are arranged in two to four layers in the container, with a soft material that can serve as a cushion placed between layers and in the spaces between tubers in a layer. If the tubers are to be transported immediately to the market, the container is covered with paper or banana leaves and a string net is woven over the mouth of the container. If the tubers are to be transported to a nearby storage location, no cover is provided for the container.
When you’re finished harvesting, take your product to the market and sell it. Yam farming is profitable because yam is a very important commodity in the market and sells quickly.