Cassava is a perennial shrub, which sometimes reaches the size of a small tree. Its stems vary in color from pale to dirty white to brown marked by numerous nodes formed by scars left by fallen leaves. Pale to dark green leaves are fan-shaped, with 5 to 9 lobes.
Roots of cassava plants are few and shallow and some become storage roots. These are clustered around the base of the plant and extend about 60 cm on all sides. It is for these roots, which contain from 15 to 40 percent starch that the crop is cultivated.
Under favorable conditions, a single root may weigh as much as four (4) kilos. The number of roots per plant at harvest varies from 2 to7 each averaging 27.7 to 43.3 cm long and from 4.5 to 7.4 cm in diameter.
Plant only high yielding varieties and according to needs. For starch, VC-1, VC-2, VC-3, Datu, Lakan or Golden Yellow can be used. For food, or feeds, use only Lakan or Golden yellow varieties.
Cassava is a tropical and sub-tropical plant. It grows in regions with more or less evenly distributed rainfall through out the year. An ambient temperature that ranges from 25- 300c.
Select an open field with sandy loam or clay loam soil. Be sure that the area is not prone to water logging; it must be a well-drained soil. Also consider the soil fertility with pH range of 5.5-6.5.
Cassava thrives at sea level to 845 meters above the sea level. It grows best when planted at the start of the rainy season.
Prepare field by plowing two to three times, followed by harrowing when there is enough soil moisture. Make ridges with 15-20 cm high and 75-100 cm distance between furrows.
Preparation of Planting Materials
Select only fresh, mature or healthy stems. Fresh if the latex or sap comes out within six (6) seconds after cutting. Mature if the diameter of the pith or cork is not more than half the diameter of the cortex. Healthy if it is pest free and the diameter of the stem is not less than 1.5 cm.
Obtain stalk from a healthy stand, which is at least eight (8) months old. Rouge out other varieties that are mixed with other the recommended varieties; if any. Use a saw or sharp bolo to prepare cuttings 20-30 cm long.
Keep the stalk for not more than five days, under shade in upright position. Handle carefully; don’t throw the cuttings to avoid damage to the nodes. Don’t use cuttings stored for more than five days.
Plant cuttings in furrows one meter apart, each cutting set at .75 to 1 meter apart between ridges and 0.50 to 0.75 cm between hills. Replant missing hills 2 weeks after planting. Weed cassava plant within 2 months after planting.
Plant in a slanting position at an angle of 45 when the soil is fairly dry, and in vertical position when planting is done during the wet season, at least 15 cm of the cutting should be buried or covered with soil.
Analyze the soil prior to planting to determine the amount and kind of fertilizer needed. The general recommendation for soil, which have not been analyzed, is eight (8) sacks of complete (14-14-14) fertilizer per hectare. Apply fertilizer 2-6 weeks after planting at 5-10 cm depth and 15-20 cm away from the plant. The use of compost or organic fertilizer is highly recommended.
Weeding and Cultivation
At least 80% of failed cropping of cassava is due to inadequate weeding. Cultivate when weeds begin to grow. Weed the plant within two (2) months after planting. If possible, do off barring and spot weeding 3-4 weeks after planting to effectively control weeds. Then weed the plant 4-5 weeks after planting. Hill-up ridges 7-8 weeks after planting followed by spot weeding.
There is no serious pest that attacks the cassava plant and the use of chemicals is not practical or economical. To avoid the attack of pests, apply crop rotation or burn all the infested or infected plants.
Cassava is a highly perishable crop. It starts to deteriorate as early as one to three days after harvest. To prolong its shell-life, store it properly.
Harvest cassava at full maturity or 6-7 months after planting. Harvesting too early results in low yield and poor eating quality.
On the other hand, leaving the roots too long in the soil expose them to pests. It also ties the land unnecessarily to one crop.
Do not harvest cassava right after a heavy rain or when the soil is too wet.
At this time, the roots have high water content which make them difficult to store.
Also, wet soil particles would stick easily to the roots especially if the soil is clayey, thus making the roots hard to clean.
Harvest cassava during relatively dry weather so that you can easily remove the soil particles from the roots.
How to Harvest
If the soil is compact, loosen it first. Use a wooden tool because this can cause lesser root damage than metal tools.
Pull the plant gently and don’t drag the roots. Dragging can cause bruises and cuts to roots, which may lead to early deterioration.
In separating the roots from the plant, do not just break it off because this method can also cause root damage.
Instead, separate the roots from the stem using a sharp knife or bolo. Cut each as close to the stem as possible
After harvesting, don’t leave the roots under the sun. Too much heat causes weight loss and early root deterioration.
How to Store Cassava
There are several methods of storing cassava. Among these are soil storage method and storage of roots in wooden crates.
Select suitable storage site, which is well drained, preferably shaded, and slightly sloping.
Do not keep cassava in a waterlogged area because roots will decay easily.
In the selected area, dig trenches measuring one meter in width and 30-40 cm in depth. The length of the trench varies according to the volume of roots to store. A meter long trench can contain 70-80 kg roots.
Dig the trenches in such a way that their length will be running downhill. At the lower end of the trench, make a drainage canal, which should be at least 20 cm wide and 5 cm to 10 cm deeper than the storage trench.
Arrange mature, undamaged roots inside the trenches. Cover each layer of roots with soil, preferably riversand or seasand. If these types of soil are not too wet. Absolutely, do not use heavy wet clay to cover the roots because this type of soil could just enhance root deterioration.
Source: Cassava; AFIS-DA-CO
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