Sweet potato farming is a very lucrative business. This is because Sweet potatoes are undemanding crop to grow as long as there is sun and warm soil; this is a tropical plant. Sweet potatoes are drought- and heat-tolerant and have few pests or diseases. It is very nutritious, a top source of beta-carotene, and relatively low in calories. Just a few plants can produce a generous harvest which can be stored.
Sweet potatoes aren’t started by seed like most other vegetables, they’re started from slips. Slips are shoots grown from a mature sweet potato.
Sweet potato is increasing in demand every day and might be because of its health benefits and not just monetary gains. Thereby widening the space for agricultural investors to expand in commercial sweet potato farming. Even though there are many people going into this area of farming, the gap between supply and demand is still yet to be filled, which is a result of an increasing population.
It is even more affordable than other tubers such as Irish potato, yam etc. And it can be used for flour, chips, crisp and other new innovative cooking delicacies.
Sweet potato is a creeping crop, unlike Irish potato that grows well only on temperate region. Sweet potato can grow both in the temperate and tropical regions. Its Planting is between March-April during early rains but can also be planted during dry season October November and late rains August September with irrigation help for great yield.
There are varieties of it in the world but planting the one that is widely eaten in one’s location and the variety that best suit the soil. Making researches from those who are into sweet potato farming around to know which variety they plant and how to properly grow it will be a great advantage of bringing forth a great yield.
However, there is a rising demand for sweet potato among Nigerians. This demand is understandable because people have found more ways of preparing it for food. Another reason is due to its export value. There is a growing call by the government for everyone to embrace agriculture.
Agriculturally friendly policies and programs have resulted to provide incentives to farmers. Hence there is no better time to be a potato farmer than now. Domestic demand for this crop alone is much. This deficit should be a must to be met if Nigeria aims to attain food sufficiency.
Also, when it comes to nutrition aspect, it has a rich fibre content, vitamins like Vitamin A, C, E and K are found in it. Other nutritional contents include Phosphorus, Riboflavin, Iron and Calcium making this food crop a good option for farmers to consider. Sweet Potato grows well in the tropics. This makes Nigeria an ideal place for sweet potato farming.
Things to consider when going into sweet potato farming
- Getting the land
- Control of disease or pest
1. Getting the land:
land should be the prime focus when it comes to sweet Potato farming. Ploughing the land and loosening it up for planting and water penetration. Make good ridges or beds for planting, it is advisable to cultivate sweet potato on bed for proper tub erization. Give 1m spacing in-between the fields 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. In a case where the land is short of nutrient you can add manure when preparing the land for optimum growth.
In planting sweet potato, one has to choose the one that best suits the land as there are different types of it. Sweet Potato varies in color; some are brownish-yellow, others reddish-purple and another group whitish. They are also different in leave shapes, 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.
Plant slips in prepared soil with the roots pointing down. Position the slip so that the bottom half will be covered with dirt while the top half with all of the new leaves is above ground.
This should be done very early after planting so that the sweet potato young plants will not have any competitor hindering their growth, 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.
5. Control of disease or pest:
Aphids and white flies are viral disease that causes dwarfing, yellowing of vines in young leaves and excessive branching. Major pests that attack 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.
Waiting 3 to 4 months before sweet potato reaches its maturity. You can decide to sell directly from your farm or have it harvested and taken to the market.
The white variety matures fast within the space of 3 months. While the popular variety matures within 4 months. Harvest sweet potato when the leaves turn yellow in colour.
By making Use of spade, hand fork, pick axe to dig the tubers out from the soil and being careful of not damaging the tubers.
Curing in potato farming is a process of Leaving newly dug potatoes to dry in the sun and fresh air for a few hours after harvesting.
Then store them in a box lined with newspaper and keep them in a spot that gets good air circulation for a couple of weeks.
Next, move the sweet potatoes to a location where the temperature is cooler. Check the sweet potatoes regularly, and discard any that show signs of spoilage. Properly cured, they can stay for several weeks.
Most readily available market for sweet potato are market traders who are waiting for the potatoes. Others are livestock farmers, flour producers and food industries. New companies have also emerged who process it into powder, to make potato powder also good for consumption.