Growing Cassava in Liberia

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Cassava grows in most soils, even poor soils in Liberia. For best yield results, it is wise to choose light soils or loamy soils with flat or gentle slopes. The plant cannot stand water logging which makes tubers rot. Stony soils are not suitable for cassava production. In order not to preserve soil organic matter and prevent soil erosion, it’s best to minimize tillage. To reduce water logging, it’s best to make ridges or mounds. Ridges should be six to ten inches high and a yard apart.

Cassava Varieties

Choose varieties that are best suitable for the climatic and environmental conditions. To increase yields, it’s best to choose varieties that tolerate diseases and pests, are drought-resistant, grow fast and mature early and that can be stored in the ground for months. The government and its partners are demonstrating some improved cassava varieties in the country and multiplying them to local farmers.

Cassava Planting

Cassava is planted by cutting stems which are at least ten months old and which are from a plant that has borne tubers. It’s best to use cassava stems from the hardwood portion of the plant. The stems should be healthy or they will produce unhealthy cassava plants. The stems have to be cut into cuttings of about 20-25 cm. Press it into the soil in the same direction as it grew. There are several ways to plant stems,  depending on the soil.

  1. Plant the stem vertically in sandy soils to achieve deeper lying roots.
  2. Bury stems completely. Although this increases the reproduction of stems, it may produce smaller roots.
  3. In loamy soils, plant at an angle.

The growing season remain the same in nearly all parts of Liberia, April and June which tends to coincide with the rainy season. Planting in the dry season affects the sprouting of stems. Weed the beds for the first couple of weeks and mound soil to prevent erosion.

Fertilizing

Cassava plants can be fertilized with the help of manure, such as poultry droppings or cow dung. If you plough the fields, leguminous cover crops can be used to improve soil nutrition. Apply artificial fertilizer carefully and according to instructions. Don’t overuse fertilizer or it will cause run-off. Hence, fertilization application is not common among most cassava farmers in Liberia as many grow the crop by shifting cultivation.

Intercropping Cassava with Leguminous crops

When cassava is intercropped with legumes like beans or peanuts, the cassava root yield generally decreases compared with when cassava is planted alone. This is due to the competition of the component crops for light, water and nutrients. However, cassava-legume intercropping systems usually increase the land use efficiency and economic return over solely cassava. In Liberia, some cassava farmers intercropped their fields with cowpea, which is largely grown by farmers in Lofa County.

Disease Control

It is best to select varieties that are naturally resistant to pests. There are several pests and diseases that affect this plant. Among them are:

  • Mealy Bug (Phenacocus manihoti)
  • Green Mite (Monoychellus tanajoa)
  • Termites
  • Cassava Mosaic Disease
  • Cassava Bacterial Blight
  • Cassava Anthracnose Disease
  • Root Rot

It is most recommended to come up with a comprehensible Pest Management that identifies and utilizes natural predators of pests. Pesticides or Herbicides should be applied carefully and in minimal amounts.

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