By Brian Moseti
A farmer in Kilifi County has dramatically improved the output of her two-acre cassava farm by adopting modern multiplication techniques.
By using the minisett techniques, Caroline Mwafungo has increased the number of new plants growing from each cutting to 60 instead of 10 using traditional methods.
The minisett technology was popularized by scientists in West Africa after they discovered its effectiveness in the cultivation of yam.
The technique was developed on the concept that once the bud sprouts, the roots begin drawing nutrients from the soil and not the mother planting material.
As such, the sett size is reduced to two nodes, instead of the traditional setts that were 20 cm long and had 10-12 nodes.
“Initially, I would plant whole stems, and this made it difficult to manage crop population in addition to wastage of the planting material,” Mwafungo said.
The two-node minisetts are treated with ash to protect them from diseases and pests after planting – Ash with a high content of potassium, such as that obtained from burning palm tree leaves, is recommended for its effectiveness.
After treatment, the minisetts are spread out in a shaded airy place for 12 to 24 hours to allow the cut surfaces to dry and cure before being placed in a nursery for pre-sprouting or direct planting in the field.
“The sprouting rates have greatly improved with the minisett technology and, as a result, I have been able to more than triple my crop yield,” said Mwafungo, who now starts off her crop in the nursery as opposed to direct planting in the field as she used to do in the past.
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Farmers who , like Mwafungo, opt to pre-sprout in a nursery are advised to plant the minisetts end to end, with the nodes facing either side in 5cm deep trenches that are spaced by 5cm. Irrigation is advised in the early stages as it helps in the sprouting and plant development process. The minisetts will be ready for transplanting in 30 days.
Meanwhile, the main field should be ploughed well and brought to a fine tilth. Manure is then applied at a rate of 5 tonnes per acre and thoroughly mixed into the soil before ridges of 30cm height and 45cm spacing are created.
On transplanting day, it is important to ensure that the ridges have sufficient moisture before the uprooted sprouts are planted at a spacing of 45cm.
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The plants will establish in a week’s time and with proper management, including the timely application of fertilizer, the crop will be ready for harvest in 7-9 months. About 30 tonnes of tuber and 24,000 stems can be harvested from one acre of land. The harvested stems are enough to plant 28 acres of land in the next cycle.
Cassava is an important food crop in Kilifi County owing to its hardiness. The most popular variety in the region is KME-08-02 (Tajirika), which has smooth and long white roots and straight stems, and grows well in areas with 600-1000 mm of rainfall. Tajirika is also preferred over other varieties because of its strong resistance to mosaic disease.
Photo:Cassavas growing in a farm