Yam farming has huge economic importance in West African countries, this is because the produce is a staple in most homes.
Did you know that West Africa is the largest producer of yam worldwide accounting for 69% of world production while top producers of yam are Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory coast. Are you interested in yam farming or how to grow tam then this guide is for you.
Types of yam
There are different types of yam both wild and farmed. Types of yam are Chinese yam, Wild yam, Purple yam, Dioscorea esculenta, Dioscorea japonica, Dioscorea trifida, Dioscorea bulbifera, Indian Yam.
Others are Dioscorea cayenensis, Dioscorea cayenensis subsp. rotundata, Dioscorea dumetorum, Dioscorea caucasica, Dioscorea quinquelobata , among others.
Purchase or lease farm land
To grow yam commercially it is important to purchase or lease farm land. Make sure the land has suitable soil to support yam production. Another factor to consider is adequate sunlight, good irrigation and water supply.
Make sure the soil is sandy loamy, upland or clay soil with rich organic matter. Yam thrives in tropical weather and a not ideal for cold regions or frost, avoid Stony soil.
Land preparation for yam farming
In Nigeria yam is planted from March to April just before the start of the rainy season. It does will in hilly upland areas and farmland with high organic matter.
Land preparation involves tilling the land with hand tools or mechanized equipment. Before you till clear the bush and burn the grass. Next remove the burnt grass and make heaps 1 x 1 meter apart. Another technique apart from heaping up is ridging technique.
While land clearing make sure rock and unwanted boulders are completely removed from the farm.
How to Prepare Yam Setts
Yam Setts are a traditional way of producing seed yams it involves cutting seed yam into 4 Setts. At planting time a farmer selects a large yam and cut into three or four parts depending on the size of the yam the cut is into top, middle and bottom region. This is further cut into 4 Setts each and planted in 3 to 4 days after cutting surfaces are dry. Each sett weighs from100-300g the Setts planted this results in seed yams that weight 200 to 800g.
Before planting the head/mid/bottom Setts they are treated with ash or and air dried. At this point a farmer has the choice to pre-sprouted or planted directly into the soil.
Pre-Sprouting Of Yam Setts
To reduce costs and ensure emergence of setts, pre planting of sprouts setts is desirable. Technique to pre-plant setts involve digging a shallow pit under a shaded area and place setts side by side in the pit. The cover with banana leaves or dry grass in the shallow ditch.
Whole setts and head setts are fast sprouting therefore planting is done in stages. Once the sprouts appear the farmer transplants them to eight a nursery or farm land.
Preparation of sprouts involves removal of pre-sprouting seedbed and placed on platform in shady place. The process is repeated until the farmer has achieve the number of sprout setts he wants. It is important to plant the sprout setts before they grow to long, if already long trim them. Another technique used by yam farmers is to staggered plant as the sprouts emerge.
Pre-sprouting process is done at least 2 to 3 weeks before planting. Once dormancy is broken and the setts sprout it is time to plant the yam. Planting season in West Africa is just before the rains, March or April. Place the sprout 10cm to 15cm depth at a 1 x 1m distance. Make sure the cut surface face the ground while the sprout are planted upwards.
Staggered Planting method is used due to the different times the setts sprout. A farmer decided the field into for sections with each section used for each batch of setts as they sprout. The field sections are determined by the ratio or rate of which the setts sprout.
Weeding the farm
Weed control is an essential part of yam planting, this is because weeds must be removed because they compete for the soil nutrients. If the field is mulched little need for weeding, however general tractive is to remove weeds a few time until the yam foliage covers the field. To prevent vine damage it is adviced to use hand tools like the hoe or small cutlass.
Mulching is an effective way to suppress weeds, conserve soil moisture and temperature. Traditional mulch material are rice straw, corn stalks, dry coconut frond, and other decaying material. Mulch the yam field at least 10 cm thick.
Replacing dead yam
If a farmer wants to have bountiful harvest he should replace dead yam. Dead or rotten setts are replaced with new sets, this is usually 28 to 30 days after the first planting.
Staking Yam vines
An interesting fact is that white yam vines twists left while water yam twines right. Once your Yam starts to grow observe when the vines start to twist or twine.
It is the farmers job to teach the twines where to go. This is why staking is introduced. Place a stake close to the yam and hold the vine with a small cloth loosely to a stake. The yam as it grows will rap itself around the stake climbing upwards.
Methods of staking Yam
There are three methods of staking yam, modified trellis method, pyramid method,trellis method. Trellis method involves use of many posts and tie material, not very effect however it supports easily ploughing and weeding.
Pyramid method requires fewer material for staking but producess less yield than trellis method. The modified trellis method is sturdy however the method encourages weed development.
How to apply fertilizer
Prepare the soil with rich organic mix, manure or compost to get good rich farm soil. Make sure to properly clear the land and remove rocks, shrubs or stones. Rocks and stones including buried roots will hamper yams growth. Apply compost, organic fertilizer with decay organic matter about 10 cm from plant.
Yam requires about128 kg nitrogen, 17 kg phosphorous, 162 kg potassium same as water yam.
Prevent greening or spoilt yam
To prevent greening or spoilt yam a farmer needs to remain vigilant throughout the planting season. Because the yam grows and extends there are some instances when the yam protrudes out of the soil.
This happens because of three reasons growth of the yam, soil displacement or heavy rains. The farmer needs to heap the soil to cover the yam to prevent the yam from greening or spoiling. Covering the yam head also prevents sun from direct contact with the yam.
The best time to harvest yam is when the green leaves becomes yellow, shrives and dies. In Nigeria most harvest seasons start November through to January. Seed yam for planting are set aside while consumption yam is sold or warehoused.
Harvesting technique involves softening the soil and digging around the tuber to loosen the yam. A hoe is manually applied and the yam carefully extracted from the ground to prevent damage.
Once extracted from the soil the vine is cut and dirt is removed from the tuber common hand tools deployed during harvesting are hoe, digger and shovel.
What ever tool is used the paramount objective is whole yam tubers without bruises,or cuts. Whole yams attract good market value while damaged tubers are sold at lower price of feed to livestock.
Once the yam tuber is successfully removed from the earth, dirt and soul that cling to the yam are removed. The good tubers are placed in lined containers in rows and taken to the market or stored for shipment.