Robert is an Agribusiness Consultant, who studied Agribusiness Management
Sweet potato Cultivation
Sweet potato farming, is a rewarding business which give high profit under a good agronomic practices. It performs well in tropical and subtropical lowland areas and is considered as a perennial plant. Sweet potatoes are known to produce better results in unfavourable environments unlike other crops which do not give yield under unfavourable conditions. This article will provide in detail on how to grow and manage your Sweet potato for successful production.
There are two broad categories of Sweet potato and these are; staple type having a white flesh and a purple skin, and dessert type having orange skin.
Sweet potatoes perform well in warm temperate areas and they grow best in summer period and are known to be of tropic origin. Sweet potato does not do well in cold weather areas, so make sure you avoid growing Sweet potato in frost period. Sweet potatoes give better yield in a temperature range of 21 to 29 °C, however, they also give a better result in a temperature range of 18 °C to 35 ° C.
Sweet potato performs well in an altitude of up to 1,700 m above sea level (m.a.s.l), however, some varieties can also grow even up to 2,500 m above sea level. Sweet potato which is grown around 2,500 m.a.s.l does not give better taste in most cases.
Sweet potato performs well in an optimum annual rainfall of a range of 900mm to 1330 mm and it has to be well distribution, however, it can also be grown in areas having annual rainfall of 500mm to 1300 mm.
Site selection and soil
Sweet potato performs well on sandy loam which should be well drained. The optimum soil pH for growing Sweet potato is 5.6 to 6.5. Excessive moisture content promotes tuber root, so make sure you avoid growing Sweet potato in areas prone to flooding or waterlogging condition. Make sure you select a site which has also high soil fertility and good soil drainage.
Make sure you clear your site where you want to grow your Sweet potato by removing vegetative covers and plough thoroughly. After ploughing make field ridges (30cm to 60 cm) high and 60cm to 90 cm apart.
Sweet potato is propagated from stem cuttings, which are obtained from Sweet potatoes stems, which were previously grown. Small tubers can also be grown in a nursery field to produce stems which can be propagated and planted in the actual field. Make sure the slips which you want to plant in actual field are free from diseases and pests.
During planting each cutting is planted in the soil about 30 cm deep at an angle of 45°. Make sure half of the cutting is buried in the soil and has at least three nodes. Sweet potato can also be planted mechanically whenever the land is too long.
The time to plant depends on the climatic conditions of your area. Make sure you plant your cuttings when the soil at least has reached a minimum soil moisture and temperature requirements for cultivation of Sweet potato, however, Sweet potato can also be grown throughout the year under Irrigation. Make sure you avoid growing Sweet potato in cold spell or frost period.
It is recommended to have 40,000 Sweet potato plants per hectare and the rows can be spaced at 1 to 1.25 m apart and in row spacing of 25 to 30 centimeters.
It is recommended to have a plant population of 40,000 per hectare, however, one hectare of land can also have 30,000 to 60,000 Sweet potato cuttings planted depending on type of variety and other factors.
Make sure before you apply any fertilizer you conduct a soil analysis to know the right type of fertilizer as well as the amount to apply in your field. During planting, you can apply 57 to 85 grams of N-P-K fertilizer per plant and after 8 weeks you can apply 85 to 113 grams of N-P-K fertilizer per plant, this will promote growth.
Sweet potato is known to be drought tolerant plants, however, it needs right moisture content all the time to give the best results. During the early days, it requires a range of 18 to 20mm of water per week and during the middle period of its growth it needs a range of 40 to 45 mm of water per week. In the later time of its growth it just need 20 mm of water per week, so you must make sure you slow down moisture content. Any soil moisture shortfall should be supplied with Irrigation water.
Make sure your field is free from weeds all the time. You can apply herbicides to take control of your weed and you can as well remove them manually with the help of a hoe.
Under good management, the expected Sweet potatoes yield per hectare is 11,363.6 to 13,636.6 kg. Sweet potato harvesting can start after 18 weeks, so make sure you check them after such period to know if they are mature enough for market purposes. You can harvest them manually by using a hoe and you can as well use a tractor drawn, the choice of method will depend on hectares of land and labour availability.