Currently, Nigeria is the eighth largest producer of Irish potatoes in Africa. The yield per year is about 843,000 tonnes however the potato consumption in the country is over 1 million tonnes. This clearly shows that there’s a shortfall in potato production.
Interestingly, this deficit may be lower than the statistics if we’re to consider the amount of tubers that spoil during storage and transportation. Additionally, over 60 000 tonnes is exported annually which further reduces the quantity available to the Nigerian consumers. It is quite clear that the demand is miles behind the supply when you consider the fact that over 500 000 households in Nigeria eat potatoes.
Potato is the 4th most popular food crop in the world and it has a variety of uses. It can be used to make French fries which is a popular snack. It can also be baked, boiled or eaten with stew or fried eggs. However, the best way to prepare potatoes in order to enjoy its nutritional benefits is by baking.
The Irish potato contains no fat, cholesterol or sodium. It also contains low calories which makes a healthy food. It is packed with vitamin C, potassium, iron, vitamin B6 and fibre. Some of the health benefits include:
- The fibres found in potatoes may help lower blood cholesterol levels
- They are also a good source of potassium which has also been linked with lowering blood pressure
- The vitamin B6 in potatoes is also useful in maintaining brain and nervous system health
- Also, almost half of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C can be obtained when you consume a medium sized potato. Vitamin C has been linked with the prevention of common cold and scurvy
There are specific states in the country where Irish potatoes thrive well. These include Plateau, Kaduna, Kano and Katsina. The climatic condition in these places is responsible for the favourable growth of this food crop.
Based on the demand for potato in the country, it is obvious that potato farming is a lucrative business venture. This is why this article has been written to guide you in the process of starting a potato farm.
Potatoes should be grown in an open area with adequate access to sunlight. You can cut down trees on the site that may hinder sunlight exposure. Also, the soil should be fertile and well-drained with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Generally, potatoes can grow on a variety of soil type however; you should always look to improve the fertility of the soil by adding organic manure.
The ideal land for potato farming should have been left unfarmed for at least 2 years. This helps to reduce the risk or incidence of disease infestation when you eventually start farming.
Preparing the land for planting involves clearing the land and ploughing the soil. Application of fertilizers should also be carried out at this stage as stated earlier. You should also prepare the seed beds for planting the potato seeds.
Once the land is ready for planting, the next step is to plant. But you need to decide on the potato variety that you’ll be planting. There are different types to choose from however, there are certain factors to consider. These include the disease resistance of the variety, the time taken to mature, the yield as well as the overall quality of the potato produced. Your ideal variety must have all or most of these features.
The planting season of potato is in March. The seeds are obtained by dividing the potato in to parts and planting these pieces. Each piece should be planted in a hole in a dry soil with a temperature of about 70C. Before you plant, you should allow a couple of days for the cut piece to form a protective layer around itself. This is important because this layer allows for moisture retention and helps to prevents rot.
The seeds are usually planted on ridges at about 15 cm from the surface of the top soil. However, this planting depth is dependent on the variety you are using.
An irrigation system should also be installed. Drip irrigation is the ideal irrigation method to be employed when cultivating potatoes. It helps to provide adequate moisture for the soil and the crop. It is also useful when applying nutrients in the correct quantities.
After planting, there are some very important post planting activities you need to carry out. For instance, watering is done at least once a week. After about 20 days, you’ll observe that the sprouting seedling has begun to grow leaves.
Also, you can apply inorganic fertilizers such as NPK to improve the quality of the soil nutrients and to enhance the growth of your crops. Additionally, you’d need to weed at intervals to ensure the plants are getting the appropriate amount of nutrients and moisture.
There are diseases that affect potatoes. These include black leg, bacterial soft rot, black scurf, potato blight and rhizoctonia. The variety of potato seeds planted is what determines disease resistance of your potato crop. You can also apply the appropriate treatment once you spot the signs of the disease.
Harvesting your potatoes depends in the weather conditions however their maturity period is usually 2 to 3 months after planting. Once the foliage turns brown, you should start preparing for harvest.
Usually, the harvest is done on a sunny day when the soil is dry. You should gently dig up the potatoes from the soil so that you don’t bruise or damage the tubers. Also, you should ensure you brush off the dirt from the potatoes prior to storage.
Finally, your harvest of potatoes should be ready to leave the farm for the markets and other distribution channels as soon as possible. This will help to reduce any form of loss that may be associated with spoilage due to prolonged storage.