How To Start A Yam Farming In Ghana

Yam is considered the most important food staple in West Africa where 70% of the total yams produced worldwide comes from.

Every year, festivals and rituals are carried out in different parts of the region to mark the arrival of the new yam.

Apart from these festivals and rituals, there is huge profit in yam farming business as discussed in the previous article here.

Five hundred by five hundred meters size of farmland could yield you 50,000 tubers of yam which is valued at 10 million ($50,000) at one dollars per yam.

This is a golden opportunity for any serious farmer who would like to take advantage of this season to cultivate yam in large quantity.

Apart from selling locally, yam can be exported to the United States of America, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Germany, and even Japan.

While Ghana is one of the major producer of yam in the world followed by Ivory Coast, Ghana is the the major exporter of yams, accounting for over 90% of total yams exported from West Africa annually.

How To Start A Yam Farming In Ghana

Locate Suitable Farmland For Yam Farming

Yams prefer growing in an upland and they should be
planted in a well-drained field.

Optimum yields are obtained
from sandy loam and silt loam soil although acceptable
yields are also obtained from clay loam soils, particularly
those high in organic matter.

While some yams does
relatively well on stony soil, it is however not advisable to
plant yam on stony hard soil.

Forest lands in most tropical region offers ideal
environment for growing yam both in soil quality and
climate conditions.

Preparation Of The Land

Properly clear the bush and burn the grasses with fire at
the appropriate time.

Yam is best planted within the months
of February and April when the rainy season is just
beginning. These are the best periods for land preparation.

After the bush had been cleared, make hips of loose soil of
about one meter in height and one meters apart.

Ridged
bed types are also good for yam planting. When the latter is
used, the ridges should be constructed one meters apart.

In
the case of sloping or rolling fields, construction of ridges
should follow the contour to minimize soil erosion. This is
essential in yam farming.

While making the ridges, it is important to remove any hard
objects that could hinder the growth of the yam tuber.

Preparation Of Setts

Setts are whole tubers or tuber that is cut in pieces used for
planting.

If the tuber is small, it can be planted whole, but if
it is big, it has to be cut in pieces to the size of 60g to 100g.

As a rule, the bigger the sett used, the higher is the
expected yield but shouldn’t be too big, else, you will be
wasting resources.

Setts should be taken from healthy tubers of healthy plants.
Appropriate sett size are not sliced while larger tubers are
sliced into the desired sett size so that each sett has
sufficient skin surface area.

Thus, four types of setts are
obtained and are named according to their positions on the
tuber as follows: head setts, middle setts and tail setts for
the tuber pieces and whole setts for the whole tubers.

Cut sides of the setts are treated with ash or with fungicide
and air dried.

After air drying, setts are either pre-sprouted
or planted directly.

Pre-Sprouting Of Setts

Because the emergence period of most freshly prepared
setts in the field lasts from three to twelve weeks, it is
desirable to pre-sprout the setts before they are planted.

This procedure assures the emergence of setts when
planted and minimizes expenses on weeding before sett
emergence.

To pre-sprout a sett, a shallow ditch is dug in a clear
shaded area under trees, under bananas, or under a shed
constructed for the purpose.

Setts are placed side by side
in the ditch and covered with dry grasses or dry banana
leaves.

In cases where no ditch is dug, the setts can be
placed side by side on the ground instead.

Setts are grouped according to type. For setts cut from
large tubers, the orientation is either skin up or crown
sideways. Setts can be covered with a thin layer of soil and
are watered at least once a week until all the setts have
produced sprouts.

With sett pre-sprouting, it may be desired to stagger
planting and land preparation since setts do not sprout at
the same time.

In general, whole setts and head setts
sprout ahead of other sett types.

Planting pre-sprouted
setts can, however, also be done at one time.

1. Preparation of pre-sprouted setts for staggered
planting.

To prevent sprouts from becoming too long, setts that have
already sprouted are removed from the pre-sprouting
seedbed and placed on a platform in a shady place.

The
process is repeated every week until the desired number of
sprouted setts is obtained.

The sprouted setts on the
platform are not watered.

Setts should be planted before
sprouts become very long.

The same procedure is performed for setts intended for the
second and succeeding plantings.

This is especially the
case for yam farming in West Africa.

2. Preparation of pre-sprouted setts for single
planting.

The procedure followed in single planting is essentially the
same as that used in preparing setts for staggered planting.

The former is done only after most, if not all, setts have
produced sprouts.

By this time some sprouts which may
have grown quite long should be trimmed before the setts
are planted.

Planting Procedures

The usual planting time for white yam is March to April,
depending on the time the tuber dormancy is broken, as
indicated by the sprouting of tubers under storage and upon
start of rain in a particular area.

This means that you have
to start the pre-sprouting process well ahead of the
planting time, at least for 3 weeks
Like I said before, the distance between the planted yam
should be 1m x 1m and at a depth of about 10cm.

When
planting coincides with a dry spell, setts are planted in any
orientation about 15 cm deep if the field will not be
mulched.

About 20,000 to 27,778 setts are needed for one
hectare of farmland.

Pre-sprouted setts. Setts are usually planted at the start of
rain if the field cannot be irrigated or will not be mulched.

The same planting distance and depth for non-pre-
sprouted setts are used.

When planting, setts should be
oriented so that sprouts are up. To achieve this, the cut
surface has to face the ground.

In staggered planting, the field is divided into four up to six
sections – a section for a batch of setts ready for planting.

The size of each section and the time each section is
prepared is guided by the rate of sprouting of setts.

Mulching The Ridges

In order to reduce soil temperature, conserve soil moisture
and suppress weed growth, it is preferable to mulch the
field where the yams are planted.

Dry coconut fronds, corn
stalks, rice straw and other similar materials may be used
as mulch.

If rice straw or similar material that rot readily is
used, the mulch is made thick (about 10 cm) so that it will
not rot completely within four or five months.

For yam farming and to further to protect the soil from
excessive loose of moisture, mulching tends to add some
nutrient to the soil from the decaying materials used.

Weed Control

The number of times a yam farm needs to be weeded
depends on the use of pre-sprouted setts, the application of
mulch and the rate of weed growth.

If non-pre-sprouted
setts are used and the field is not mulched, two to three
weeding operations are needed before the yam canopy
covers the space between rows to partially suppress weed
growth. If pre-sprouted setts are used and the field is
mulched, at most only two weedings performed about two
months apart are needed.
Handtools are the only method We recommend.

Use of other
methods such as animal powered plows are dangerous to
the plans as the vines may get damaged in the process.

Use of herbicides may be acceptable in some areas.

Replanting (Replacing Dead Yams)

Some amount of sett mortality can be expected, particularly
in while Guinea yam when non-presprouted setts are used
for planting.

Thus replanting is done, usually about two
months after the original planting.
Hills with no sprouts are checked to see if there are rotten
setts which should be removed and replaced with new
ones.

Unsprouted setts that did not rot should not be
replaced because they still can produce sprouts later on.

Staking The Yam Vines

Plants are staked before vines start crawling on the
ground.

The recommended stake length is five to ten
meters and a stake to every plant.

Bamboo poles are the
most desirable staking material, similar material that can
support the yam vines for at least seven months can be
used as stakes.

There are various methods of staking, three
of the more popular ones are as follows:

Trellis method: This stake setup is not very stable and
requires more materials to support the stakes (posts and tie
wire).

However, weeding and hilling up operations using
animal-drawn implements can be done easily under this
setup.

Modified trellis method: With this method, ground spaces
under the stake arch need not be weeded as the foliage
becomes dense.

Also, stakes formed in this manner provide
stable support.

However, weeding and hilling up operations
that utilize animal-drawn implements cannot be done under
the arches.

Pyramid method: This staking method has the advantages
and disadvantages of the modified trellis method.

In
addition, it requires fewer, though sturdier, materials for
stake construction and requires lesser amount of labor to
construct.

On the other hand, it has an additional
disadvantage because yams grown under this method
usually yield lower than those grown under the modified
trellis method of yam farming.

Training The Vines

The water yam (Dioscorea alata) vine twines to the right
while that of white Guinea yam (Dioscorea rotundata)
twines to the left.

When vines start crawling on the ground,
they are trained to climb their respective stakes.

They are
trained again when long branches start crossing the rows
or when weeding operation is about to be done.

Fertilizer Application

A hectare of water yam is able to remove about 128 kg
nitrogen, 17 kg phosphorous and 162 kg potassium from
the soil.

This represents more or less its fertilizer
requirements.

In the case of white yam, no information is
available regarding the amount of nutrients it can remove
from the soil.

However, like other yams, its fertilizer
requirements should be similar to that of water yam.

The level of soil fertility in the field and the amount of
fertilizer that need to be added can be determined by
submitting the soil samples to the any agricultural institute
or to IITA for analysis.

The assistance of the local Farm
Management Technician should be sought regarding this.

<>Application of inorganic fertilizer: The recommended
amount of fertilizer is split into two, one-half applied about
one month after emergence and the other half applied about
two months after the first application.

The band method of
fertilizer application is used, with the fertilizer being placed
about 10 cm away from the plants.

Application of compost: Yams respond well to organic
fertilizers like compost – a mixture of decayed organic
matter composed of plant parts and animal manures.

The
compost is mixed with the soil while the field is being
prepared or it is placed just below the spot where setts are
to be planted.

Covering Exposed Tubers

As tubers elongate rapidly towards the end of the growing
period of the plants, some tubers tend to heave, thereby
causing them to be exposed to the sun. Heavy rains also
expose the tubers.

Exposed tubers should be covered with
soil to prevent them from greening. Greening could make it
to become inedible in some cases.

Harvesting Time And Method

Yams are ready for harvest when its foliage is already
yellowing or drying up.

The yellowing or drying up period of
the foliage usually starts in late November and lasts until
February the following year.

Tubers, especially those
intended to be used as setts for next season’s planting are
harvested at the later part of the period.

Tubers intended for
consumption or for the market are sometimes harvested
earlier, even before foliage yellowing sets in.

A hoe or a similar handtool is used to dig around the tuber
to loosen it from the soil.

Then the tuber is lifted and
clinging soil particles are removed. The vine is cut at the
base to complete the harvesting.
For sandy soil, sturdy stick sharpened at one end is
sometimes used to dig out the tuber.

For clay soil and for
varieties with deeply buried tubers, other specialized
harvesters like shovel may be used.

Whatever tool is to be
used to harvest the tubers, it is important that care should
be exercised so as not to injure yam while digging as that
may reduce the market value and hasten it’s decay.

After tubers are cleaned, they are collected and placed in
rattan baskets or bamboo or wooden crates lined with soft
materials such as banana leaves, paper or grass straw.

Healthy and diseased tubers are placed in separate
containers.

The tubers are arranged in the container in two
to four layers, depending on tuber size, and a soft material
that can serve as cushion is placed between layers and in
the spaces between tubers in a layer.

The container is then
covered with paper or banana leaves and a string net is
woven over the mouth of the container if the tubers are to
be transported immediately to the market.

No cover is
provided for the container if the tubers are to be transported
to a nearby storage place.
When you are done harvesting, take your product to the
market and make sales.

Yam farming is lucrative as yam is
a very important commodity in the market and sells very
fast.

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